NAJ’s RTO Summit West, Feb. 17-18 at the Marina Del Rey Ritz-Carlton: a Visual Log
Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, launches the RTO Summit West with an overview of current international market conditions and its outlook for the near-term future, explaining that the tour and travel industry is popular among consumers because, “We operate in the toy department of life.”
At least one person at every table worked directly on to a laptop. Here, that person is Annie Jirapatnaku, tourism supervisor for the Philadelphia CVB; she is joined by Jeanne Peterson, executive director of sales and marketing, Southern California Gray Line.
Greeting one another near the registration desk are Roselle Masse, director of contracting, West, TeamAmerica; and Tere Stamoulis, international marketing manager, California Historic Route 66 Association.
Chatting just outside the conference room during the morning coffee break are Aniseh Dalju, co-founder of Onward, a new receptive tour operator; and David Falsetti, senior sales manager, Big Bus New York.
Gathering after their discussion, Mobile Marketing: Why We Chat?, are: Adam Roseman, CEO and co-founder, FansTang; Evan Saunders, founder, Attract China; and Brian Chuan, director of travel trade development, South Coast Plaza.
Strategizing during the afternoon coffee break are Hard Rock International’s Tara Hippensteel, director, tour and travel, North America; and Michael Casillas, sales and marketing manager, tour and travel.
Part of the contingent from South Dakota at the Summit: Michelle Thomson (left), president, Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association; and Julie Jones-Whitcher, director of tourism, Rapid City CVB.
Jesus Garcia, international sales and marketing manager, Atlanta CVB; and Ana M. Gonzalez, director of international sales and marketing, Experience Kissimmee, listening to the discussion of Bridging the Silos between Digital Marketing and International Sales.
Just finished wrapping up the afternoon presentations are: Keri Hansen, director, tourism and development, Macy’s; Bill Karz, vice president, digital marketing, Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board; and Teresa O’Neill, vice president of global sales, Travel Oregon.
Laszlo Horvath, CEO, ActiveMedia, walks the first of two groups (who visited his table during the “Genius Bar” session that closed out the day’s program) through a brief “how-to” use Google information to analyze a destination’s online performance.
From the Department of Conference Services at the University of California in Berkeley, California, we have (left-to-right): Kelley Smithy, conference sales coordinator; Jeffrey Church, conference sales coordinator; and Nikole Halaska, conference sales coordinator.
Doug Bourgeois, director, Louisiana Byways Collection, Louisiana Office of Tourism, listens as Marita Ross, director of business development, America4You, makes a point; next to her is Sylvina Nolte, assistant, contracting department, Amercia4You.
Checking his messages between business appointments is Brian Jemison, director of sales and marketing OUE Skyspace Los Angeles.
Convening their own caucus at the Summit are (left-to-right): Shawn Parker, executive director, Sheridan Travel & Tourism; Julie Jones-Whitcher, director of tourism, Rapid City CVB; and Amanda Allcock, director of sales, Crazy Horse Memorial.
Negotiating is still intense as the business appointment sessions near an end; pictured is Jerry DiPietro, business acquisitions consultant for Balir Hotels.
At the Lassen Tours table are (left-to-right): Richard Yu, tour operation; Jerome Ma, operation supervisor; and Jacky Huang, assistant operation manager.
Getting together upon first seeing one another at the Summit are familiar tour and travel industry faces Shoshana Puccia (left), senior marketing manager at Macerich; and Sheelagh Wylie, head of trade sales, Merlin Entertainments.
Taking her message-check break outside in the sun is Lisa Bruening, senior tourism sales manager, Visit Denver.
Pausing between appointments just long enough to say hello to us is Don Meldrum, vice president, Americabound Tours.
Waiting for his next appointment to show up is Ryan Fockler, product manager, Contiki Holidays.
Representing China Travel Service (USA) are: Cathy Yang (left), operation manager, inbound tours; and Sherry Chai, general manager, inbound business.
At the Summit for New Sun International Travel is Christine Leader, marketing director.
At the New World Travel table are (left-to-right): Denise Pyeatt, product coordinator; Melanie Franz, product coordinator; and Rochelle Ross, supervisor, FIT reservations.
Peio Cuevas (right), vice president, operations and development, SeeUSATours, is joined Leonardo Hoffman, the company’s Los Angeles area manager.
Representing TPI America during the Summit’s business appointment sessions is Izaira Alvarado, sales and operations department.
Looking up from checking her messages is Cindy Mei, product purchasing manager, Galaxy Tour (U.S.A.)
Very busy at their booth during the Summit’s business appointments sessions were (left): Hitomi “Hanna” Baba, tour coordinator purchasing, Kintetsu International Express (U.S.A.); and Hideki Kubo, senior tour coordinator, Kintetsu International Express (U.S.A.).
So busy with visitors that she has no business cards left by the time the final business appointment session arrives is Chloe Maleski, Los Angeles product manager for Tourico Holidays.
Brian Chuan, director of travel trade development, South Coast Plaza and Alicia Chuan, marketing director for the Los Angeles office of East/West Marketing Corp., take a break outside the business appointments session meeting hall.
It’s time for the closing reception. Recounting the day’s events is (right) Liz Gilbert, director of national accounts and travel industry sales, Entertainment Cruises, with Gisel Vidals, head of national trade sales and head of sales and marketing, New York City, Big Bus Tours.
Networking at the closing reception are (left-to-right): Bill Kwong, president, Gala Holidays & Tour; Roger Workman, vice president of hotel marketing and sales, Horne Management Group; and Becky Johnson, global specialist, Utah Office of Tourism, Film & Global Branding.
Luca Corbella, product manager, AmericanTours International, joins Miriam Blumenthal, International & Group Marketing Manager, Chicago’s Western Suburbs, at the reception.
Socializing at the reception are (left-to-right): Karen Fluharty, partner, Helzberg Diamonds Outlets; Sharon Rudometkin, assistant buyer, American Ring Travel; and Brenda Bailes, contract manager, Miki Travel Ltd.
From AmeriCan Adventures are: Ian Rozner (left), sales consultant; and Greg Mazzola, business development manager.
Awaiting the awarding of the awards drawing at the reception are (left-toright): Jo Chen, tour coordinator, Lion Tours USA; Deidre DeVico, director of sales, Tourism Richmond; Lisa Bruening, senior tourism sales manager, Visit Denver; and Apple Cai, tour coordinator, Lion Tours USA.
Friends and colleagues at the reception: Nancy Jepsen (left), director, global sales-tour and travel, Wyndham Hotel Group; and Liz Gilbert, director, travel industry & national accounts, Entertainment Cruises.
No doubt discussing the impact of the Canadian market on New York State’s tour and travel industry are (left-to-right): Elizabeth Davis, director of sales, Niagara USA Tourism & Convention Corporation; Sally Berry, group sales manager, Corning Museum of Glass; and Harry Wade, tourism marketing manager, Duty Free Americas.
Enjoying the reception are Amanda Jiang, tour and travel trade sales manager, Asia & Pacific, Hornblower Niagara Cruises; and Praytino Hadinata, tour planning manager, Tour America.
Mara Sultan (left), convention and international sales manager, Discover Lancaster, presents an envelope with vouchers for a number of travel experiences and products from the Lancaster, Pa. area to the winner of the prize, awarded through a raffle at the RTO Summit’s closing reception, to Jennifer Chen, controller at Alhambra,California-based Colorful Tours Inc.
The RTO Summit West is the occasion for an annual meeting of NAJ with Agent Kai, the Japanese Tour Operators Association of California. At this year’s meeting, Ko Ueno, the organization’s executive director, is in the center. Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, is in front row, third from right.
Betsy Cooper, NAJ’s tour operator community manager/marketing, with the most popular NAJ staff person at the RTO Summit West this year—her daughter, Mimi.
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Following an 18-year career with Macy’s—the last seven as vice president of tourism—Kristen Esposito announced that she has accepted the position of vice president of tourism and marketing alliances for Simon Property Group, which owns, or has an interest in, more than 325 properties including Simon regional malls, Premium Outlet Centers and The Mills. Esposito is generally credited with implementing an international marketing strategy—both to the trade and consumer–that positioned Macy’s as the primary shopping venue for millions of international travelers.
John Boesche, who previously oversaw the Germany and Japan markets for Visit Seattle, has replaced Janet Christopher, better known as the FAM Queen—Visit Seattle hosted 145 FAM tours in 2015 in order to show their hotel partners ROI. Christopher moved to Denver at the end of 2015.
Marilynn Hannes, who less than six months ago moved from San Diego to Orlando in her post as vice president of global sales, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, is moving back to San Diego after a major promotion to the position of president of SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica San Diego. Hannes’ promotion was part of a major corporate shakeup of the company just announced Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. that has resulted in various shifts, promotions and retirements. Hannes has been with SeaWorld for more than 18 years.
In Germany, Thomas Cook Group has appointed Gilles Despas as its new chief digital officer to continue the group’s “digital transformation.” The French-born executive is an experienced tourism manager who was previously CEO at Holidaycheck and formerly with Ebookers and STA Travel. The position had been vacant since last July when Marco Ryan left the company.
Daniela Hupfeld has been appointed commercial director of Thomas Cook Hotels & Resorts with responsibility for revenue management, sales, marketing and e-commerce for the group’s six hotel brands. Hupfeld comes to Thomas Cook from Eurocar International where she was group director.
Blair Felter has joined OpenKey—known for its mobile application and technology for keyless hotel room entry—as director of marketing and will oversee the marketing and public relations activities for the company. Prior to joining OpenKey, Felter was the marketing manager at DRN – Digital Recognition Network, where she oversaw the company’s marketing department and programs.
In Brazil, Intermac, which specializes in travel assistance for outbound travelers, has hired Renato Dassan as its commercial manager for Sao Paulo. He joins the company from Assist Card, where he worked in marketing for eight years.
Just months after the failure last summer of Brazil’s leading tour operator, Nascimento Turismo, Cleiton Feijó accepted a position with Travel Master; his job was to direct the company’s São Paulo base. Now, he has left the company to “pursue other projects.”
Dean Harvey has been hired as the new marketing director for Kuoni UK. Harvey, who joins the operator from advertising agency Designate, replaces Steven Seddon who left Kuoni to join river cruise and tours specialist Scenic. At Designate Harvey worked on campaigns for clients including Mark Warner, TravelZoo and Disney as well as working on the Kuoni account.
Caroline Page has been appointed sales and account manager for Excite Holidays, as the company expands its UK sales team.In her new role she will work alongside head of sales Adrian Marpole and will provide training and support to travel agents throughout the UK. She joins the company from Red Sea Holidays, where she was trade relations manager.
Brits Traveled to North America in Boffo Numbers in 2015
Just-released numbers from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a solid 6 percent increase in 2015 compared to 2014 for the number of visits to North America by British travelers. UK residents’ monthly travel to North America during last year exceeded 2014 totals for the last eight months of the year—from May through December—included a 24 percent year-over-year increase for the peak travel month of August.
Overall, the data were even stronger. UK residents made 13.4 million visits abroad in the final quarter of 2015, according to the latest ONS figures—a 10 percent rise on the same three months the previous year. And for the entire year, nearly 51.5 million Brits traveled internationally—a nine percent increase over 2014.
How it Happened: It is not the job of the ONS to speculate as to why the outbound holidays increased at such a healthy rate, but those who have followed the market closely during the past year suggest the following reasons:
—The UK economy has experienced another year of steady recovery.
—The British pound sterling has held up relatively well against both the U.S. dollar and the Canadian loonie—especially against the latter.
—Pent-up demand … Brits have had sluggish growth in their outbound travel numbers ever since the immediate wake of the 2008-09 economic recession, which hit the UK especially hard. Finally, it was time to holiday!
—On May 1, 2015, the UK eliminated the Air Passenger Duty (APD) for children under 12 years, reducing the cost of travel to the USA by a family of four by up to $400. (The eight months of consecutive year-on-year growth of travel to North America coincides with the elimination of the APD.)
—Credit Brand USA with a marketing and promotion campaign that has piqued interest in the U.S. travel product and, in particular, in its second-tier and third-tier destinations. By the time Brand USA’s fourth Mega-Fam for travel agents is finished just prior to this year’s IPW in New Orleans, the agency will have exposed the travel trade to some two-thirds of all U.S. states.
UK Resident Travel to North America
|* Preliminary figures|
|Source: UK Office for National Statistics|
Also: UK Seniors Opting for More Adventure Travel: In a report that came out at the same time as the ONS release, the results of a new survey by Post Office Travel Insurance showed that older travelers are continuing to become more adventurous when it comes to booking their holidays. The survey showed that:
—27 percent of the 698 people aged 55 or over surveyed in September are more adventurous than when they were younger about where they go on holiday and what they do.
—Another 60 percent want to ensure they are fit enough to enjoy an adventure holiday while
—More than a quarter said they had taken part in a number of activities including scuba diving, snowboarding and horse riding while on holiday.
—33 percent were planning on doing the activities on their next trip abroad.
According to Post Office Money Insurance managing director Rob Clarkson, the research suggests that “55-and-overs are actually much more adventurous than might have been expected.”
Terror Attacks Cause Precipitous Decline in German Bookings for Summer
So bad were the numbers from the monthly report on January booking activity at German travel agencies that the trade publication, FVW, screamed “Summer bookings turn deep-red” and said that “January was a catastrophe” for holiday bookings on the German market.
While expressing the hope that summer season can be saved, the article pointed out that in January—it is normally the strongest month for summer holiday bookings—there was a 12 percent, year-on-year decline in sales, according to the monthly Travel Insights survey conducted by the Nuremburg-based research company, GfK, which analyzes approximately 340,000 bookings made at 1,200 German travel agencies.
The decline in activity, said FVW, represents €260 million ($289 million) less in revenues for tour operators and travel agents than in January 2015. The fall-off follows an 8 percent drop in December and confirmed accounts received by FVW, and the Inbound Report, from tour operators and travel agents in recent weeks about the decline in demand following terror attacks in major travel destinations (in particular, the Jan. 12 suicide bombing in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square that killed 10 German tourists), causing travelers to put off bookings due to fears about safety and security.
Sales for the upcoming Summer 2016 travel season are now 8.6 percent behind last year on a cumulative basis and all months are showing negative trends, the GfK survey showed. This includes a 22 percent drop in August compared to the same time last year. January demand for winter holidays was also weak; there as a 12 percent drop in sales vs. January 2014, resulting in cumulative growth of just 1.7 percent for the winter 2015/16 season.
GfK did report, however, on some positive signs: Last month travel agencies reached 40 percent of the previous year’s total summer season revenues, just three percentage points lower than the figure achieved in January 2015. And current summer season sales volumes are still higher than at the same time two years ago, the market researchers pointed out.
If “German holidaymakers abandon their current caution with bookings … the losses can still be compensated or at least reduced,” said the GfK report. Also:
—German travel agents remain cautious about sales prospects for the coming months.
—Many agents, as many as 40 percent, had lower revenues in the last 2-3 months
—Only 27 percent reported increased sales, according to the latest monthly FVW “sales climate index.”
—One third of agencies described the current sales situation as “good,” nearly half as “satisfactory” and the rest as “bad.”
—Looking ahead, an optimistic 22 percent of agents surveyed expect sales to improve in the coming months while 53 percent expect stable demand.
Following up on last week’s Inbound Report article that asked the question, “Will Germans Switch, Visit USA, Instead of Turkey this Summer?” FTI said that it has launched a new its first “USA apartments and holiday homes” brochure, mostly with properties in Florida. But the program was already established prior to the terrorist attack in Turkey. (See https://www.inboundreport.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5393&action=edit)
Top AliTrip Exec to be Part of 7th Annual Active America-China Summit in Fort Worth
Those attending NAJ’s Active America-China Summit March 16-18 in Fort Worth, Texas, will have an opportunity to cross paths with the person charged with developing the international trade component of Alitrip, the online travel component of Alibaba, the world’s largest online business group.
Sherri Wu, chief strategy officer and head of international business development of Alitrip, will be at the Summit on March 17th. Wu, who has helped develop Alitrip’s business model and its plans for the Visit USA market, comes to Forth Worth in the wake of two actions that involved U.S. companies.
The entry into the Visit USA marketplace by Alitrip seems to be a logical extension of the company’s international business mission—the Alibaba website was founded 17 years ago as a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers.
As for Wu, she came to Alitrip from Orbitz Worldwide, where she was vice president and general manager for product and technology where she oversaw different areas of the business including loyalty, finance technology, CRM, trip and member expansion, International migration and expansion and various special projects.
(For full details on the Active America program, plus registration information, visit: http://www.activeamericachina.net/)
CVC to Blanket Brazil with 300 New Retail Stores
Ever since the failure last summer of one of Brazil’s top operators, Nascimento Turismo, the nation’s largest travel company, CVC, has pursued a go-it-alone growth plan. It announced at the outset of 2016, for instance, that it would no longer be a part of the myriad trade shows on the nation’s travel industry calendar. Instead, it would stage its own shows for agents and potential customers, throughout the nation.
And now, during a conference call with investors, the company’s president, Luiz Eduardo Falco, has said that CVC has in its strategic plan the opening of 300 stores between 2016 and 2018—or 100 locations a year for three years.
The move should help CVC blanket the country with its network in a nation where the distinction between operators and agencies is blurred; they often share the same office location. Currently, CVC has a network of just over 1,000 stores
In explaining the move to the company’s interior, Falco said that the country has 150 million inhabitants in the interior, compared with 50 million living in the capital region. “Despite the difference of financial power that separates these regions, we are talking about triple the population in this comparison,” he said, “so there’s plenty of room to grow CVC. We will give priority to the regions that today have less market share.” He pointed out that more than 50 percent of reservations confirmed by the company are from inside an agency.
Falco also noted that it is more financially advantageous to open a new store in smaller municipalities, seeming to suggest that rent and administrative costs are lower than in metropolitan locations and that the shops serve to better promote the brand.
It is unlikely that any other travel company in Brazil is in a position to challenge CVC, which—in addition to its mix of retail and B2B operations—offers both outbound and inbound services, as well as domestic product for its Brazilian customers. (In another move that is not altogether entirely unrelated, the Carlyle Group announced this past December that it is opening its 24th global office in São Paulo.)