GERMANY: Mid-Summer Booking Activity: TUI and Thomas Cook ↓; Meeting Point and Altours ↑
The latest report from the Nuremburg-based research firm GfK† indicated that summer sales dropped by one percent compared to 2014 which, the company suggested, could be explained by the extreme hot weather and the fact that annual school holidays had already begun in most of the country’s federal states. The one percent increase is in keeping with the most recent forecast of the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) as it relates to Visit USA traffic. That forecast has projected that traffic to America will stay the same in 2015 as it was last year.
—Travel demand among German consumers was supported by late sales for departures in July and August, which made up 30 percent of total sales.
—Medium-sized tour operators such as Schauinsland, Alltours and FTI are again the main beneficiaries this year, according to analysts, while market leaders TUI and Thomas Cook have only moderate sales growth.
—TUI has increased booking volumes by 1-2 percent, with average prices 4 percent higher, but has only sold 85 percent of its summer program so far, 2 percent less than last year.
—Thomas Cook experienced a 3 percent drop in bookings and has only sold 75 percent of its program.
—Thomas Cook’s market share declined slightly to 13.2 percent in 2014, according to fvw’s annual dossier on German tour operators. DER Touristik has replaced it as number two behind TUI. Meanwhile, fast-growing companies such as FTI, Alltours and Schauinsland-Reisen have gained market share.
Chinese Most Likely to Pass Gas on an Elevator—Some Valuable and Some Not-So Valuable Research Notes on the Chinese and Chinese Travelers
The Rich Travel Differently Than Most Chinese Travelers: The average total daily spend of all travelers surveyed in this year’s Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) was $536 (including accommodation). However, the CITM survey responses of the top 10 percent of travel spenders reveal the most surprising results and point to the growing financial impact of China’s wealthiest consumers, who make a disproportionally high contribution to travel spending totals. These top-tier travelers pay an average of $2,225 a day for hotels and other expenses –$439 on hotels alone – while the top 5 percent spent $3,368 a day, a figure that includes $575 a day on hotels.
Most Are from the Same “Neighborhood”—Almost two-thirds (61 percent) of the top 10 percent are from the bigger “Tier 1” cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen where people typically earn more than elsewhere. The top 10 spenders’ main reasons for traveling abroad in the past year include leisure, cited by 92 percent, and business, reported by 59 percent. Twenty-three percent go on cruises and the same percentage visited friends or relatives. One in eight (12 percent) have beauty treatments or cosmetic surgery, and 9 percent travel for medical reasons or wellbeing (i.e. spa treatments) purposes.
The Chinese Luxury Traveler:
Favorite Activities & Pastimes When Traveling†
|Activity||Top 10 percent spenders||Top 5 percent spenders|
|Taking part in eco-tours||19%||15%|
|Organized local tours||14%||14%|
|Watching sports events||5%||6%|
|Visiting rural pursuits||4%||3%|
|Taking part in sports||2%||3%|
Source: CITM 2015
Which Countries do the Wealthiest Chinese Travelers Want to Visit? While the USA is the de facto number one choice of all Chinese travelers—even if they might long to visit elsewhere—it ranks substantially below Australia and France as an intended destination in the coming year for wealthy Chinese travelers.
Top 10 Countries that the Wealthiest Chinese Travelers
Intend to Visit in the Next 12 Months†
Source: CITM 2015
- Smile! According to Hotels.com, 12 percent of Chinese respondents said they always greet fellow guests on a hotel elevator, but 35 percent only greet guests on an elevator if they look friendly and smile.
- Tea etiquette: Always serve yourself last when pouring tea – start with the eldest person at the table first. To show appreciation for someone pouring your tea, tap two fingers on the table.
- Where’s #4?In China, you will never see a hotel or building with a 4th floor. The number four is considered bad luck, as it has similar pronunciation to the word “death.”
- Elevator etiquette: Only 24 percent of people admit to having passed gas in an elevator, but it’s more common in certain APAC countries according to a Hotels.com survey, which found that 28 percent of Chinese respondents admitted to doing so on an elevator.
- Yes or No?It is traditional to refuse something at least once, as it is a sign of politeness. So when someone offers you the last bite of fish, you’re expected to refuse once or twice to seem humbled by the offer.
- Cheers!Toasts are made by holding a glass with two hands.
- Close talkers: In China, personal space is minimal or nonexistent. Be prepared for some close proximity on trains, stores and elevators.
- Punctuality: Timeliness is synonymous with respect. Be on time or early for tours, hotel check-out and dinner reservations.
† (A note on the methodology: The CITM research was conducted during May 2015 using an online methodology, with a sample of 3,074 eligible respondents across China. Minimum thresholds were set on key demographics such as age, gender and region to ensure a representative sample that would allow analysis of sub-groups. The questionnaire covered topics including, but not limited to, travel behavior, booking methods and accommodation choices.)
Where are They Now? Eric Thomas Goes Back to the Future
Frustrated by a tour and travel marketplace that hasn’t been a good match for his skills in recent years, Eric Thomas, the one-time executive vice president of the northern New Jersey-based, family-held City Tours USA, one of the largest privately held receptive tour operators in the United States, borrowed a page from the history of his father, Albert Thomas Sr., who came to the United States from Argentina in the early 1970s and, then in his fifties, launched what became City Tours with the purchase of a single limousine.
Eric made somewhat the same move earlier this year after leaving Tour Hero, a travel company that had hired him in the spring of 2014, and, after taking on a job as a driver at a limousine service. He soon got the idea to start his own business and purchased his own specially equipped Cadillac Escalade to get things going. One of his first customers: City Tours, which signed him up to handle the transportation of arriving international VIP clients. Then came August, when a cluster of City Tours employees took their own vacations. So the company/family asked Eric if he couldn’t handle the shuttle bus detail temporarily.
Then, at 4:36 a.m. on August 8, he posted a photo of part of a City Tours shuttle bus with this comment: “Life offers some strange twists. I started driving for this company at 17 and here it is 35 years later and a 4:15 am starting my first pickup of the day!” When asked by one friend what this meant, Eric wrote: “Doing work for the family.”
They Liked It: The message must have touched a chord. By mid-day, some 70 friends “liked” the post and another 25 made comments, in English and in Spanish that were sometimes funny, sometimes incredulous. But most of them were supportive or laudatory: “Keep on truckin, brother!” wrote Tony Alvarado. “It is in your blood and mine too! I remember when we all started behind the wheel. I started with the airport shuttle from the Doral Hotel and have many good memories of connecting with the passengers.”
Wrote Patricia Garcia Aristizabal from Washington DC: “If one day you need a driver for you to take holidays, I offer to help you and have an American license.” And Hernan Betancourt commented, “I lived great moments with great partners in this great company. Greetings to you, your parents and the rest of the family of City Tours!”
How This All Came to Be: Eric is one of five sons of Albert Thomas who became the success story that is City Tours: Besides Eric, the others are Ray Thomas, president of the company; Albert Thomas Jr.; Andrew Thomas, who works out of Miami; and Gus Thomas, who died at the age of 54 in January 2011 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
The elder Albert Thomas is a colorful character. He was once a body guard for Juan Perón, who was twice the president of Argentina (1946-54 and 1973-74) and known by younger generations as the husband of Eva “Evita” Perón , the charismatic woman who has achieved in death an almost cult-like status. (Whatever you do, do not consider the musical or film “Evita” as a basis for any factual interpretation of Eva Perón.)
Though he left the business in the mid-1990s, the 92-year-old Albert Thomas Sr. is still quite active, Eric told us, as is his wife, Martha, who is 87. As the sons carried on and grew the enterprise, differences in the approach to business emerged between Eric and his brothers. Known to be the more voluble, animated and push-the-edge way-of-doing-things of the brothers, Eric eventually parted ways in 2006 and the following year, opened his own receptive tour operation, CANAM.
After a good first year came the 2008-09 great recession, which destroyed, gobbled up and wasted many tour and travel industry companies, including CANAM. Despite putting all his energy into keeping it afloat, the company folded in early 2011. His skill set well-known—particularly in IT solutions for B2B operations and in logistics—Thomas became, in short order, vice president, AmericanTours International South, working out of Orlando and establishing an ATI presence in the market. The experience lasted a little more than a year. Somewhat the same experience occurred with Accommodations Plus International, a New York City-based company trying to grow out of its crew-traffic market niche. There followed a similar tenure with Tour Hero, which he left, he told Inbound, “by mutual agreement.”
Reflecting upon his record at the different companies since his CANAM venture ended, Thomas told us wryly, “I guess I’ve done a pretty good job of setting things up and restructuring myself right out of a position.”
How Long Does it Take to Escape from New York? One wonders, following all of this, what would push someone to the point that, as their livelihood, they would want to negotiate Manhattan traffic every day—he said that he has to slot at least three-and-a-half hours for a pickup and/or drop-off at JFK Airport from midtown—but Thomas sees it as a challenge for which he can develop some logistical answer. It is also something that, as a self-employed contractor, makes him the president, CEO, COO and chief sales and marketing officer of the business. He answers to himself.
But he’s not stopping there. He’s developing a platform through which the 150 freelancing limo operations in New York City can use to accept a call, or make a bid on, a pick up at one the New York area’s three major airports: JFK, La Guardia and Liberty International in Newark.
In sum, this episode reminds one that much of the tour and travel industry in the U.S. is operated by families or is family-held. And in this instance, one family member still depended on other family members to … keep it in the family.
NEW PRODUCT OF THE MONTH: Circle Line Introduces the Floating Lobster Shack—i.e., the North River Lobster Company
For many visitors to New York City, an absolute must is the Circle Line sightseeing tour about or around Manhattan and along with World Yacht Dinner Cruises, the company decided to fill a niche it saw—between the dinner cruise and the walk-around-and-take-photos cruise—and a year ago launched the novel North River Lobster Company, essentially a lobster shack on a boat that floats on a 45-minute, slow moving journey that also includes a full service bar and a seafood menu that, of course, includes lobster. It takes off around mid-day and makes another four or five trips during the day. And it’s free. That’s right. There are actually some who ignore their foodie demons and take the tour without eating. This summer, the North River Lobster Company began to “take off,” aided by some highly favorable reviews in the local news media as well as by passengers who later posted their thoughts online.
To find out more what all the fuss is about, we spoke last Friday with Janice Bennett, director of travel industry sales for World Yachts/Circle Line, and a 20-plus-year veteran of the company. Following are excerpts from our conversation.
Inbound: So, why all the fuss about the North River Lobster Company?
Bennett: Well, It’s a fairly new product, but, because of demand, this year we’ve added 20 feet to each of the levels. We plan to welcome 120,000 guests this year.
Inbound: What’s the breakdown of your customers, your passengers—domestic vs. international?
Bennett: Most of it’s local because we’re new but there has been interest from the industry Receptive Tour Operators have been asking how than can offer it to their clients.
Inbound: Do you have an idea or an estimate of what it is as far as group vs. FIT?
Bennett: Most of the business now is by individual travelers, but there has been a tremendous increase in groups through after-work business and celebration events
Inbound: Your company offers the standard net-net rates for agents and operators. What else does it do for the travel trade?
Bennett: With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the Circle Line, we are offering a $70 rate for a combination of experiences (this includes a three day hop-on, hop-off admission to its ground tour product, OPEN LOOP New York, that industry members can re-sell. The package its worth $120. (While Bennett did not give us a group price for the featured dinner combo, it retails for $40, giving operators who buy it a margin somewhere in the mid-thirties and 40 dollars work with.)
Bennett: It’s true; conceivably, someone could take the 45-minute ride for nothing. But we’ve built a bar at the waiting area right on the pier to serve passengers while they’re waiting and most people are interested in having something to eat or drink once on board.
Inbound: So, what are the key points that you stress when you talk with operators?
Bennett: It’s a unique product, a unique experience. We’re the first to offer a floating lobster shack in the Northeast. You can add it on to other product, like the Circle Line cruise. We also have dinner cruises and a deejay playing music. On Sundays, we have live music. It’s close to Times Square (a walk of a few blocks) and close to the Lincoln Tunnel. (This is important for buses who take the tunnel into New Jersey after dropping clients off at Pier 81.) And there’s a place for buses.
All cruises take off from Pier 81 where 41st Street meets the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side—about a four- block walk from Times Square. Contact Janice Bennet: Janice.email@example.com. For more information about the North River Lobster Company, visit: www.northriverlobsterco.com.
Brand USA’s Big Screen Film Features 30 National Parks and Robert Redford in Key Role
One could not conceive of a better place for the news about a film to break than in The Hollywood Reporter, and that’s where the news broke that the internationally famous actor, director and producer Robert Redford is the narrator of Brand USA’s giant-screen film that stars some U.S. National Parks. The park system is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year. (The National Park Service, which was created by Congress on August 25, 1916, will be observing its centennial throughout the year.)
“America’s Wild: A National Parks Adventure,” Brand USA’s much-awaited big screen film, had it debut, of sorts, this week—at the U.S. Travel Association’s ESTO (Educational Seminars for Tourism Officials) conference Aug. 23-25 in Portland, Oregon—where an extended 12-minute trailer for the film premiered. “Adventure” used four crews overseen by producer Shaun MacGillivray, and was shot in 30 national parks over a nine-month period.
At the Brand USA recent board of directors marketing committee meeting, Tom Garzilli, senior vice president, global partner marketing, gave an update on the film’s progress, its expected launch date and the effort to sign up theaters and sponsors. Over the next three months, he said, BUSA “will be working proactively engaging theater around the world to maximize viewership. We’re targeting six countries and regions representing about 90 percent of international screens.” They are China (120 screens); Europe (85); Canada (44); Japan (42); Mexico (18); and India (12).
A major part of this signup effort will take place next month with a preview at the annual international conference and trade show of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) in San Francisco. Another big occasion will be World Travel Market in early November in London, where there will be another showing of the film’s extended trailer.
And finally … the world premier of the film will take place on Feb. 10 or Feb. 11 in Washington, D.C. Garzilli pointed out that the film has involved no financing on the part of Brand USA. It is privately funded, with Expedia having stepped up to become the first global sponsor of “Adventure.”
Hotel GM to Square off with Airbnb Official during Upcoming eTourism Summit
The NAJ Group’s eTourism Summit—the “See Tomorrow” travel industry conference for digital marketers of destinations and attractions—will be the venue on October 23rd in San Francisco for a general session that will explore the relationship between the hotel industry and Airbnb, the young website that lists and rents apartments, rooms and homes made available by their owners worldwide but has incurred the wrath of traditional hoteliers by sometimes avoiding the collection of occupancy taxes from those who use the site’s listed properties.
Entitled “Strange Bedfellows,” the session will bring Airbnb’s Chip Conley (left, founder of Joie De Vivre hotels), Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy to the stage with Stefan Mühle, general manager at Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center. The two will explore “the now and the tomorrow” of the traditional and the sharing economy accommodation models.
As Airbnb becomes more hospitality-oriented and hotels move toward embracing deeper ties to “live like a local” themes, what comes next? Millions of travelers are engaging with the outside-the-box thinking that Airbnb has ushered into 21st century accommodation, while others say the playing field isn’t level. Conley and Muhle will address what this might mean for destination marketing.
The 16th Annual eTourism Summit takes place Oct. 22-23, 2015 at San Francisco’s Parc 55 Hilton. Platinum sponsors TripAdvisor and Expedia Media Solutions join Gold sponsors Viator, Sojern, Miles and Adara and Associate sponsor Simpleview to present the lineup of hand-picked thought leaders in fast-paced sessions. For more information and registration, visit www.e tourismsummit.com
RESEARCH: The UK Online Trends Reveal Mindset of Travelers Who Book Online
From the results of a couple of just-released reports, it is safe to say that consumers in the UK are connected—the increase has been dramatic, in fact, over the past decade—and millions of consumers are going online to research and book travel.
First, the overview from data released by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS):
- The Internet was accessed every day, or almost every day, by 78 percent of adults (39.3 million) in Great Britain in 2015, compared with 35 percent (16.2 million) in 2006, when directly comparable records began.
- Almost all adults aged 16 to 24 (96 percent) accessed the Internet “on the go”, compared with only 29 percent of those aged 65 years and over.
- Social networking was used by 61percent of adults, and of those, 79 percent did so every day or almost every day.
- In 2015, 76 percent of adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008. “Clothes or sports goods” were purchased by 55 percent of adults, making them the most popular online purchase.
- In the last 3 months, 22 percent of adults purchased online once or twice, while 28 percent of adults purchased 11 or more times. Online purchases totaling £100 to £499 ($155-$774) were made by 42 percent of adults who had bought online in the last 3 months.
- In 2015 86 percent of households in Great Britain (22.5 million) had internet access, up from 57 percent in 2006.
To see the more than two dozen tables that serve as the basis for the above, visit:
Next, from Greenlight the London-based research firm that specializes in consumer behavior, is the latest report on consumers and the online holidays sector. The report—based on survey research from April 2015—analyzes which websites, advertisers and brands were most visible in the Google UK natural search and paid media listings, when consumers searched for holidays-related terms. In the analysis, Greenlight established that:
- The search term “cheap holidays” was queried 550,000 times, accounting for 10 percent of all searches made for the sector.
- Queries for generic-related keywords accounted for 48 percent of all searches made for the sector.
- In April, 5.3 million searches were made by consumers searching for Holidays-related terms on Google UK.
The most visible websites and advertisers on Google UK: Travelsupermarket.com was the most visible website in the natural search listings, achieving a 70 percent share of voice; onthebeach.co.uk was the most visible advertiser in the paid media space, achieving a 5 percent share of voice; and thomascook.com ranked at the top of our integrated search league table, as it achieved a dominant share of voice in the natural search and paid media listings.
Percentage Breakdown of Searches
|Subsector||Number of Searches||Percentage of Total|
Natural Searches—Holidays Overall: In April 2015, 5.3 million searches were made by consumers searching for Holidays-related keywords. The league table below shows which websites were most visible in the Natural Search listings on Google UK for the 4,794 keywords analyzed.
|Subsector||Number of Searches||Percentage of Total|
The Most Visible Websites: Travelsupermarket.com was the most visible website, achieving a 70 percent share of voice through ranking for 1,982 keywords, including the search terms “florida holidays” and “holiday comparison site.” Meanwhile, thomascook.com attained a 66 percent share of voice through ranking for 1,596 keywords, including the search terms “package holidays” and “cuba holidays.”
The 20 Most Visible Websites
|Domain & Rank||Reached Volume||Missed Volume||Percentage Reached|
Natural Searches—Holidays, Long-haul Destinations: In April 2015, 1 million searches were made by consumers searching for long-haul destinations-related keywords. The league table below shows which websites were most visible in the Natural Search listings on Google UK for the 1,039 keywords analyzed.
Top Ten Search Terms
|Search Term & Rank||Number of Searches||Percentage of Total|
|1. dubai holidays||40,500||4%|
|2. maldives holidays||33,100||3%|
|3. cuba holidays||33,100||3%|
|4. florida holidays||27,100||3%|
|5. mexico holidays||27,100||3%|
|6. new york holidays||27,100||3%|
|7. holidays to dubai||27,100||3%|
|8. caribbean holidays||27,100||3%|
|9. thailand holidays||22,200||2%|
|10. egypt holidays||22,200||2%|
The 20 Most Visible Websites
|Domain & Rank||Reached Volume||Missed Volume||Percentage Reached|
How I Got My Start in the Travel Trade
“How I Got My Start” is a regular segment in which we cull a couple of selections from our interviews with international operators, domestic operators, receptive operators, destinations, hotels and attractions to explore the path that led one to a career in the travel trade industry. One thing we have learned: the road to where they are is almost never the same. In this issue, we feature: Claudia Vecchio, director, department of tourism and cultural affairs, State of Nevada; and Jorge Franz, vice president of international group sales and tourism, Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Claudia Vecchio: “I’ve played the piano since the age of five and my aspiration in college was to be a jazz keyboardist or orchestra conductor. When it became apparent I didn’t have the talent to exceed at either, I switched to communications. Upon graduation, I worked for a PR firm where one of my first clients was Princess Cruises. I’ve always had an interest in travel and eventually it occurred to me that I could integrate my marketing skills with my passion for travel. During my almost 30 years in the travel marketing business, I’ve held a number of positions including director of tourism for the state of Ohio. My background has come full circle as director of tourism and cultural affairs for the state of Nevada.”
Jorge Franz: ”I was working for the local cable company in Houston when I got a phone call from the Greater Houston CVB. They were looking for a Spanish speaker to represent Houston in the Mexican market. I was so ignorant about the field that I actually asked if they would pay for my travel! I interviewed and was offered the job on the spot. I then accepted the job on the spot and my new boss asked me if I had ever heard of a show called ‘Pow Wow.’ I had not and she asked if I could attend right away. The next day, I was on my way to Orlando for the 2001 show. I almost fainted when I saw the size of the trade show…and then I realized this was going to be a great move for me when they closed down Disney World for the attendees. I could not believe how lucky I was. I still can’t believe how lucky I’ve been!”
HODGE PODGE: Shiftings and Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
After serving just over than 20 years in the post, Phil Hannes has left his is job as director of tourism development for the Anaheim CVB. He is making the move to join his wife, Marilyn K. Hannes, who is vice president, of global sales, Seaworld Parks and Entertainment in San Diego, and has been transferred by the company to Orlando. Prior to his tenure with the CVB, Hannes held sales positions at the Holiday Inn Buena Park and the Doubletree Club Hotel in Santa Ana. For those interested in contacting Phil can reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johanne Bélanger has been appointed president and CEO of Tourism Toronto, effective Sept. 1. Bélanger, who has been a member of the organization’s board of directors since 2009, was president of Freeman Audio Visual Canada for the past 10 years and has been globally recognized for her work. She replaces David Whitaker who left Tourism Toronto last May to become chief marketing officer of Brand USA in Washington, D.C.
Tere Frank Stamoulis, a long-time Southern California travel marketing professional, has been named as California representative and strategic marketing consultant for GO 1 2 3 CITY HOP, a new sightseeing transportation company that targets Chinese FIT visitors to Southern California. The new entity is a division of CHD, Inc., a Las Vegas-based DMC. Stamoulis, whose professional CV includes tenures in senior staff positions at both the Long Beach and Santa Monica CVBs, has run her own consultancy for more than a dozen years, specializing in marketing projects for destinations.
Gordon McCreadie has been appointed director of sales and marketing B2B, Travel 2 and Gold Medal. Previously the sales and marketing director for Travel 2, the role will see McCreadie lead a sales and marketing team with direct reports that includes Ruth Hilton, Tracy Hirsz, Stephanie Lord, Rhona Jenkins and Alison Cockburn.
Also at Travel 2 and Gold Medal, Lisa Smith, current operations director for Gold Medal, will expand her role to lead the contact centre sales and operations teams for both Travel 2 and Gold Medal as director of operations. Smith’s direct reports include Bev Dumbleton, Kathryn Sharples, Kristian Slater Scott, Daniel Pound, David Irving, Felice Bretman, Shayna Swinhoe and Fraser Fairley.
Announcement of the two promotions above came from Andy Freeth, who had recently been named as managing director of both Travel 2 and Gold Medal following the acquisition late last year of both businesses by Dubai-based dnata, a part of the Emirates Group. Freeth’s third and final direct report, the B2B director of product and commercial, is yet to be confirmed.
Bob Gilbert has left his position as vice president of sales and marketing for the new Las Vegas attraction, Exotics Racing—just five months after joining the company earlier this year. Through his brief tenure with the company, Gilbert—a widely known veteran in the tourism and hospitality industries who has authored numerous articles and served as the senior sales official of such organizations as Delaware North, Helms Briscoe and Best Western International—had maintained his consultancy, Captivation Marketing. A member of NAJ’s Strategic Advisory Council, Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.
Andreas Lambeck is leaving his post as e-commerce manager for Alltours by “mutual agreement’ after two years on the job. He was responsible for re-launching the group’s online portals and improving its search engine placements.
Timo Salzsieder has been named chief operating officer at the E-commerce group Tomorrow Focus as the company continues its transformation into a travel retailer. Salzsieder will be responsible for product management and IT. Salzsieder was already chief operating officer for the group’s main portal, Holidaycheck.
Marcel Mayer has left his position as product and sales director at direct sales tour operator Berge & Meer—it is part of TUI— in order to pursue new career opportunities. The company has named Thomas Rolf (right)as his replacement.