NAJ’s TourOperatorLand.com Introduces Trackable Commissionable Product Feature for Attractions and Hotel Suppliers.
Travel suppliers who belong join TourOperatorLand.com (formerly www.thetouroperator.com) will now have ability to generate trackable exposure through the a new “Request Commissionable Rate” form that automatically populates the form with industry sector under which the buyer registered so they can’t “game” the system to request a rate they don’t qualify for.
To illustrate this we’re going to show you how easy it was for Jamie Griswold from TUI-UK to request a commissionable rate from Gisele Vidals. Using the simple form on TourOperatorLand.
Example 1: Here’s a screen shot sent of Big Bus page after Jamie clicked on the “Commissionable Rate” button to the left. Note that Jamie’s TUI-UK that includes the “Industry Sector” (Tour Operator based outside the US) he qualifies for.
But it even gets better!
Say Jamie, from his cubicle in the UK, is researching information or downloads one of the hi-res photos from Gisele’s Big Bus landing page. Gisele instantly receives e-mail tracking alert” that provides valuable market intelligence—industry sector, shows they attend, country of origin.
Example 2: Real time e-mail alert Gisele Vidals, Big Bus head of National Sales, received when Jamie Griswold downloaded her TourOperatorLand Page.
Also included in your charter membership to TourOperatorLand is the ability to archive up to three high resolution royalty-free TRACKABLE images. From our most recent survey these are the top three uses for their download photos from Touroperatorland.com
- Promotion product on their website
- Promotion product as part of itinerary in printed brochure
- Promotion on a one-off flyer or e-mail blast
For more information, contact Betsy Cooper: [email protected]
Unit of Sweden’s Wallenberg Family OK’d to Acquire Kuoni
The board of directors of the Zurich-based Kuoni Group on Feb. 2 approved a $1.36 billion bid by the Stockholm-based EQT Partners private equity firm to purchase the company and take it private. Established in 1994, EQT is a business unit of Sweden’s storied Wallenberg family (Yes, it includes that Wallenberg, the revered Raoul Wallenberg, the businessman and diplomat who is widely celebrated for saving tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust.). The family’s business presence and prowess in Scandinavia dates back to the mid-1800s and before, and includes enough different products and activities that it is estimated, by some published accounts, to control one-third of Sweden’s GDP.
According to EQT’s own posted information, the firm seems to prefer acquiring a business with an established history, growing it, increasing its size and number of employees and earning profits along the way. It does not seem to be the type of venture capital entity that buys troubled or under-performing entities and then selling them off in parts or shutting down units, in order to realize a profit or yield quickly.
EQT has some 60 companies in its portfolio. They are distributed worldwide, as are the locations of its industrial advisors and the nature of the individual units’ activity.
The selloff of Kuoni’s units has been the dominant story in the global tour and travel industry since January 2015, when the company announced that it European and Indian businesses (this includes Hong Kong) were for sale. Germany’s DER Touristik acquired Kuoni’s European brands, while the company’s operations in India and Hong Kong to Thomas Cook India, which is owned by billionaire Indian investor Prem Watsa‘s Fairfax Financial Holdings.
What remained for EQT to acquire were Kuoni’s three remaining areas of activity:
—Global Travel Services, which deals with Kuoni’s B2B offerings (this includes GTA) including its bedbank operations, ground transfers and sightseeing tours.
—Outbound and Specialists, which is focused on dealing with tour operations and destination management.
—VFS Services, which deals with visa processing and other inbound legislative enquiries.
Kuoni’s shareholders must still approve the proposal, but there has been no reported opposition to the move.
What Are the Top Three Preferred Destinations in 2016 for Australians, Chinese, British and Travelers from Four Other Countries?
In a new survey conducted by Travelzoo, travelers from key international markets have voted the United States their top vacation destination for 2016. Australian, British, Canadian and French voters named the U.S. as their top destination, while the U.S. ranked second among Spanish and Chinese respondents—making the USA number one overall. The perception of the USA as a safe destination was a key factor in the choice of travelers.
In the annual survey, the U.S. saw the biggest increase in popularity among the British, rising from sixth to first place year over year, while the destination also remained popular among Chinese voters, staying at second spot for the second consecutive year. The table below shows the results among seven key markets, which, according to the most recent full-year data available from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), account for nearly half (47 percent) of all international visits to the United States.
Top Three Destination Favorites of
Travelers from Key International Markets
|Country||No. 1 Destination||No. 2 Destination||No. 3 Destination|
|Source: Travelzoo (Note: The annual online survey conducted by Travelzoo tallied votes from 5,753 respondents across Australia, the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and China.)|
In a statement accompanying the survey results, Travelzoo said that, when asked how unrest or terror events impact destination selection, 64 percent of respondents said they will avoid destinations that experienced a terror attack within the past 12 months. Climate, price, culture and safety were ranked highly when selecting a vacation destination.
Travelzoo North America president, Michael Stitt noted, “The strong dollar was expected to deter international travelers, but the launch of new direct flight routes and America’s image as a safe destination contributed to its growing popularity.”
The results of the survey serve to confirm reports from European tour operators and European trade journals that many Germans and Spaniards are opting out of long-haul travel this year and opting instead to travel within their own country.
What Does India’s Top Trade Show Say about the Country’s Outlook?
As one U.S. supplier who took part in the just-concluded 2016 edition of SATTE (South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange), held Jan. 29-31 in New Delhi, India told us: “It seems like all the forces are aligned.” Indeed, all the markers for a strong and growing market seem to be in place for a strong Indian market in the near-term future. From reports on and off the exhibit floor, as well as news accounts online, the following points provide a profile of the trade show, the current economic environment in India and their meaning for U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs.
—Overall, the number of exhibitors at SATTE was up, from about 640 two years ago to 750 this year. From the USA, there were more exhibitors, too. New to the show were Colorado, Grand Canyon West and some U.S.-based receptive tour operators, such as Maxim Tours and 7M Tours from Orlando, Florida, and TeamAmerica, which has offices in New York City and Florida
—The number of buyers from India was up over last year—especially from the sizable MICE sector in the country—and included a large number of new regional travel agencies who are working to expand their product knowledge about the USA were in evidence.
—The U.S. embassy in India indicated that it expects to issue 1.3 million visas to Indian visitors this year—that’s up from a little more than a million in 2015 and just less than 900,000 in 2014.
—U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma has become a popular promoter of the USA; the son of educators who moved from India to the USA, Verma, a graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., is closely followed by the news media in India. He made his second appearance this year at SATTE—following a visit last year just days after he was sworn in as ambassador.
—New destinations for Indian buyers—or destinations that seemed to generate new or additional interest—include include Miami, and San Francisco and U.S. national parks. Meanwhile, Nevada, which has had a presence at SATTE in previous years, had on hand Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who used the occasion to announce that the state was opening an office in New Delhi.
—The consensus among delegates was that airline traffic out of India seems to be strong. The increased lift by the UAE air carriers—Etihad and Emirates—combined with low fuel prices, are keeping airfare pricing to the USA competitive.
—Among major operators Thomas Cook India—it is the acknowledged leading operator in the country—is moving all services to a digital and online mode; it will no longer be printing brochures. Its FIT office has relocated next to Kuoni India (which was acquired last year by the same financial group that owns Thomas Cook India) which will disappear as a brand, and will be replaced by SOTC, which will have separate product and contracting. (See article in the Jan. 28, 2016 issue of the Inbound Report.) Meanwhile, TUI India will expand its services to include escorted tours in 2017.
—TUI India will expand its services to include escorted tours in 2017.
—Trends? The growth of the FIT market in India is fueling strong interest in attractions, and anything new, “hip,” and trendy—65 percent of the nation’s population is under 35 years of age …The travel agents have had to step up their game as internet-savvy Indian consumers research product, then walk into agencies saying, “I want this (specific product).”
—The Economy? The nation’s economy seems to be in good condition (it’s grown more than 7 percent a year since 2004) and the rupee’s standing vs. the dollar seems relatively stable ($0.0147 this year vs. $0.0151 at the time of last year’s SATTE—down just 2.6 percent).
A Dozen Need-to-Know Facts about International Travelers
At the upcoming Feb. 17th Digital Day—it is part of NAJ’s two-day RTO Summit West at the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey, California—a full-day digital immersion program targeting traditional international sales professionals, Florian Hermann, president, HMS International, will discuss “12 Things You Need to Know About International Travelers and their Online Planning Behavior.” Long haul travel is one of the fastest growing trends in the world where empty nesters, baby boomers and millennials explore the most remote places around the world looking for an authentic experience they can share. Delegates will learn about their cultural habits and online planning behavior utilizing data, social media and peer review sites that most influence them. While the two-day RTO Summit is sold-out, there is still space available for those who wish to attend Digital Day. For more information, visit: http://www.rtosummit.com/rto-summit-west/rto-summit-west-supplier-fees-registration-policy/
What Caused German Bookings to Sink from Flat to Negative at Year’s End?
Following month-to-month reports during 2015 in which the travel trade showed steady, single-digit increase in sales volume, the numbers took a dive in December; in what the German travel trade publication, FVW, described as “a dramatic 8 percent decline,” booking figures dropped in the last month of 2015, according to data provided by the Nuremberg-based market research firm GfK. The new numbers, said FVW, confirmed other recent trend data.
The publication seemed to tie the decline to a drop in demand that following the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured another 368. Whatever impact the attacks had, one of the net results was this: The 8 percent decline in December means that overall cumulated sales for the upcoming summer of 2016 (it made up 65 percent of total sales last month) are now down by 6 percent compared to one year earlier.
In financial terms, German travel agencies had an €83 million ($89 million) “gap” in revenues compared to December 2014.
Suffering the greatest impact were bookings for package holidays, according to GfK’s monthly survey of German travel agents. Bookings slumped for Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Tunisia.
The strongest drop in bookings in December was for holidays in August—down 19 percent down on the strong previous year—which is the peak traveling month when most German federal states have school summer holidays. October showed a 14 percent, while July and June were relatively stable.
The slump also affected winter (of 2015/16) holiday bookings, which fell by 8 percent vs. December 2014. The cumulative growth rate for winter 2015/16 fell back to 4.1 percent from 5.8 percent in November.
Said Dorte Nordbeck, Gfk’s head of Travel & Logistics Germany: “Despite the current wait-and-see behavior of German consumers, the consumption climate and economic conditions in Germany point to an optimistic underlying situation.” The monthly GfK Travel Insights representative survey analyzes some 340,000 bookings made at 1,200 travel agencies.
Beleaguered Brazilian Tour and Travel Trade Slapped with Steep Tax Increase
Already beset by a severe recession and a currency exchange rate vs. the U.S. dollar that has seen the Brazilian real shrink in value by nearly 50 percent, year over year, tour operators and travel agents, as well as the country’s tour and travel industry in general, are having an apoplectic fit over the decision by Brazil’s federal government not to renew a tax exemption on bank transfers/remittances of funds abroad. The action, which ends a policy of exempting international bank transfers of up to 20,000 reals ($5,000 at the current exchange rate) from a 25 percent levy on one’s income tax return, was given little notice when it lapsed at the close of business on Dec. 31, 2015. The exemption, which was approved by Brazil’s Department of Federal Revenue, (commonly known as Receita Federal) had been in effect since 2011.
Originally, the revenue measure was designed to help send money to students and other Brazilians abroad, and it proved to be a boost to the outbound tourism industry as well.
As it turns out, individual travelers rarely have occasion to effect a transfer abroad in order to make travel purchases because they make such purchases at home. This tax is levied on full packages that include air, lodging, and excursions operated by Brazilian tour operators and those offering installment packages—because hosting providers and tours offered by these operators are paid by international bank remittances.
As the travel trade began to realize that the 25 percent tax would impact tour and travel products purchased from travel suppliers and travel wholesalers abroad, they began to howl.
“It’s one more absurdity that befalls Brazilians,” said Jose Mauricio Miranda Gomes (left), the president of the Brazilian Association of Travel Agencies (ABAV), Minas Gerais section.
“Taxation of 25 percent on an industry that has average gross margin of 10 percent will have to be passed on to customers,” complained Rafael Romeiro, director of FVO Travel, a Belo Horizonte-based tour operator, told a newspaper, adding, “This thwarts the business of tourism in the country.”
According to Romeiro, at a meeting in early December between the tourism sector and the Ministries of Tourism and Finance, an agreement was reached that the tax would be 6.38 percent—this is the same rate imposed on individual credit card purchases abroad—instead of 25 percent.
How Did it Come to This? What’s the Outlook for Reversing the Decision? For those not familiar with what’s been taking place in Brazil that would deflect attention from these developments, the explanation is fairly simple. The government of President Dilma Rousseff, whose popularity is currently at a record low and has heard calls for her impeachment and removal from office, has been preoccupied with a massive and messy scandal involving bribes and corruption at Petrobras, the nation’s state controlled oil producer.
There has also been consistent and regular questioning in the news media over the cost of projects connected to the 2016 Olympic Games that will be hosted this summer by Brazil. So, the absence of any focus on the 25 percent tax—even by the Brazilian trade press—seems understandable.
Now that the issue is receiving considerable attention, there is speculation that the exemption from the tax could be reinstated. Ricardo Freire, a popular travel industry editor (www.viajenaviagem.com ) and blogger, recently wrote an extensive commentary on the tax and its impact on the tour and travel industry, but told readers, “It is quite likely that this tax will be revoked.”
And Celyta Jackson, vice president of RDP, Inc., a Miami-based global marketing and communications firm who has extensive experience with the Brazilian market (she was also once vice president of tourism for New York City & Co.), told Inbound that, aware of what the action by the Internal Revenue Service, top government officials have indicated that they favor a renewal of the tax exemption.
“I foresee attempts at delaying payments or paying via corporate credit card until the exemption fiasco is sorted out,” she told us, adding, “The Brazilian Congress and Senate are in recess until Feb 2. There is speculation that the measure could be passed by March 8—after Carnaval of course. Nothing happens in Brazil until after Carnaval.” (Carnaval dates are Feb. 5-9.) For up-to-date information, those interested can contact Jackson via [email protected].
Venezuela fails to Repatriate $592 million owed to American Airlines
No narrative is necessary. Annual financial reports released over the past several weeks have yielded the following data regarding Venezuela which, as a result, has fallen off the list of Top 15 overseas inbound source markets. Some of the numbers and words used to describe the current situation in the country follow.
—$592 million: The amount written off as a 2015 loss by American Airlines as the Venezuelan government has failed to repatriate in fungible currency by not honoring its official currency exchange rate and converting Venezuelan bolivares back into dollars for amounts paid (but not converted) for passenger ticket sales.
—$61 million: The amount of foreign exchange loss reported by United Continental Holdings related to its cash holdings in Venezuela.
—$3.7 billion: The amount owed by (or trapped in) Venezuela to airlines globally as a result of the nation’s currency control system, according to the International Air Transport Association, as reported last summer.
—18 percent: The projected, one-year decline in arrivals from Venezuela to the USA for 2015, once the final figures are collected, according to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office.
—275 percent: The inflation rate in Venezuela in 2015, which was the highest in the world.
—720 percent: The inflation rate that Venezuela is expected to experience in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
—18 percent: The amount by which Venezuela’s GDP is expected to contract in 2015 and 2016, which would be the third highest in the world, according to the IMF.
—Why and How … in a Graph: “A lack of hard currency has led to scarcity of intermediate goods and to widespread shortages of essential goods—including food—exacting a tragic toll,” says Alejandro Werner, IMF western hemisphere director . “Prices continue to spiral out of control, and we expect inflation to rise to 720 percent this year, from a world-high inflation of about 275% in 2015. In Venezuela, longstanding policy distortions and fiscal imbalances were already having a deleterious effect on the economy before the collapse in oil prices. These problems worsened as falling oil prices triggered an economic crisis, with an expected fall in output of almost 18 percent over 2015 and 2016 (the third sharpest decline in the world).”
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Julie Coker Graham is the new president and CEO of the Philadelphia CVB, making her the only female African-American president & CEO to lead a major CVB in the U.S. She takes over as the result of a succession plan that was announced in June 2014, when she was appointed to the post of executive vice president. She assumed the position of president and CEO, succeeding the retiring Jack Ferguson. Prior to joining the bureau in 2010, she had served for more than 20 years with Hyatt Hotels, lastly as general manager of Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.
Voyages FRAM has found a new director of network and embassies. He is Gaël Le Favor, former commercial director of tour operator Beachcomber Tours. Le Favor started his career in July 1995 as a trade commissioner in Presence Assistance. He later joined Beachcomber Tours as a trade commissioner in 2002. Favor replaces Bruno Abenin, who went on to become director of development for franchises and affiliates at Thomas Cook France.
Jill Carter has stepped down from her post as TUI UK and Ireland director of retail to take up a job with Thomson Airways. She is now director of customer delivery for the airline. She served for almost 25 years working in retail at TUI. Carter had taken the position of director of retail in February last year following the departure of Kathryn Darbandi, who moved to Thomas Cook. Carter joined Tui UK & Ireland in 1991.
A bit of a wrinkle has developed in the process to name a successor to Nicki Grossman, who retired last June after 21 years as head of the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. It is up to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry to name a successor. The wrinkle is that one of those who have applied for the job is Stacy Ritter , who is one of Henry’s nine bosses on the Broward County Commission. At the same time, according to published reports, Ritter has filed for re-election to another four-year term on the county commission and is raising campaign funds. Stay tuned.
After nearly 10 years on the job, Keli’i Wilson has been let go from her position as director of cultural affairs by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Wilson, a native Hawaiian, said she and the tourism authority’s new executive team have fundamentally different values for the cultural initiative that she launched early in her tenure at the agency. (Since George Szigeti became president and CEO of the authority in May, five positions have been eliminated to meet a $1.3 million administrative cap and a brand manager resigned.) Szigeti told the HTA’s board of directors that the agency plans to refill the full-time position as soon as possible. In the meantime, Daniel Nahoopii, director of tourism research, will serve on an interim basis.