Letter from Paris from former Receptive Operator, Rose Reyes
Well known in the tour and travel industry in the U.S. Rose Reyes—she was director of product development for TPro for 10 years before it was acquired by Kuoni and merged with Allied Tours into AlliedTPro, and later handled worldwide tourism sales and marketing the show, Mamma Mia!—has been living in Paris for several years, handling various consulting assignments and writing.
She was there last Friday night when terrorist insanity resulted in the deaths of 129 innocent people through unspeakably brutal acts of violence. The next day, in an online posting to friends, Reyes wrote of what she saw and heard—and breathed in— in the Paris that she has come to know well. It is prose of the highest order and worth reading. Here is what she said to her friends:
Just Breathe. Breathe Justly.
An extraordinary and random thing happened tonight, just one night after such mass tragedy in Paris. Accepting a last minute dinner invitation in my neighborhood seemed like a good idea. Can’t be alone in times like these.
The day had passed in a blur of social media, friends and family checking in and there were few moments alone to take in the gravity of what had just occurred in my adopted home city. I no longer own a TV and was not immersed in the constant flood of reports and goings on. I thought. what must it be like for the families of the victims today ?– to have to face life without their brother, sister, mother, father, cousin, or friend.
What had promised to be wonderful start to the weekend, a visit from my cousin, hearing her and her band play in well-known concert hall, turned out to be the beginning of one of the saddest days in France. How lucky were we? That we were at the right place, at the right time and avoided so much terror? We simply became grateful for the opportunity to breathe in a new day; we knew that we were fortunate when so many were not.
My cousin boarded a tour bus and by the stroke of midnight had rolled quietly out of the city of light turned dark by terror. As the rest of us walked to my home, now ground zero for the night, we observed the silenced streets of my normally busy quartier. The cafes empty, the kebab place solitary, Obama on TV with Arabic subtitles. We kept awake, restless, looking for more news updates and finally gave in to a fitful night of sleep. The stranger in my bed, a friend of a friend unable to get across town, felt oddly comforting to my exhausted and stressed out self. I won’t cry. I refuse to.
So dinner tonight, Montmartre. Rue Cavaliere des Barres. A pedestrian-only street. As far from tragedy as one could get. Dinner was warm and comforting accompanied with a side dish of lamentation and expressions of shock. Wondering how our friends were doing this night. As I left her apartment, I encountered a man standing in the street, holding his bike, he was speaking to a neighbor across the way.
As I climbed up the cobble stone street, he turned to me and in heavy accented French said “Excusez-moi, mais est-que vous pouvez me dire s’il y a des apartments pour louer ici dans cet quartier?” I asked him if he preferred to speak in English. He smiled wearily and said yes. He said he was from Berlin. Medium build, I would say early fifties or late forties in age. His soft belly told me years of neglect. I listen. He wanted to start over and Paris seemed like a nice place to do that. Easier, better quality of life, he said. It did not occur to me remind him of what has just happened the previous night, maybe he didn’t even know.
He had had a tough two years. Divorced his wife. He had lost his job. They paid him a severance. Half went to taxes. Half to his soon-to-be ex-wife. His wife said he needed psychiatric help. I didn’t ask him to disagree. She convinced his children that he was crazy. His 14-year son told him he didn’t want anything to do with him. I stood there like a stone and listened as he ran out of English. I then asked him to continue in German. I understood about 50 percent of it but the gist of it was that he was at a dead end in his life and he needed to escape. Berlin is a cold city. I need to go where the life is easier, he repeated.
When he was done he said he felt better. You know, to have let it all out. He said he was so thankful he could kiss me. I quickly turned and put my arms around him – hugged him hard. I breathed in his despair. His cologne wafting round us like a colored mist. He kissed my face and let me go. Yes, I said, there are apartments in this neighborhood. I backed up to see his face. His glasses were slightly skewed from our embrace, his face sadness. I told him good luck and continued walking up the street. Each cobblestone pushing me farther away from him. I never looked back and I counted the Montmartre stairs I climbed down to my street. Two hundred and thirty-eight. One hundred more stairs than fatalities in Paris last night. His cologne still lingers around my ears and nose.
Breathe justly because a human to be hugged is just right in times like these.
Are UK Operators and Agents Unraveling the Distribution System?
One Facebooker, Steve Wright, of Worldchoice Travel, said that the Virgin action “provided more racking space on our shelves for operators that support the trade and the vital supply line that brings. Good thing is there’s plenty of alternative choice out there!”
There were a few, however, who wondered whether they would still get the air fares on Virgin routes such as Manchester-to-Orlando which are popular with clients and whether they would be able to find alternatives at the same low prices.
Finally, in its press release statement announcing the move, Virgin Holidays managing director Mark Anderson summed up the reason for the action this way: “By solely focusing on our direct sales channels, we will be able to have a relationship with every customer booking a holiday with us.”We are investing in our direct channel, including opening new retail stores around the UK, launching a more intuitive online booking experience and having a dedicated UK based contact center. Overall, we’re passionate about providing all of our customers a unique, seamless holiday experience.”
Cosmos Holidays Folded into Monarch Brand: The 54-year-old Cosmos Holidays has become Monarch as the airline and tour operator moves to operating a single brand strategy. The Cosmos name will continue to be used by Cosmos Tours, which trades as Cosmos Tours and Cruises, a separate company not a part of last year’s financial rescue (formerly owned by Globus Travel Group, it was sold to Greybull Capital in October 2014). Other brands that deal with the trade—i.e. Avro, the seat-only broker and bed bank somewhere2stay.com—will also operate under the Monarch name as part of the move. A new agent portal, monarchagents.co.uk, will be developed ready for launch before the end of the year.
Navigating WTM 2015: Twenty Takeaways—Part One
Fog, a Rail Strike and How to increase Sales in a Mature Market
While there was the usual drama at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London earlier this month that can be found at all major trade shows—the push and pull of buyers and sellers jockeying for position and advantage— this year’s event also included the looming threat of a two-day work stoppage by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the above ground railway company that serves to transport attendees the final leg between the underground system and the Excel Centre; and a pervasive fog that canceled scores of flights from Europe preventing thousands of buyers coming from several Western European destinations from attending the first day of the show. The strike, which would have impacted the show on Tuesday and Wednesday, turned out to be a non-issue as DLR management decided to operate the trains during the stoppage and traffic seemed less chaotic than normal.
How does one address a mature market? The UK, with over 52 USA destinations and suppliers employing in-country representation, is at once the most important—and most mature–source market for America is also one of the most mature. But the answer may be provided by that old Woody Allen quote: “85 percent of success is showing up.” This year, the general consensus was that, despite ADR increases from hotels and a little-to-no decrease in airfares, the UK arrivals would provide a low single-digit increase, due to the improving economy and the fact that the Pound Sterling has not been devalued, as compared to the Euro.
The first 10 of 20 Insights, observations and Trends developed from discussions with over 30 DMOs, tour operators, receptive tour operators and suppliers at this year’s show.
- While many operators reported a strong 2015 selling season, there was a great deal of uncertainty about the 2016 summer season for the Eurozone countries. On an anecdotal basis, attractions and suppliers from Florida and New York already report decreased bookings from Eurozone countries, Canada and Brazil, causing many to redirect marketing funds to the domestic market. Operators who were able to hedge their currencies in 2015 found they had the lowest prices in the market and were able to actually increase sales They are, however, concerned about next year.
- Florida and Southern destinations that depend on Canadian snowbirds are already feeling the effect of a weaker Canadian loon. The latter declined by 14 percent against the U.S. dollar from November 5, 2014 to November 5, 2015.
- WTM is a good show at which to meet with buyers from Holland, Italy, France and Belgium (if their travel plans weren’t disrupted by fog), but there were few buyers from German speaking countries and Eastern Europe, as they prefer to attend ITB.
- Receptive operators find the only way to grow and maintain business is to expand into new source markets to make up for lost business. This has resulted in their investing in trade shows in smaller markets that have increased air service to North America such as Nigeria, Croatia, Turkey and ITB Asia.
- While the French and German markets are expected to decline this year, several operators reported that the Spanish market, which has suffered more than other European source countries, is rebounding.
- Political turmoil in the Middle-East from Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and even Thailand, has tour operators focusing on long haul destinations perceived to be safe and politically stable-a definite advantage for the USA that may help offset the effects of the exchange rate.
- GTA Snubs WTM—and maybe all shows. All major receptive operators had a presence at WTM, with the exception of Kuoni-owned GTA, which was completely absent. One competitor told us that at last year’s ITB they announced they would no longer be attending trade shows, thereby saving over $500,000 on their two level exhibit booth costs
- New Air Lift to the USA from low cost carriers such as Iceland-based WOW, which is offering $99 Euro fares to the US-including taxes, is making substantial strides. One rep company reported that outbound bookings for KLM in Germany were down 40 percent from the OTAs and up 5 percent from travel agents and tour operators, who service more affluent clients.
- The Cluster Approach to trade show appointments is a win/win. The cluster meeting represents a holistic approach in which 7-10 destinations and suppliers meet with one tour operator or travel media. Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New England and even New York State used this approach and were consistently busy. Many states employed geographic order to the seating that made sample itineraries come to life and create discussions in which product could be built based on buyer needs in real time. Operators and media found this approach very efficient as well. Meanwhile, many of those who opt for single, kiosk-style counters without appointments had to depend on random walk-up foot traffic were idle much of the time.
- Where will growth come from in 2016? Key countries and regions for growth marketing for 2016 will be China, India, the Middle East, Colombia and Africa.
The Coolest New Products of 2015
The NAJ Group’s 2015 RTO Summit in Orlando this week was the occasion for the presentation of awards to the recipients of this year’s “Coolest New Products.” But just what is “cool”? What does it mean? As one judge who was part of the selection process explained, “’Coolness’ is classically defined as something that is fashionable and impressive at the same time. Beyond that, it’s hard to define but we all know it when we see it.” There were five products honored this year. Each honoree was presented with a plaque, and there was a video program explaining each product. Following are excerpts from the narrative provided during the awards presentation.
Louisville CVB—The Urban Bourbon Experience: In Louisville, they don’t just drink bourbon – They experience it. They cook with it, celebrate it, stay up late with it and even make furniture out of it. Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail is made up of some of the best bourbon bars in the world. Visitors are urged to grab a passport, try a bourbon flight or an Old Fashioned (Louisville’s official cocktail), eat some bourbon-infused food, get a stamp and they are on their way to earning Bourbon Country Citizenship.
There are a half-dozen distilleries in or near downtown Louisville and another three are scheduled to open in the next two years—all within walking distance of one another. And there are bourbon-related special events. The Bourbon Classic 2016 will be a rare, interactive opportunity that delivers education and entertainment exclusively focused on the Bourbon enthusiast – held at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.
THE RIDE, New York City: THE RIDE burst on to the travel scene in New York City with an all new approach to a motorocoach tour. Its immersive adventure uses iconic landmarks in the city as a backdrop for an interactive experience. Passenger sit theatre style in custom-built, multimillion-dollar motorcoaches as the city passes by them for 75 minutes while two on-board hosts entertain them.
At certain points along the way, THE RIDE stops so that its passengers can enjoy live performances—with Manhattan as a backdrop and its sidewalks as a stage. As both theater and tour product, THE RIDE has received rave reviews all along the way.
North River Lobster Company: It is the largest, and only, floating lobster shack in New York City. A new attraction that is docked along the Hudson River in Mid-Town Manhattan, it requires no reservation. Passengers simple come aboard, pick from a wide variety of seafood staples, place an order with the bartender and grab a seat.
North River Lobster Company takes diners on short cruises out onto the Hudson up to seven times per day. Passengers dine and unwind at their leisure, and can take advantage of a sailing schedule designed for quick lobster lunches, happy hour drinks, sunset dinners and incredible views of the Empire State Building and the Midtown skyline.
The restaurant’s raw bar features a selection of regional favorites including Oysters, Littleneck Clams and Jonah Crab Claws sourced from various regions – including New England, Canada, and even Hawaii in order to serve the best seasonal product. The result? The North River Lobster Company received nothing but rave reviews locally and nationally this past summer.
For more information, contact: www.northriverlobsterco.com, or Janice Bennett, director of travel industry & group sales, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, World Yacht & North River Lobster Company ([email protected])
SPEEDVEGAS—The name says it all: Scheduled to open next spring is the new and exciting SPEEDVEGAS, just minutes from the “Welcome Las Vegas sign” on Las Vegas Boulevard where customers will be able to race exotic cars known worldwide. SPEEDVEGAS is a built-to-order, customized 1.5 mile Formula 1-inspired track that will be open seven days a week.
Clients will have the opportunity drive the latest and greatest Supercars including Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Shelby Mustang and more! The new attraction will also offer a great atmosphere for groups to gather—it has observation decks, cafés and adrenaline activities for everyone—as well as multiple meeting spaces and an event center with both indoor and outdoor facilities that can include catering, entertainment and action all in one. It will be a unique opportunity for receptive operators to generate additional revenue. And all SPEEDVEGAS experiences with be commissionable.
Wild Walk at the Wild Center in the Adirondacks: Opened several months ago near the Wild Center in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid, New York, the Wild Walk is a 1,250-foot treetop network of bridges and platforms that allow visitors to get a spectacular view of the Adironacks. Those who make the trek can see for more than 25 miles.
The breathtaking project—there is really nothing quite like it in the continental United States—took years of design work, and its construction was funded by a combination of gifts, grants and financing totaling more than $5.5 million.
It is already recognized as one of the top destinations in New York—attracting more than 50,000 visits a month—with over 900 live animals, hands on activities and displays, a panoramic theater, café and museum store, it was described by the Boston Globe as “the place to go.” And recently, the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) recognized Wild Walk as an award-winning project in their Celebration of Architecture and Design Program during its annual conference.
For more information, contat: www.wildcenter.org, or Hillarie Logan-Dechene, director of philanthropy, THE WILD CENTER (hlogan—[email protected]
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