WTM 2017—Observations and Insights
By Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group; publisher of the INBOUND Report:
The USA Pavilion: Under Brand USA, this year’s American pavilion was a vast improvement from the early days when disparate destinations, hotels and suppliers had booths that screamed “pick me” in a visual cacophony that felt like a flea market. This year, even though everyone retained their own branding, it felt as though all exhibitors were part of a more cohesive entity each with their own distinct personality.
—Floor Traffic Mixed: Even though the show has been shortened to three days from four, the floor traffic was only brisk during the first day-and-a-half of the show. By the afternoon of Day 2, there were many exhibit booths that lacked buyers and by the afternoon of Day 3 it was a ghost town with many U.S. exhibitors heading closing up at 3:00 pm. Once again, it was the suppliers who had in-country reps arranging appointments who were most busy; those that did not were basically standing around waiting for someone to stop 60% of the time.
What a difference a Year Makes. Last year’s WTM coincided with the 2016 presidential elections and on the third day of the show when it was clear that Donald Trump had won, the US pavilion was completely empty as stunned exhibitors had no idea what to do. Fast forward one year later and exhibitors at the NYC & Company decided to boycott our President’s name. They wouldn’t even utter the name as they kept referring to him as “45” as one said it just made him feel better.
—It Takes a Village: States such as Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Louisiana and even upstate New York were kept consistently busy as appointments had been pre-arranged and booth occupants met with operators en masse during each appointment.
Trends evident at WTM:
“A complete Lack of Evolution”among the trade. That was how one supplier described World Travel Market. The way business is conducted hasn’t changed in five years, although the environment has changed dramatically. There are all manner of tools that didn’t exist before content marketing, short form videos, influencer marketing, hyper precise search marketing programs—but you’d be hard pressed to find operators talking about them. If a Russian can use Facebook’s targeting tools to pinpoint people to influence the outcome of U.S. elections, just imagine how savvy tourism marketers can penetrate niches of travelers predisposed to a destination’s key attractions.
Meanwhile, OTAs such as Booking.com, Expedia and, in its own way, Airbnb have had an effect on UK travelers interested in booking a single city break, but the industry has yet to embrace them as operators produce brochures websites that feature the same product as in previous years.
Long time RTOs with no succession plan Ripe for Acquisition. The tour operator industry both inbound receptive and domestic operators have reached a point where their founders are in their late sixties and 70’s but have no exit strategy or family members interested in taking over the business. These operators are ripe for acquisition by larger existing receptive operators. One such company was Event Travel Solutions.
As a M.I.C.E. specialist with experience in medical and pharmaceutical conventions, its founder merged with New World Travel, whose president is Peter Dorner. The official version from Event Travel Solutions:
“Event Travel Solutions has been in talks with New World Travel Inc., over the past few months with regards to a possible cooperation, and we are now pleased to announce the merger between ETS and New World Travel.
“Starting October 1st, 2017, Event Travel Solutions will officially continue its operations under the name of New World Travel. For 35 years New World Travel has been recognized as a well-established Receptive Tour Operator with offices located in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. This merger of two great companies will further strengthen our position in the market and will provide a tremendously exciting opportunity for you, our valued clients, and ourselves. Our existing personnel will seamlessly continue to interact with you regarding all of your needs, and our personal attention will not be affected in any way.”
Competition Heats Up as Four new Receptive Companies Break into the American Market
In addition to UK-based worldwide hotel bedbanks JAC Travel, which has 18,000 hotels and Miki Travel, four new European-based worldwide hotel banks are entering the U.S. as F.I.T. operators, perhaps they sense a window of opportunity to service tour operators who are basically wary of working with a monopoly. Here are four established companies
- Palma de Majorca-based World2Meet, a global wholesaler with 22,000 contracted hotels and another 345,000 through third party partnerships, has recruited Tresie Benoit, as contracting manager for the Americas. Since 2002, Ms. Benoit has held various positions at AmericanTours International, Meeting Point International, Travalco and most recently, Lowcostbeds.com.
- Gen Travel Solutions: John Dedenghy, formerly director of leisure global sales at IHG, has teamed up his Gabriel Nunez, to form a “bed-bank that offers personalized service.” Nunez has strong contacts in Latin America with senor level executives in the financial services industry, and Dedenghy will be contracting in the USA.
- OTS Globe, another Worldwide bed bank based out of Switzerland, has hired Neil Emerson –a former executive of both Tourico Holidays and Hotelbeds—as its president of the Americas. OTS Globe is a large bed bank with operations and operations in 15 countries and Emerson, who was hired by Tourico five years ago to run business development when he resigned from Hotelbeds, where he spent 20 years, to be director of business development.
- The Group Company, a UK receptive operator that specializes in—what else?—groups, has hired Natalie Kaftan, as its business development director. The company currently serves as a group receptive for U.S. student and adult groups inbound into the UK and plans to be sending UK groups to the U.S. Kaftan’s CV includes more than six years with WorldStrides, a Washington, D.C.-based receptive that specialized in bringing student groups to the U.S.
Other operator news:
America and Beyond, a relatively new receptive operator based out of New Windsor, N.Y. It was founded by Yves Fore and Roger Montgomery, who used the occasion of WTM to introduce Barbara Perry as their new director of international sales, focusing on expanding their European presence.
- AlliedTPro, brought back Karin Omojola, who will be based out of Las Vegas, to develop their its FIT division. Mark Morello, president, reacted effusively as though the Kuoni shackles had come off once the company was sold earlier this year, freeing it up expand into the FIT market. Asked why they would get into the FIT hotel contracting field at this time, Sanya Hamilton, head of sales, told INBOUND that they would offer a layer of service not currently available by the bigger bed banks.
—In other news, it seemed unsettling to see Tourico’s stand in the Global Village area, featuring Hotelbeds, GTA and Tourico in one booth. The Tourico Academy has been discontinued and Asi Ginio, who has served with Tourico for nearly 15 years, lastly as COO, is now CEO of the company. Eventually, probably beginning in 2018, both GTA and Tourico brands will likely disappear.
—Koichi Anju, sales strategy advisor, H.I.S., was instrumental in the Japanese tour giant’s recent merger with Jonview, Canada’s largest receptive operator. Anju, who was formerly in charge of sales for Tourico in Japan, had been using Jonview as one of the company’s Canadian partners for the past several years.
Big Payday for Tourico: According to several sources at the show, Hotelbeds paid $450 million to acquire Tourico Holidays, a major payday for the five partners that started the company. Other RTOs expressed concerned that they would be using the efficiencies of scale (Hotelbeds also acquired GTA earlier this year)—reduced fixed overhead and expenses of three companies to one—to reduce their commissions so low as to drive others completely out of the hotel business. However, a more plausible scenario now that they are owned by a London-based private equity firm, Cinven Capital Management, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and it may be that Hotelbeds will use their reduced overhead to increase their market value for their investors by maximizing profitability.
—Staff Purge in Ft. Lauderdale CVB: Just prior to the recent RTO Summit in Florida, the Ft. Lauderdale CVB announced several involuntary departures including: Kim Butler, chief marketing officer; Carlos Molinet, senior vice president, sales and marketing; and Stacey Copeland, regional director of group sales based on the West Coast.
—Joyce Lingenfelder used WTM to say her goodbyes as she announced her retirement as international travel trade manager for the Flagstaff CVB. Her new replacement is Sherri Lamont, who comes from Visit Mesa.
—Mark Everton, CEO, Visit Oakland, announced that the destination is beginning to benefit from the limited runway capacity at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with 8 new direct international service from UK, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Mexico. The Oakland International Airport is 21 miles from downtown San Francisco, vs. 13 miles for SGO.
—Katie Conaway is the new domestic and international sales manager for Visit Pittsburgh, which has announced new direct air service from Chengdu, China next year.
WTF @ WTM Part II
WTF (Walking the Floor) at World Travel Market: The INBOUND Report’s intrepid publisher and editor-in-chief, Jake Steinman, spent a fair amount of time Walking the Floor (WTF) at last week’s World Travel Market (WTM) in London. Here are some additional photos from his meandering—as well as the WTF images from last week’s INBOUND for those who might have missed them.
Large Spanish Operator Opens Office in Miami
Ávoris, the tour and travel division of the Barceló Group, is moving to establish a more global footprint by taking its Special Tours wholesale operation to the United States by opening an office in Miami. Founded in Palma de Majorca, Spain, more than 75 years ago by Simón Barceló, the Barceló Group has more than 230 hotels and more than 700 travel agencies in four countries. The tour operator division designs holiday packages for sales through the travel agencies and the Group’s own network, B the travel brand.
From its Miami office, which is headed up by María Jesús Lope Alonso, Special Tours will create a customized program of circuits and great trips directed to a Latin American clientele. Lope Alonzo previously served as vice president of Travelplan (Globalia) for the region.
Regarding its Latin America venture, a statement from the Barceló Group emphasized the point that “2017 is a key year for the consolidation of Ávoris as a model of innovation and a benchmark for a major global tour operator.” And as reported by the Mexican online news service, REPORTUR.mx, the company has reinforced its structure by reassigning top executives to Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Brazil.
The company seeks to strengthen the presence of the Special Tours brand by taking advantage of the synergies with other brands of the group such as Catai, the airline Evelop or its receptive Turavia ( Barceló will launch a receptive operation in Cancun that will be called Turavia ). In addition, Ávoris is studying further steps to grow the tour operator and travel agency segment in Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Portugal and Colombia.
And in a not entirely related action, Ávoris has opened an office in Shanghai and appointed Miguel Eaktai Ahn as regional director for Asia, former Hotelbeds head for East Asia, who was part of the group led by Joan Vila since 2006 and was also with the firm Garriges, in Mallorca. (Hotelbeds, coincidentally, is headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, not that far from the headquarters of Barceló.)
According to a company statement, Asia and North America are the two markets that are a key part of the Ávoris expansion plan, and “cornerstone” of the Barceló Group’s strategic plan, after consolidating its presence in Portugal and Latin America.
Which Visit USA Market Has the Best English Speakers?
The Netherlands still has the world’s best non-native English speakers, according to the just released the Seventh Annual Edition of the English Proficiency Index (EPI) by EF Education First. This year’s EF EPI results were announced at a reception in London.
“Given the vast sums that parents, governments, and companies invest in English training, the EF EPI serves as a valuable resource for sparking a discussion on the best ways to improve a country’s English level,” said Minh N. Tran, EF Senior director of research. “In today’s global economy, the advantages of learning English transcend borders.”
The EF EPI 2017 ranks 80 countries and territories based on data from more than one million adults who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EF SET provides language learners access to a high-quality, standardized English test. The EF SET has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments, where large-scale testing was previously cost prohibitive.
Highlights of the EF EPI 2017 include the following:
—For the first time, Africa is included in the EF EPI as a distinct region with nine African countries represented. The region has the largest gender gap, with African women outperforming men and scoring above the global average.
—Europe leads the world in English proficiency, with eight European countries in the top 10. The Middle East occupies the lowest ranks.
—Asia has the world’s second best proficiency, but the largest gap between individual country scores.
—Colombia, Guatemala, and Panama all improved enough to break out of the Very Low Proficiency band. Despite significant spending on education within Latin America, the region still performs below global averages.
—Worldwide, women speak English better than men, although the gap is narrower for some world regions than in previous editions of the EF EPI.
—English proficiency is linked to economic competitiveness, social development, and innovation. Countries with higher English proficiency tend to have higher average incomes, better quality of life, and greater investment in research and development.
—The EF English Proficiency Index for Schools (EF EPI-s), a companion report to the EF EPI, was also released today. The EF EPI-s examines the acquisition of English skills by secondary and tertiary students from 26 countries. The full EF EPI 2017 ranking is below.
Last Year’s Top 10
- The Netherlands
Note: EF Education First is an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange. The company was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult in the Swedish university town of Lund. The company is privately held by the Hult family. EF has approximately 43,500 staff and 500 offices and schools located in more than 50 countries. The EF EPI and EF EPI-s reports and country fact sheets are available for download at www.ef.com/epi.
Why is The Netherlands Number One?
We wanted to know why the Dutch speak English, including American English, with its slang and arcane idioms, so well. For an answer to this question that would have meaning for tour and travel industry professionals, we turned to Arjan Helle, owner of Target Travel Marketing, a DMC based a little more than 15 miles south of downtown Amsterdam who has worked with the U.S. travel market for nearly 30 years. An insightful and witty observer of the American scene (he serves DMOs in both the U.S. South and the Mountain West), he reveals both qualities in his answer, which follows.
“The main reason I always give when explaining to non-Dutch people as to ‘why’ we speak our foreign languages so well is that The Netherlands is a tiny country and Dutch—not to be confused by Deutsch, which is the language they speak in Germany (!)—is only ‘officially’ being spoken by some 30 million people around the world (South Africa, Belgium, Dutch Antilles and Surinam).
“You could say the same from Belgium, indeed, but the Dutch have been ‘traveling’ the world many centuries as traders with many foreign countries. As it was ‘our’ choice to visit these countries and Dutch is a very hard (and irregular) language to learn The Dutch decided to ‘adapt’ to their trade partner languages.
“Okay, that’s a bit of history which, at least, accounts for some ‘reference’ towards the present: In addition to the Dutch being very hospitable and respectful to other cultures (you might call it ‘liberal’) it is true that particularly over the past 30 years most Dutch kids pick up English (in particular) from television and computer games as well as pop music, as most popular songs are English.
In addition, English is being taught at school starting at the age of 9 (or 10). Some secondary schools are bi-lingual these days and at college and university level some courses are completely lectured in English.
“Of course this is helping to make the Dutch feel at ease while traveling (in general and) to English-speaking countries in particular. I was recently helping an American friend traveling to France, suggesting to her that she take the train from Paris to Amsterdam when she mentioned that she was afraid the French wouldn’t understand her when buying a train ticket or having other questions. That for sure is a concern that hardly ever occurs to a Dutch person!
“In my capacity as CEO of Target Travel Marketing, a DMC, I always explain to my clients that there is no need to have their website translated in Dutch. However: 90 percent of keywords used by potential travelers from The Netherlands searching the internet are Dutch! This makes it very important for U.S. destinations to at least have some Dutch landing pages on their website which are “high quality & SEO optimized” (Yes … sorry, I’m ‘pitching’ a little bit here:-).
“Your question about the ‘slang’ / American English can best be explained by the influence of television: my kids picked up their (American-)English from popular series like ‘Friends’ and were able to ‘talk-along’ with Ross, Phoebe and the others flawlessly. Indeed, No single television program is ‘dubbed’. They are subtitled/translated though.
“I have one question for you: How come so many Americans, even those working in the travel industry, believe that Amsterdam is the capital of Denmark (or the other way around)? Or think that Dutch is the language they speak in Germany? Or confuse the Netherlands with Sweden?
“I know that the fact that the official Dutch CVB is using ‘Holland’ as our countries name doesn’t help (Holland is like Dakota: they’re both a province/state and there is in both cases a ‘North’ and ‘South’ Holland/Dakota being part of The Netherlands/the U.S.). Anyway, that might be an item for another time! In the meanwhile, the people from the Netherlands (including those from North & South Holland) keep traveling very consistently (as for the past 25 years) and, although the arrival figures were hardly showing an increase over the first five months, there is no double-digit percentage decline like in the UK and Germany. The Dutch seem to be ’spreading out’ much more over all states (although NY/FLA/CAL are still attracting 70 percent of all Dutch visitors) there is an increasing interest in ‘other destinations’ within the US of A!”
For the record: The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), in its last monthly report on inbound arrivals, said that year-on-year, for the first five months of 2017, visitation from The Netherlands was up 6.1 percent. Netherlands, with a population of 17 million, is the second smallest country in the NTTO list of Top 15 Overseas Source Markets for inbound travel to the U.S. It ranks No. 14. The smallest country, in population, is No. 15 Sweden, with just under 10 million people. Also, Sweden is No. 2 on the EF English Language Proficiency Index.
Receptive Tour Operator of the Week
Harvest Tours Inc.
5757 West Century Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90045
Harvest Tours, Inc. has been a ground tour operator and receptive agent for North America for nearly 40 years. It also evolved into a Destination Management Company (DMC) for most major cities in North America. Now a receptive company and DMC identity, the company’s website says, “did not make us overlook the finer details.” Harvest Tours still offers the same personalized and quality service that its agents have come to expect and rely on. “Our goal is not only to fulfill our contractual obligation … but also to go that extra mile to please clients and portray a sense of satisfaction that equates with excellence.”
The TourOperatorLand.com website by the NAJ Group (it also publishes the Inbound Report) has introduced both receptive tour operators, U.S. tour operators and international tour operators to travel product and services of U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs. Visitors to the website can use its exclusive Receptive Finder™ to find the right RTO. It is designed to help both the travel trade and travel suppliers find the right U.S. based receptive tour operator to sell their products on the international travel market place.
The receptive operators, who are vetted and qualified by the NAJ Group also take part in at least one of NAJ’s RTO Summits series. The Summits take place annually in Los Angeles (Feb. 21-22, 2018), New York City (April 17-18) and Orlando (TBD, 2018).
At a Glance: Atlantic City
For full information Click Here
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Robin McClain has been promoted to the post of senior vice president of marketing and communications at Destination DC, making her the first senior vice president to serve under Elliott Ferguson, the organization’s president and CEO. McLain joined Destination DC in May 2011 as director of communications and was promoted to vice president of marketing and communications two years later. Prior to joining Destination DC, she worked for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board for several years as senior director of media relations.
Isabelle Mary has been appointed incentive/MICE director at Terres Indiennes-Indian Land, Inc. in southern California. She joins the organization from Paris, France-based MMM France Conventions, where she served for more than five years. Mary also worked for 15 years at Go West Tours.
Aimee Smith has left her position as a sales manager at Sesame Place north of Philadelphia, Pa. and is moving to Montana. Previously, Reif had worked at Destination Gettysburg and the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.
Simon Garrido, has joined Attraction World as head of sales. Garrido, who spent seven years with the Monarch Travel Group and was head of sales for the operator before the company’s failure on October 2, will lead a newly-expanded trade sales team at the attraction tickets specialist. His appointment follows the announcement last month that Attraction World’s Nick Hughes will become sales director for dnata Travel’s European B2B operations. Prior to his tenure at Monarch, Garrido held roles with the Global Travel Group and Shearings.
Richard Jackson has left his job as vice president of North American Operations at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and returned to his role as president of his own consulting firm, Solutions by Jackson. A veteran of three decades in the tour and travel industry, Jackson previously served in senior sales and marketing positions for Universal Studios Orlando and Wyndham Worldwide.
Colin Wilson is leaving his post as sales director at the tour operators Travelsphere and Just You after more than ten years. Wilson had said previously that he had intended to leave once the transition to new owners G Adventures was completed. The latter bought the former All Leisure Group brands last January following the collapse of the All Leisure Group.
Sylvio Ferraz, will be leaving his post as executive director of the São Paulo-headquartered online travel company MMT Gapnet Viagens e Turismo, effective Dec. 1, to become a director of CVC, Brazil’s largest travel company. Ferraz told the Brazilian travel trade publication PANROTAS that CVC made him an attractive proposal and that he has known and admitted CVC founder Guillermo Paulus and Luiz Falco, CVC’s president, for some time. Ferraz was also a director of Tan Viagens when Falco was vice president of Tam Airlines.