Former Ohio CVB Director Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charges
Robert Lambert, former director of the Highland County (Ohio) CVB in Ohio, pleaded guilty on July 31 in connection with felony charges of distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography. Lambert appeared Monday before U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott on July 31 to change his plea from not guilty. His trial had been set to begin Aug. 7. He had been indicted on four federal charges after his arrest last year in Hillsboro on charges involving sexual material depicting minors. Lambert was fired from his bureau job after his arrest in Aug. 2016. Lambert was fired last year from the CVB, which is located in Hillsboro, about 60 miles east of Cincinnati.
Fresh Insights from Our Receptive Visits in Los Angeles
“Go West, young man, and grow up with the country” is what New Your Tribune editor and publisher Horace Greeley wrote in July 1865. And today, more than 150 years later, one still has to Go West to develop a more complete grasp and understanding of the inbound tourism industry in the United States as filtered through the eyes and words of the West Coast receptive tour operators who do an increasingly larger proportion of the overseas inbound market business—much larger than just a decade ago. Remember, it was only a decade ago, toward the end of 2007, that the United States signed a bilateral tourism agreement with China and received Approved Destination Status (ADS), which allowed promotion of leisure tourism by U.S. travel suppliers and the receptive tour operators.
“Going West” recently on a series of visits to the offices of major receptive tour operators based in Los Angeles was the INBOUND Report’s editor, Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group. He met with the leaders of New World Travel, Americantours International, JTB USA, TPI, Lassen Tours, Grand Destinations and CTour Holidays and Lion Tours. Afterwards, he collected his impressions and distilled what he discussed with the receptive tour operators and fashioned a summary of a trends and developments that he shares with us here. He begins, however, with developments brought about by actions on the part of global operators.
—The Receptive Tour Operator (RTO) segment of the tour and travel industry is consolidating and fragmenting at the same time. Tourico Holidays and GTA are now part of Hotelbeds, a consolidation that resulted in a huge, worldwide bedbank which allows them more scale to compete with online travel agencies (OTAs). Meanwhile, new tour operator companies have been created by former employers who had been downsized but have still maintained relationships with group operators and suppliers. Many of these “mom-and-pop” operators are able work from their homes with reduced overheard and undercut their former employers for business.
—Chinese group business to Los Angeles has been disappointing for this summer. Several of the major attractions in southern California were taken by surprise by the decline in seated coach business. We visited the offices of Ctour, a division of Ctrip, which recently purchased Seagull Holidays and Tour4Fun as well as a controlling interest in L&L Travel on the East Coast to service their leisure group tours. One problem they have on their minds is the increase in visa application rejections since the last election.
—Ctour, which for the past three years had experienced rejection rates of from 5 to 7 percent for the groups they service, are now finding turn away rates as high as 50 percent. With 100 buses a day on the road around the U.S. during the summer high season, its China offices are working overtime to generate additional demand to fill the pipeline. Other companies that specialize in MICE programs reported 20 percent rejection rates, as interviewers have become more suspicious in interviews. Sometimes there are reasons for the increased scrutiny: In one case, an applicant’s stated purpose of visiting the U.S. was to attend a conference, but when the interviewer discovered that the applicant couldn’t speak a word of English and would not understand the conference sessions, his visa was rejected.
—From a company that specializes in standard budget group tours, we heard that the Chinese market is evolving in two ways: First, new air service to U.S. destinations has been announced this year from second and third tier cities to major gateways that are generating a slew of first time visitors who are opting for these budget tours. Meanwhile, carriers are also announcing new service from mature source cities such as Shanghai and Beijing to second-tier U.S gateways. Tourism from these cities is now driven by FITs or PITs (partial FITs-families) traveling together who need ground services.
—What’s called the post 1980 and post 1990 market—those born after those dates—are now predominantly FIT and they are surprisingly adventurous. This summer, in northern Africa, I was able to connect first-hand with two Chinese couples traveling FIT-style. (My vacation bucket list included camping out in the desert of Morocco, riding camels and experiencing a third world culture.) On the way to the desert we overnighted in Ouarzazate, an obscure city built around an oasis that is Morocco’s Hollywood (major movie studios filmed desert classics such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator and many other films here, and the town’s main attraction is a movie set façade). Almost every other tourist in our little hotel had done what we did—hired a highly knowledgeable guide who navigated us through the countryside to stop at clean restrooms and find food that was safe from contamination and arrange the best campsites so there would be no surprises.
In the lobby of a small boutique hotel we struck up a conversation with two Chinese couples in their thirties who spoke fluent English. They worked for European banks in Shanghai and were also camping in the desert, but they were completely DIY: they rented their own SUV through Zuzuche, employed the services of a guide and used Chinese FIT infrastructure—review and chat forums, We Chat and search—to identify hotels, places to eat as well as restroom stops along the way where the attendant wouldn’t withhold toilet paper until properly tipped. They saw themselves as explorers.
About the FIT infrastructure used by Chinese travelers: They began their research using two common review sites: MaFengWo and Qyer, which are the dominant forums for FIT travelers that function in a way that is similar to TripAdvisor—providing hotel reviews—and Dianping (similar to Yelp!) for restaurants and things to do. Then they go Ctrip or Qunar, the two primary OTAs to plan their trip and if they don’t find what they need on these booking sites, they will go to a travel agent. Meanwhile, rental car companies such as Zuzuche and Huizuche are providing a layer of infrastructure to Chinese FITs who want to roam the roads. Not only do these sites include translation of Chinese driver’s licenses, but they are also connected by investment to HiGuides, an app that functions as an Uber for Mandarin speaking tour guides throughout the world, complete with consumer reviews.
—Bookings from Germany Tanked in 2016. They declined by 25 to 30 percent in 2016 following a banner year in 2015 during which all the major agencies had leveraged currency futures to protect against the rise in the U.S. dollar and found themselves the low cost provider when the dollar spiked. While 2017 started off flat in the first three months of the year, business has slowed since April, especially for MICE groups. For New World Travel, this is a year to focus on efficiencies, cost reductions and creativity. In addition to the continued strength of the U.S. dollar, politics is playing a significant, if under-the-radar, role. Besides a reported 40 percent fewer searches for flights to the USA, according to OTA site Hipmunk, operators are reporting cancellations based on changes in sentiment. For example, one West Coast receptive operator worked with a company in Sweden which had reliably sent a group of 300 to the U.S. every year. This year, the group cancelled as they could not even sell enough to fill one motorcoach—something they attribute to a virtual hatred of President Trump.
Will Evaneos be a Threat to Tour Operators in Europe? Earlier, we referred to the fact that the RTO channel is both consolidating and fragmenting at the same time. While the three primary hotel aggregators are now combined under Hotelbeds, several new, smaller operators have formed with minimal fixed overhead and group contacts from previous employers. Meanwhile, on to the scene has come Evaneos.com, a French-based website that has raised $21 million in venture funding, that enables a traveler to create multi-day vacations and book bespoke tours that are bid on by travel agents and ground operators. The INBOUND Report has learned that some bidders are small receptive companies using their language capabilities and contacts with vendors to serve as local tour guides and land operators. One question many in the industry have is: Are these receptives contributing to the disruption of international operators, many of whom sell tailor made programs and could be their clients, too?
—In Japan, Travel Voice, a travel industry news site, also provides a way to connect Japanese speaking guides in multiple cities around the world with tour operators who are experiencing a shortage of Japanese speaking tour guides as the younger generation appears to have no interested in this type of work.
—How 90,000 Chinese FIT’s Rent Cars in the US. While two couples may rent conventional automobiles, multiple families traveling together will rent 11-12 seat vans. Huizuche is a new website specializing in overseas car rental listings, partnering with more than 10 well-known auto rental services–such as Hertz and Avis–to cover about 180 countries and areas that support drivers with Chinese licenses hitting the roads, Huizuche’s main selling point is that it’s all in Chinese, meaning that travelers don’t have to grapple with websites in English or some other language in order to make a booking.
That also means the startup Huizuche provides an easy, one-stop way to evaluate rental prices and lots of other options across all the major services. Huizuche makes money from a cut of each booking.
The startup says that about 40 percent of its car rentals are for the U.S., amounting to about 90,000 rides per month across U.S. States by Chinese tourists and businesspeople. This means the site is processing over 200,000 bookings per month across the world. A rival site, Zuzuche, is doing the same thing, even aggregating from many of the same big rental players.
—Overall, business last year was down from 2015 by 4-5 percent and, so far this year, bookings are running a little behind last year. For JTB USA, the growth opportunities lie in their burgeoning Chinese business under the TPI brand and Lassen Tour brands. And recently, they won the contract as US-receptive operator of record for CVC, Brazil’s largest tour operator. This year, the JTB USA has made investments in office infrastructure to service CVC’s customers in New York, Florida, and other Cities.
10 Airlines Drop Service as Fleeing Venezuelans Scramble to Seek Asylum
Arrivals from Venezuela Plummeted 26 percent in Three Years: The implosion of Venezuela’s society and economy has accelerated with last week’s national plebiscite, boycotted by opposition parties that will give Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro virtually unchecked powers. The vote has exacerbated a dire situation for those who’ve promoted the U.S. travel product in the country, whose arrival numbers had grown steadily in the past decade, until the nation’s oil-export driven economy collapsed and its currency has proved to be virtually worthless on the international marketplace.
The most direct impact of the economic chaos in Venezuela—along with the collapse of its currency, the Bolivar—on outbound tourism is seen in air service. The Venezuelan government owes 24 airlines approximately $ 3.7 billion. This is because the airlines, which have collected airfares and related costs in Bolivars, cannot get the government to repatriate the money into their own currencies, or dollars. As a result of this, 10 major carriers have dropped service to and from Venezuela.
Airlines that have dropped service to and from Venezuela
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled, or are fleeing the country seeking asylum elsewhere in South America or in the United States. The Washington Post reported on August 6 that:
—Argentina has more than doubled the number of temporary resident permits issued to Venezuelans every year since 2014, reaching 35,600 in May 2017, according to Argentine immigration authorities;
—Chile has more than quadrupled its visas to Venezuelans in recent years, from 1,463 in 2013 to 8,381 in 2015;
—Peru has received more than 10,000 Venezuelan requests to stay so far in 2017, immigration authorities told Human Rights Watch;
—Brazil has a backlog of thousands of Venezuelan asylum applications; and
—Venezuela last year sent more asylum seekers to the United States than any other country—some 18,000—according to reports.
While there are no authoritative studies or profiles of those who are fleeing Venezuela, one gets the impression, from reviewing anecdotal accounts of the exodus of its citizens, that the country is losing a sizable component of its middle-class professional population. This is the same segment of the nation’s population that is needed to staff the managerial, IT and logistical and operational needs of the travel and tourism industry.
And, on the basis of what we at the INBOUND Report have seen, it looks as if the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
Big Spike in Airline Capacity in 2017. Is that a good idea?
Ryanair is Tops in Number of International Seats: A series of a new data sets prepared by the airline news and analysis site anna.aero shows that three quarters of the world’s largest international carriers registered increases for the peak travel season for 2017 (S17, which runs from the end of March to the end of October) over the same period for 2016. First, here is a table showing the year-on-year increases in international seat capacity of the Top 40 international air carriers.
Here is the key to the codes used to identify the airlines in the above table:
FR—Ryanair SK—Scandinavian Airlines
U2—easyJet SQ—Singapore Airlines
EK—Emirates VY—Vueling Airlines
LH—Lufthansa EY—Etihad Airways
TK—Turkish KE—Korean Air
BA—British Airways SV—Saudia
AA—American Airlines LX—Swiss Int’l. Airlines
QR—Qatar Airways MU—Chinas Eastern Airlines
AF—Air France TG—Thai Airlines
KL–KLM Royal Dutch Airlines OS—Austrian Airlines
UA—United Airlines CZ—China Southern Airlines
DL—Delta Air Lines CA—Air China
W6—Wizz Air OZ—Asiana
AC—Air Canada CM—COPA (Panama)
DX—Danish Air Transport TP—TAP Portugal
CX—Cathay BR—EVA Airways
Worldwide, the USA is the source of the greatest number of airline movements, with China ranking number two. However, most of the activity emanating from these two countries is for in-country travel. The number one and two carriers based on number of seats are: Ryanair and EasyJet—both budget carriers and both based in the UK. The measure is not altogether that accurate, as the majority of connections flown by the two carriers are regarded as short-haul, whereas the flights of the three legacy carriers based in the USA (American, Delta and United) are mostly long-haul.
Nonetheless, the table below show the major role now played in international air transportation by low-cost carriers.
And, finally …
What Are the Most Important Phrases Travelers Want Answered?
“What is the Wi-Fi password?” is the phrase that most Brazilian travelers want to know the answer to when they arrive in the country they are visiting. This finding is the result is a result of a survey conducted by Booking.com with more than 18 thousand travelers from 25 countries. The poll was based on the following question: What were the phrases they most wanted to know in the language of the destination in which they traveled? (Editor’s caution note here: this article is reliant on the quality and accuracy of Google’s translation service.)
The results revealed a high degree of dependence of Brazilians on staying connected—even during the vacation period. The theme, in research conducted around the world, occupies the second position. Below are the ten most important phrases that Brazilian travelers listed, based on the order of frequency of their appearance in their survey responses.
Here is how the responses of all world travelers compare to those of Brazilian travelers.
TourOperatorland.com Teams Up With ABA in New Weekly Feature
To help tour operators and planners learn about what there is to do in many of the destinations across the country, NAJ Group’s TourOperatorland.com, an ABA partner for nearly a quarter century, developed a collaboration with ABA’s weekly newsletter, The Insider, to highlight ABA destinations. The weekly At A Glance series not only highlights great destinations across the country but also showcases destinations that may be on exhibit at ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace.
Each week the “At-A-Glance” feature will include a bullet point list of things to do for “First Time Visitors and Repeat Visitors” from more than 60 destinations.
TourOperatorland began life as an online itinerary platform in June of 2001 and added a newsletter to chronicle the whereabouts of tour and travel industry contacts when founder Jake Steinman was sequestered in a Boston hotel following the air shut down after 9/11.
“I spent a week in my hotel room working the phones and put up my findings on the site every night. By the end of the week we have over 1000 registered users simply from word of mouth,” said Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group. “That’s when I realized the industry is really one giant family and we had to start reaching out to domestic operators as international visitors would be too frightened to travel to the US. So, we immediately joined ABA and found their annual Marketplace to be the best place to reach domestic motorcoach operators and planners of all stripes.”
Since those early days, TourOperatorland.com has evolved as the central website that aggregates trade content for more than 130 destinations and suppliers in one place to save tour operators time and effort and the ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace has evolved into the largest show that brings connects more than 3,500 tour operators, destinations and suppliers together to create new tour programs for the coming season.
To see this week’s At-a-Glance post, visit: https://www.buses.org/news/article/at-a-glance-series-gettysburg-at-a-glance
Royalty-free, high resolution photos you can download for brochures, website or proposals
|Memphis royalty-free photo library click here.
For full Memphis itinerary, click here.
For more information contact: Lisacatron@memphistravel.com
TourOperatorland.com is produced by NAJ Group
New (and some Bizarre) Product Announcements this Month:
Chop Chop: Axe Throwing, or “Bringing People Together, One Bullseye at a Time.” New to the attraction scene in Philadelphia is Urban Axes which, as its name implies, involves people throwing hatchets (they weigh one-and-and-a-half pounds) at wooden targets. Participants score points based on where they stick their axes on a target. Group events at Urban Axes last 2.5 hours and must be booked in advance. All events start with safety instructions and 1-on-1 throwing practice, led by fully trained coaches in a private throwing area. Once a player has sharpened his or her skills, there is a round robin tournament followed by final knockout round to award an axe-throwing champion. Staff coaches take care of all scoring and smooth flow of the tournament so you can relax and enjoy the sport. At the end of every round robin tournament, one member of the group is the winner. One definitely needs to book ahead for group events. Currently, participants must be 21 years of age or older. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/urbanaxes/, or call 267.585.2937. (Additional facilities are planned for Austin, Baltimore and Cincinnati.)
The Mall of the Future? Disguise it as a Theme Park. Completion of the $5 billion American Dream Mall at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., finally seems within reach. The mall, which will look more like an amusement park than a shopping venue, just received a $1.1 billion bond financing to resume construction after years of fits and starts and delays. Canadian developer Triple Five Group—among its developments are the West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America—is building what some call an anti-mall at the northern New Jersey location, just west of Manhattan. Phase 1 of American Dream is now scheduled to open in March 2019, it is rising beside MetLife Stadium, where the National Football League’s Giants and Jets play. It will encompass three million square feet, with half devoted to 13 attractions, including a DreamWorks Waterpark featuring elements of “Shrek’s Soggy Swamp,” a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and a 16-story Big Snow America Indoor Ski Hill. For more information, visit: http://www.americandream.com/
NFL is Teaming up with Cirque du Soleil to offer a permanent interactive exhibit to football fans visiting New York. Their Times Square Experience is slated to open soon. The partnership marks the first sports venture for Cirque du Soleil, which has partnered in the past with names such as The Beatles and Michael Jackson. “We see the NFL Times Square experience as an opportunity to leverage our creativity to bring to life another one of the world’s greatest brands and expand our capabilities beyond live productions,” said Scott Zeiger, Cirque du Soleil’s theatrical president and managing director. The 40,000 square feet exhibit will span four floors and include a 350-seat theater, showing 20-minute shows that will recreate what it feels like to be part of a game, on the sidelines or behind the scenes. The exhibit will also feature regular updates. The NFL experience will also show NFL content on a giant exterior digital screen seen by the more than 300,000 pedestrians who pass through each day. For more information, visit: www.nflexperience.com.
Beverly Hills CVB Launches Free Trolley Shuttle to Rodeo Drive as part of a traffic management program. Home to arguably the most famous shopping venue in the USA—Rodeo Drive—Beverly Hills, California has taken some steps to its effort “to accommodate both individual leisure travelers as well as large groups” that visit and walk through and about the business triangle that is home to Rodeo Drive, as well as the famous shops and restaurants located in the area. The mix of measures taken include passenger loading zones, active loading zones and staging zones for tour buses, as well as hours of operations for tour buses. Please visit www.beverlyhills.org/tourbus and www.beverlyhills.org/smblvd for more information, or call 310.285.1128 for assistance.
Which Receptive has the Staff who can Speak Your Language? Find them on the ReceptiveFinder
ReceptiveFinder, which lives on TourOperatorLand.com, is designed to help international buyers from the top 15 inbound source markets find receptive tour operators with staff who speak their language.
Each Receptive Operator in our database has been profiled, vetted and evaluated based on their attendance at the NAJ’s RTO Summits, analysis of their website, length of time in business, and their capacity to sell multiple countries.
Click on any of the links below. (Registration is required. Sign in with your e-mail if you’re already registered)
|Number of Searchable Receptive Operators|
|French||32 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Danish||13 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Dutch||15 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|German||33 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Greek||11 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Hebrew||13 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Hindi||1 Featured Receptive Operator Office|
|Italian||23 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Japanese||21 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Norwegian||11 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Portuguese||26 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Russian||13 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Spanish||48 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
|Swedish||14 Featured Receptive Operator Offices|
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
TourOperatorLand (formerly thetouroperator.com) is produced by NAJ (North American Journeys) which has been marketing incoming tourism to and within North America since 1992 through a variety of specialized events and publishing projects.
IN MEMORIAM: Woody Peek
Funeral services were held late last month for Woodrow “Woody” Binford Peek, Jr., age 63, of Nashville, Tenn., who passed away July 25, 2017. Woody Peek, whose career in the tour and travel industry took him from Tennessee to Florida and back again to Tennessee, was widely known and warmly regarded as a true gentleman. He began his career in 1979 with Opryland USA where he served as general sales manager, and moved on to serve in senior executive roles at the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association; again at Opryland USA; the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel; Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede; and World Choice Investments, which is based in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Peek was a 1981 graduate of Belmont University in Nashville. He was preceded in death by his father, Woodrow Binford Peek, Sr. Beloved son, husband, father and papaw, Woody is survived by wife, Cathy Peek; son, Tyler Peek; daughters, Leah (John) Hitson and Callie (Nate) Farro; mother, Marjorie Thrower Peek; brother, Monty (Leisa) Peek; sister, Linda Schacht; and grandchildren, Elias, Simeon, Eleanor, Ari & Poppy Hitson and Judah & Elizabeth Farro.
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Jonathan Elkoubi has been appointed senior director of business development at VR World NYC, the first “totally VR” attraction in North America. Located at 4 East 34th Street, across the street from the Empire State Building, it comprises 20,000 square feet of space and more than 50 unique experiences. Elkoubi joins the VR World NYC from Applebee’s (Apple-Metro, Inc.), where he was director of tourism, group sales and corporate events. Prior to that, he was director of sales and partnerships with Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Times Square.
JacTravel Acquired by Webjet. Australian-based Webjet is acquiring London-based JacTravel. With the acquisition, JacTravel join Sunhotels, Lots of Hotels and FIT Ruum’s in the company’s B2B division WebBeds, to become one of the world’s largest B2B travel providers. JacTravel operates two distinct brands: JacTravel and totalstay.com, both of which will now become part of the WebBeds business. In bringing JacTravel to the WebBeds’ family, the combined company will boost its annual total transacted volume to over 600 million and will increase its global footprint with offices in 19 countries.The new company will have over 900 employees and a global portfolio of more than 225,000 hotels, of which 17,000 are directly contracted, in all regions of the globe.
Travel Leaders Group and ALTOUR Merge. two of the largest travel companies in the United States, have signed an agreement to unite under common ownership to form a single, powerhouse travel agency organization with nearly $24 billion in annual sales. There will be no substantive operating changes or name changes to either ALTOUR or Travel Leaders Group’s businesses or organizations. In the 2017 Travel Weekly Power List of the top travel agencies doing business in the United States, ALTOUR ranked No. 14 and Travel Leaders Group ranked No. 9. The Power List comprises companies that do at least $100 million in annual sales.
Alexandre Chemla, founder, president and CEO of ALTOUR, will remain in his current leadership role and Ninan Chacko will continue to serve as CEO of Travel Leaders Group. In addition, upon the closing, Chemla will become a shareholder and join the Board of Directors of Travel Leaders Group Holdings.
Brian Waters has been named vice president of marketing and executive director at Visit National Harbor—the hotel, casino and entertainment venue along the Maryland side of the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C. Before his appointment to his new post, Waters led B2B marketing for Hilton Hotels. Previously, he was with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts for almost 15 years. He succeeds Bruce Gudenberg, who is now executive director of industry relations for Hilton.
Mary Grimley has promoted to the position of vice president of sales for VisitDallas. A member of the organization’s sales team for the past 14 years, Grimley has had numerous jobs as she rose through the ranks, serving lastly as director of group sales. Previously, she spend 15 years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
The Brazilian tour operator New Tour has hired Ronaldo Amaral, who will be part of the company’s sales team in Rio de Janeiro. He has more than 20 years experience in the trade, including stops at RCA, MK Travel and MMTGapnet. Amaral can be contacted at: email@example.com and (21) 2509-0115.
Roni Stevens has been named director of marketing and sales for DC Trails. Stevens, who previously worked as director of business development for Reliable Limousine and Bus Service in the Washington DC area, has also served tenures in sales and marketing for Venture Tours, Academy Bus and New World