Florida Arrivals Data Offer a First Look at How Exchange Rate Affected 2015 Inbound Travel
When it recently released its report on travel data for 2015, Visit Florida officials focused on the year-over-year increase in total travel to the state, which set a record, but it did not highlight what happened among key international markets.
—Travel to the state from half of its Top 10 international source markets (Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and France) declined in 2015;
—Travel to the state from four of its Top 10 International source markets (Colombia, Germany, Mexico and Australia) was up by either just one percent or remained flat at zero percent, year-over-year.
—Of all Florida’s Top 10 international source markets, only the UK registered a significant improvement in the number of visitors, with a year-over-year increase of five percent.
What underscores the impact of the Visit Florida numbers is that they represent the first reliable report on full-year results of visitation to the United States (albeit, just one state—Florida) which seem to affirm that the strong U.S. dollar vs. other major currencies, as well as troubled economies in South America, have had the impact that was reported anecdotally to the Inbound Report through much of 2015 by receptive tour operators and key source market international tour operators.
It has been a challenge to measure the impact of international marketing campaigns, as well as the impact of the strong U.S. dollar and other economic developments, absent aggregate data on arrivals to the United States. The government agency that has reported such data—the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)—has been hampered for the past two years because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has had difficulty in gathering the numbers that NTTO analyzes in order to prepare its arrivals reports. The data delivery is now behind by some nine months.
Following are key tables that we retrieved from the Visit Florida report. (It should be noted that there are no Visit Florida numbers on the key Asian markets of China, India and South Korea.)
2015 Estimates of Visitors to Florida by Quarter
(in 000s of Person Trips)
|Note: Figures are preliminary; some figures may not add up due to rounding|
|Source: TNS TravelsAmerica; D.K. Shifflet & Associates, Inc: Individual Florida Airports; Statistics Canada; U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel and Tourism Office; Visa Vue Travel; Diio, aviation data|
Top Countries for International Visitation to Florida
|Origin Country & Rank||2014 Visitation||2015 Visitation*||% Change*|
Top World Regions for International Visitation to Florida
|Origin Region & Rank||2014 Visitation||2015 Visitation*||% Change*|
|3. South America||4,117,000||3,782,000||-8%|
|6. Central America||601,000||654,000||9%|
|8. Middle East/Africa||249,000||278,000||11%|
|* Figures in this column are considered preliminary and are preliminary and are subject to revision. Figures released on March 10, 2016.|
|Source: VISIT FLORIDA preliminary international estimates, excluding Canada, are based on and extrapolated from aggregate card data provided by Visa Vue Travel and incorporate data from othrs research sources. Preliminary Canadian estimates are derived from historical data and obtained from Statistics Canada.|
German Outbound Travel in a Holding Pattern as Travelers Assess Terrorism Risk
The month of March 2016 closed out with travel agents in a less-than-optimistic mood about the prospects for this year’s business activity. Two terrorist attacks during the three-month period have taken their toll on the psyche of Germans. The first took place on January 12th, in Istanbul when an ISIS-backed suicide bomber killed 10 people—eight of them Germans—and wounded 15 others, many of them German. Then came March 22, when there was a series of three terrorist bombings in Brussels, Belgium, just 140 miles from Cologne, that killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
As a result, the German travel trade publication FVW reported, holiday bookings still remain well behind their pace last year, even if demand had slightly strengthened in recent weeks, according to tour operators. Domestic holidays in Germany sold well but demand for Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia fell substantially.
Said FVW: “The terror attacks in Istanbul and Brussels have now further depressed the mood among German travel agents, according to the latest monthly confidence index by consultants Dr Fried + Partner for FVW. The index weakened to 95 points in March compared to a high 103.9 points in the same month last year.” From the survey that provides the index numbers:
—Only 26 percent of respondents said they had increased sales in recent months.
—Thirty-four percent reported a decline.
—One third said that their sales were rising at the time of the survey.
—Only 17 percent said they expected profits to improve in the next six months.
—Twenty-seven percent believed they will see lower sales and profits.
—A quarter (26 percent) of respondents predicted falling demand in the coming months vs. 23 percent who predicted an increase.
—More than half of respondents do not expect any change in demand.
The Long Term Outlook Also Uninspiring: In addition to the fragility of Germany as a source market for international travel due to economic and political crises as they occur, the German tour and travel industry—as does the whole of the Germany economy—faces a serious demographic problem. A study released last May said that Germany’s birth rate has slumped to the lowest in the world—lower than that of Japan.
According to Henning Voepel, director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, the nation’s falling birth rate means the percentage of people in the key travel demographic of 20 to 65 years old would drop from 61 percent to 54 percent by 2030. This is a concern, of course, for the German labor market: i.e., the prospect of fewer workers will mean higher wage costs and pose a challenge for the nation’s economic growth.
CHINA: When marketing to the Chinese Focus on the 97 million People with Passports
U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs should think of all Chinese travelers as potential luxury travelers. This is one of the key messages of Charlie Gu, director of the Los Angeles-based China Luxury Advisors, makes when he discusses the ins and outs of the luxury travel market in China. And it was one of the points Gu wove throughout his presentation during NAJ’s Active America-China Summit held recently in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ninety-three percent. This is a figure Gu used to point out just how rarefied the luxury travel market in China is, because 93 percent is that part of the Chinese population that do not have a passport. Only 7 percent of Chinese have a passport. And while 7 percent is a small number, it means that, of China’s 1.386 million population, 97 million individuals do have a passport.
For residents of China, leisure travel is an activity that is relatively recent—the Chinese government gave the U.S. travel businesses the authorization to promote their product less than a decade ago, in December 2007—but there are some realities that have emerged in this brief period that are now factors that travel marketers should be aware of in developing their strategies. Following are some of the other points made by Gu:
—Travel is now viewed by many in China as a necessary adjustment to their lifestyles.
—The decline of the Chinese yuan (it is off about 5.5 percent against the U.S. dollar vs. a year ago) is not a deterrent for the luxury traveler, said Gu, suggesting that it could mean that such travelers “might get one less hand bag” during their shopping stops.
—Because of the November 2014 agreement between the U.S. and Chinese governments that extended the period of validity for each nation’s visa in the other country from one to ten years, “we will see more repeat visitors” to the USA from China.
—“Peak travel” periods will occur throughout the year as Chinese travelers will take advantage of the increased number of flights and connections between China and the U.S.
—Chinese investment in the United States will continue to grow, meaning that visitors will begin to “lay down partial roots in the U.S.” and creating a reason for frequent return visits.
—High-end group travel is evolving; “the size of groups is diminishing.”
—New experiences being sought out by luxury travelers include golfing, skiing, wine tours, self-driving, move location tours and adventure travel.
—There is a blurring of the line between group travel and FIT travel; FIT is rising. A recent study indicates that 75 percent of FIT travelers are Millennials.
—“Digital Dominates” as the overwhelming majority of luxury travelers transact their business digitally, using the now-familiar Ctrip, Qunar and Alitrip, as well as other online travel companies. “Essentially, it’s a virtual mall,” said Gu, “where businesses can set up their virtual store.”
—To the question, “What can you offer?” Gu suggested that U.S. suppliers first find a Chinese partner before trying to answer it.
Finally, said Gu, the definition of luxury travel is changing—from the conspicuous spending that used to characterize it, to experiential travel product. Luxury travelers, he emphasized, “want a much broader experience in a destination,” with one recent study suggesting that luxury travelers will be spending more on travel itself than on luxury goods through shopping.
INDIA: Thomas Cook India Launches “Go Beyond” Product for F.I.T. Travelers Seeking an Experience
India’s dominant international tour operator, Thomas Cook India, has launched a new personalized holiday concept, “Go Beyond” holidays. The range of the new holiday concept will cover destinations worldwide, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Designed for the FIT market, the new concept is intended to allow Indian travelers to “go beyond” the usual package holiday destinations and experience life as a local.
Explaining the new holiday concept, Rajeev D. Kale, Thomas Cook India’s president & country head for leisure travel & MICE, said “the idea is to add a personalized and unique touch to holidays, to ‘Go Beyond’ standard cookie-cutter vacations.” He said that it was designed “to take the holiday experience a notch higher. It could be as simple as a walk down a lane frequented only by locals, to get a glimpse of their way of life, discovering their traditions, or unique accommodation options like a cabin in the woods or a village stay,”
The company said that its own research had revealed that Indian FIT travelers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their preferences, and demanding more “experiential” tours. This trend saw a growth of over 30 percent in 2015. Go Beyond will initially provide holidays to 25 destinations including the USA, Canada, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Australia and New Zealand. It also includes African safaris.
Also, from India, Mumbai-based Cox & Kings has restructured its business operations through the sale of LateRooms and Superbreak to Malvern Enterprises, which is owned by a private equity investor that was not named. Cox and Kings has maintained a 49 percent stake in the two operations. Reports indicated that the transaction raised £20 million ($28.2 million) which, Cox & Kings said, would help pay off debt.
“The transaction will enable Malvern to independently follow its own strategic growth path in the underpenetrated city breaks market within the online package tour space,” said a Cox & Kings statement, adding, “Brands Superbreak and LateRooms are likely to gain substantially from a unified management team under the strategic guidance of the private equity investor and Cox & Kings.”
India-based Cox & Kings bought LateRooms last autumn for £8.5 million ($12 million) from TUI, which sold the company as part of a reorganization of its travel business following TUI’s merger with its parent company, TUI AG. Superbreak, which is based in York, UK, is part of Holidaybreak, which Cox & Kings had acquired in 2011.
RTO Summit East’s Digital Day Program Will Focus on Online Marketing for International
TripAdvisor, which is partnering with the NAJ Group in sponsoring the “Digital Day” on the first day of the two-day RTO Summit East May 2-3 at New York City’s Wyndham New Yorker hotel in New York City, will use the occasion to release its most recent version of its European Travel Monitor research detailing how international consumers search and book travel. Specifically, TripAdvisor will focus on search and booking activity from the UK, German and France, which are three of the top ten overseas source markets. Meanwhile, Erin Francis Cummings, president of Destination Analysts, present its new “State of the International Traveler” survey, and Thomas Galati from LinkedIn will present on the latest techniques to nurture tour operator relationships online.
For complete program information on Digital Day—it will be open to tour and travel professionals at an a la carte rate, with NYC & Company members receiving a $395 discount—visit: http://www.rtosummit.com/rto-summit-east/rto-summit-east-supplier-fees-registration-policy/
Skittish British Still Like USA as Destination this Year
Despite their fears or concerns about safety, according to the results a just-released study by Travelzoo,
the majority of British people (82 percent) are still planning to go on one or more holidays this year. Now … more survey results:
—More than two thirds (71 percent) are now choosing where to go based on how safe they feel the destination is.
—In fact, safety has become the most important factor in travel decisions
—Affordability, at 52 percent, is the second most important factor among British travelers.
—Number three among those factors important in the decision making process among British travelers, at 42 percent, is the weather.
Where They’re Going, or Want to go, this Summer: The United States, at number four overall, is the favorite long-haul destination among UK travelers. The favorites shape up as follows.
Top Ten Favorite Travel Destinations
For British Travelers in 2016
|Destination & Rank||Percentage among British Travelers|
Strong Group Booking Growth Buoys North American Hoteliers
The pace of new bookings is slowing at North American hotels as the industry heads into the typically strong spring travel-reservation season, according to a new TravelClick study—the March 2016 North American Hospitality Review, which looks at group sales commitments and individual reservations in 25 major North American markets booked by March 1, 2016, for stays from March 2016 to February 2017.
While new bookings are up at the start of the spring season, with 17 of the top 25 North American markets showing “committed occupancy”* growth compared to last month, the pace of those bookings is relatively flat. New commitments that have been added over the last month are down -0.2 percent. These numbers indicate a disjointed story for hoteliers as new booking pace is slowing going into the normally strong spring travel reservation season.
For the next 12 months (March 2016 – February 2017), transient bookings are up 0.8 percent year-over-year, and ADR for this segment is up 2.4 percent. When broken down further, the transient leisure (discount, qualified and wholesale) segment is showing occupancy gains of 2.6 percent, with ADR gains of 2.6 percent. The transient business (negotiated and retail) segment is down -1.8 percent, but ADR is up 2.9 percent. Lastly, group bookings are up 5.0 percent in committed room nights over the same time last year, and ADR is up 3.4 percent.
First Quarter 2016
|All Travel Segments||2.60%||-0.60%||1.9|
|Source: Travelzoo March 2016 North American Hospitality Review|
Second Quarter 2016
|All Travel Segments||2.5||3.2|
|* Committed Occupancy(Transient rooms received + group rooms committed)/capacity|
|The 1st quarter combines historical data (Jan. and Feb.) and forward-looking data (Mar.)|
|Source: Travelzoo March 2016 North American Hospitality Review|
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Francois-Laurent Nivaud has been named as the new executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. He succeeds former executive director Rich Doucette, who resigned last the post last October after just six months on the job. Active in the travel and tourism industry for more than 40 years, Nivaud in 1998 created New England Management Services, a hospitality industry think tank involved in various consulting projects. He also helped found the Boston Wine Festival and the Massachusetts Lodging Association.
Maureen Droz, international sales manager for South Dakota Tourism—she has been with the office for nearly 25 years—has announced that she is retiring, effective immediately. “My husband just retired and it’s an opportunity for us to enjoy the next chapter of our lives,” she told the Inbound Report. Among tour and travel professionals, Maureen is best known for her preferred method of conveyance: her Harley Davidsonmotorcycle.
Ralf Aasmann, a former executive for Lufthansa and Emirates airlines, has been named executive director of AirTkt, a group that brings together 11 airlines consolidators in Brazil. Aasmann replaces Cássio Oliveira, who left the position—he was the organization’s first executive director—after a little more than a year on the job.
Cássio Oliveira, meanwhile, has landed a position as vice president of Grupo Ancoradouro, headquartered in Campinas, Juarez Cintra. It is a muli-purpose travel business which, among other endeavors, joined last year in creating e-Easy Plus, a company in partnership with the BRT, PVT and Wooba, which develops booking platform which now has air, hotel, car, ship and travel insurance.
Intrepid Travel (it is a small UK group adventure travel company that offers product in North America) has appointed Gabriel Quiros business development manager for the South West, Wales and Ireland. Quiros comes to the company from the Clifton Hotels Group.
Kelly Calver has been appointed as trade sales manager at touring and cruising specialist at Cosmos Tours. She joins the company from the Fred Olsen Group, where she had served for more than six years. The appointment comes as the firm has broadened its trade sales strategy to include Northern Ireland. Calver will cover the south of England.
Kimberly Torres has been named sales manager at the Grand Old Opry Entertainment Group/ Ryman Hospitality Properties. She joins the company after serving as director of tourism sales at the Little Rock CVB. Previously, Torres was a sales manager at the San Angelo (Texas) CVB.
A reorganization of the management team at the UK’s Attraction World following its acquisition of Days Out With The Kids early last month has resulted in Paul Stobbs heading up the Days Out brand, while also leading Attraction World as the company’s group chief executive. Stobbs had previously served as Attraction World’s managing director.
Also at Attraction World, Tony Seaman has taken on day-to-day responsibilities for brand and product within Days Out With The Kids but will also act as chief operating officer at a group level. Seaman said Attraction World, which he co-owns, would mark its 10th anniversary this year and had needed to diversify with a consumer-branded product – one that was not subject to world events and currency fluctuations.
Nick Hughes, who has more than six years with Attraction World, has been named sales and marketing director. Attraction World operates in more than 60 countries and offers more than 5,000 attraction ticket packages.