Say Cheese! Scenes from NAJ’s RTO Summit-East
Last week, the 10th annual RTO Summit East convened at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. The two-day program focused for its first day, Digital Day, on presentations designed to equip international sales and marketing professionals with a better understanding of digital skills and techniques. The second day comprised a full schedule of one-on-one business appointments between receptive tour operators and travel suppliers.
First to make it to the Summit conference room is a delegation from Pennsylvania that includes (left-to-right): Lisa Arrell, group ambassador, Kitchen Kettle Village; Jennifer Buchter, managing director of hospitality and sales, Amish View Inn & Suites, Plain and Fancy Farm and Miller’s Smorgasbord; and Daniell Sload, group sales manager, Amish View Inn & Suites, Plain and Fancy Farm and Miller’s Smorgasbord.
Just arriving at the Summit from outside, where it is an unusually cool spring morning for New York City, is Andrew Wiens, international destination marketing sales manager for TripAdvisor.
Familiar faces at the RTO Summit series: Mike Prejean (left), international manager, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Laszlo Horvath, president, Active Media.
Prepared for a day of note taking, and ready for the morning’s business to begin, are: Diego Camacho, senior trade sales manager, Madame Tussauds New York; and Sally Altman, director of sales, Holiday Inn, Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.
From the different ends of NY state are: Millie Nye (left), sales manager, Long Island CVB and Sports Commission; and Lori Reed, manager, international tour & travel trade, Niagara Parks.
Fred Dixon, president and CEO, New York City & Company, welcomes delegates at the RTO Summit to New York.
Jake Steinman, founder and CEO, NAJ Group, presents an overview of the latest trends in the receptive tour operator industry.
Gio Palatucci, senior social media strategist at Sparkloft Media, waiting to tell delegates about using Facebook in their international marketing efforts.
Laurel Bennett, director of tourism sales, Nashville CVB, pauses just long enough to give the Inbound Report photographer a smile.
Comparing notes with a colleague between presentations is B’Anka Neder, marketing manager, Big Bus Las Vegas.
Sally Berry, tourism sales and marketing manager at Corning Museum of Glass, who served as emcee for the day-long session of presentations and discussions, recognizes a questioner.
Gisel Vidals, head of national trade sales USA/head of sales and marketing New York City, Big Bus Tours, pauses long enough to smile at the Inbound Report’s photographer.
Waiting to hear a presentation on the latest trends in the use of mobile devices are Roxana Rivera, director of sales and marketing for the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and Cat Pear, from Visit Alexandria (Va.).
Mahua Sehgal (left), tour series contracting manager, New World Travel; and Lisa Catron, national sales manager, Memphis CVB, listen to the presentation of the exponential growth in the use of mobile devices by consumers abroad.
Trying graciously to ignore the photographer in front of her as she tries to follow the program is Tara Hippensteel, director of Tour & Travel, North America at Hard Rock International.
At an informally named Louisiana table are: Tracy Francis (left), destination sales manager, tourism, Visit Baton Rouge; and Wilma Harvey, tourism sales manager, Bayou Lafourche Area CVB.
On another side of the Louisiana table are: Eugenia Mitchell, vice president of tourism sales, Lafayette Convention & Visitor Commission; and Mike Prejean, international manager, Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO, Destination Analysts Research, explains some surprising new trends in international tourism during her presentation on the State of the International Traveler.
Another cluster of delegates from Pennsylvania (left-to-right): Greg Edevane, director of sales, Chester County CVB (The Countryside of Philadelphia); Jenny McConnell, director of sales, Destination Gettysburg; and Audrey Bialas director of sales, Visit Hershey & Harrisburg.
Discussing their respective takes on “Using Online Tools to Generate Grass Roots Demand in Overseas Markets” just before making their presentations are: Al Chen, co-founder, Co-operatize.com; and Keri Hansen, director, tourism and development, Macy’s.
Paying close attention to the presentation on “Using Online Tools to Generate Grass Roots Demand in Overseas Markets” are: Ann Pilcher (left), tourism sales manager, Pocono Mountains CVB; and Terese Balzereit, head of business development for Big Bus tours in Philadelphia.
Winnie Liu (left), managing director, CPTRIP (Ontario); and Melissa Card, tour and travel sales manager, Reunion Resort, discussing a just concluded session on the use of social network influencers in marketing.
Discussing the day ahead while having breakfast on Wednesday morning are: Richard Strom, director of tourism development at California’s North Coast Tourism Council; and Estela Martinez-Stuart, director of tourism, Fort Worth CVB.
Listening to what a colleague has to say during the Wednesday morning breakfast is Vanessa Alfonso, project manager at American Guest.
Making a point during a conversation at Wednesday morning’s breakfast is John Williams, president of American Guest.
A familiar figure at the RTO Summits is Gonzalo del Rio, director, international tour & travel-North America, Hard Rock Café.
Caught at breakfast prior to a day of one-on-one appointments with tour operators, Genevieve Logan Reese, general manager and president of the French Manor Inn and Spa in the Pocono Mountains, still smiles for the photographer.
Jeanne Hart, tour & travel sales manager, Courtyard Gettysburg, makes a point with receptive tour operator Ernesto Tecco, group manager for 5A Incentive Planners.
Vickie Evans, senior account representative, tourism at The Henry Ford, tells the Inbound Report that she is having a very successful time at the Summit.
Kelly Heer, national sales manager, realstar hospitality, listens to a colleague during a breakfast table discussion.
Just finished ringing the chime and announcing the first business appointment session of a day-long series of sessions are Barbara Stephen, a part of NAJ’s event team; and Sofia Williamsson, NAJ’s chief operating officer.
Mara Sultan, convention & international sales manager, Discover Lancaster, was one of a half-dozen tour and travel marketing professionals from Central Pennsylvania who showed up in New York for the Summit.
Roxanna Torrens, senior director of travel industry sales, Earl Enterprises, makes her pitch at the Inamerica Tours table.
A view from above shows part of the business appointment action in the ornate Grand Ballroom of the Wyndham New Yorker hotel.
David Ho, operator of Citi Travel Inc., awaits the visit of his next business appointment.
It is unclear just what made them laugh: Greg Marshall (left), senior vice president, director of marketing, Visit Rochester; and Jake Steinman, founder and CEO, NAJ Group.
The day’s work is nearly done and Isaac Pacheco, tour and travel sales manager, Hornblower Cruises; and Etty Scaglia, owner of Accent on Dining and Food & Beverages Specialist, are ready for the end-of-business reception.
Resting before heading to the reception are: Miriam Blumenthal (left), international and group marketing manager, Dupage CVB; and Roxana Rivera, director of sales and marketing, the Newseum.
Waiting to be raffled off—almost all of them to operators—is this stash of gifts from suppliers; the action is to take place in a few moments.
Enjoying the reception are: Francois Jean Viel (left), president, Viel Marketing International; and Dietmar Postl, president, Destination North America.
Giving the thumbs-up to a successful marketplace is Anthony Lieu, general manager, American Holidays—seen here with Harry Wade, , Duty Free America.
A prize raffle that closed out the reception resulted in an ironic situation in which Elaine Kellogg (right), executive director of business development, Gray Line City Sightseeing New York, City and a contributor of featured prizes, presented one of the them to Terese Balzereit, head of business development for Big Bus tours in Philadelphia.
Catching up on things at the reception are: Jake Steinman, founder and CEO, NAJ Group, which operates the RTO Summit series; and Julie Katz, owner of TourMappers North America—notice the attachment to her plate which was perfect for holding a glass of wine.
IPW Countdown: What do Industry Trends Show?
Perhaps no other facts augur well for U.S. travel suppliers as they prepare for next month’s “Big Dance”—the IPW June 18-22 in New Orleans—as do these: overall, international load factors are down to traditional destinations of choice for Europeans; and the value of the U.S. vs. other world currencies has stabilized.
These were among the points touched on at NAJ’s RTO Summit East last week in New York City as Jake Steinman, NAJ’s founder and CEO, led off the program with a summary of trends affecting the receptive tour operator industry as it prepares to gather in New Orleans. A recap follows.
First, because of terrorist incidents in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Europe itself, many Europeans and travelers from other parts of the world perceive the USA as a destination that is safe to visit.
Second, the value of the dollar vis-à-vis other currencies seems to have stabilized since IPW 2015. For example, in the all-important European market (Western Europe still delivers about 40 percent of all arrivals to the USA), the dollar is just about what it was against the euro a year ago, after bottoming out early last December. (See table: http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=EUR&to=USD&view=1Y)
Third, data released last month by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed that global lift capacity increased by almost 10 percent, leading to a drop in load factor of 0.7 percentage points to 77.8 percent. Among world regions, North America experienced the slowest rise in traffic of any region. It was up by just 3.6 percent while capacity was up by 4.8 percent, leading to a 0.9 percentage point drop in load factors to 75.9 percent. The latter could decline further as new aircraft orders by carriers from the Middle East are delivered during the coming year.
Other industry trends, said Steinman, included the following:
—A healthy economy has translated into increased demand for hotel rooms in the USA, which means it is a seller’s market for operators who have to buy rooms.
—Receptive tour operators are diversifying by offering new product as the size of groups shrinks and
—A hybrid market component has emerged … the Partially Independent Traveler (PIT), which has meant that RTOs reduce some services and increase free time for those travelers who are “group averse.”
—An increase in lift capacity among Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways) is translating into an increase in connecting inbound traffic from India.
—“Testosterone Tourism” is on the rise, as overseas travelers are visiting attractions in U.S. Southwest, particularly in the Las Vegas area, that allow them to drive exotic race cars on closed tracks and operate heavy equipment in ersatz construction sites. (“It’s the new golf,” explained Steinman.)
—Food and dining are becoming important influencers in the selection of a destination.
—Medical tourism, driven especially by huge medical campuses in Orlando and Las Vegas, is on the rise.
—“House Hunting” by Chinese investors looking to purchase homes as both an investment and a second residence has led to the creation of de facto Chinese communities in certain U.S. destinations.
—Intense competition among room providers and OTAs has resulted in some unique partnerships, such as that involving UK-based STA and Airbnb, where STA’s student groups use Airbnb as alternative lodging..
—Free Apps that enable In-home dining, or visiting a U.S. resident’s home for lunch or dinner, has emerged as an option for F.I.T. travelers and very small groups.
—Spend among European travelers in 2016—specifically Germans—is down 20% from the previous year, an indication that the major operators were not able to avoid a decline in bookings through currency hedging this year.
Nearly all of the trends have a common thread, Steinman said, explaining that visitors to the USA “are interested in doing things in the U.S. that they cannot do in their home country.”
New York City Replacing Pay Phones with Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots
Free Wi-Fi hot spots are beginning to spread throughout New York City, Fred Dixon, president and CEO of New York City and Company, told delegates welcoming remarks at NAJ’s RTO Summit East, which was held last week at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel. “Wi-Fi units are up and spreading throughout the city,” he said.
Sure enough, when the Inbound Report checked the location during a break, there was one operational on Eighth Avenue, just outside and to the left from the Wyndham—about 30 yards from the entrance to the hotel, and there was another in operation just across the street. Both nine-foot-high stations were in use at the time.
Dixon explained that more some 7,500 units will be installed in the city’s five boroughs over the next four years, as part of the city’s LinkNYC project, at locations of what used to be phone booths. When completed, a visitor to New York City will always be within range of a Hot Spot at all times.
Dixon drew a chuckle from delegates when he noted that “virtual reality is coming to New York City” via all-around videos on it’s a website and through other channels of distribution, adding, “as if we aren’t interesting enough. (For more information, including the location of Hot Spots, visit: www.link.nyc)
German Travel Trade Experiences Crisis of Confidence
In the wake of dismal sales reports through the first quarter of 2016 and the expressed belief by many in the travel and tourism industry in Germany, travel agents in Germany are less confident than they’ve been since the trough of the economic recession of 2008-09. According the German travel trade publication fvw and its “sales climate index,” the combination of declining sales in recent months, as well as
the uncertain outlook for the next few months have driven the monthly index for April down by 11.5 percentage points to 83 points. This is the lowest level since April 2009, and down 19 percent from April 2015 when the index was at 103 points.
Conducted in mid-April by consultants Dr Fried + Partner with a travel agency panel, the index is based on: (a) mix of current sales trends, and (b) the short-term outlook. Both figures dropped to 83 points for April. Some specific findings from the survey that generates the index:
—More than half of the survey respondents reported a drop in bookings in recent months
—More than one third described the sales situation as “bad.”
—Just 11 percent believed that demand will improve in the next few months, nearly half expected it to remain unchanged, and 40 percent predicted that demand would continue to fall.
—Only 5.6 percent of those responding predicted rising profits in the coming months while 42 percent expected them to continue falling.
Fortunately, for U.S. travel suppliers and receptive tour operators, the dreary outlook seems not to have seriously affected prospects for Visit USA business. Driven largely by concerns for safety in the wake terrorist attacks in Turkey, northern Africa and the March 22 terrorist attack in nearby Brussels, most German travelers who have altered their travel plans seem to have chosen to take their holidays within Germany itself or elsewhere in Europe—essentially short-haul travel.
As some operators conveyed to the Inbound Report in early March following ITB in Berlin, the U.S. is largely perceived as a long-haul luxury destination, and one makes a decision to travel to the U.S. well in advance. Such a decision is not easily undone.
Also, even in the absence of the fear-of-terrorism factor, travel to the U.S. is projected to be flat or to register modest, single-digit year-on-year increases for the next five years. It is probable that a decline in visitation, year-to-year, would also be modest.
Countdown to IPW—Latest TripAdvisor Research on France, Germany and UK
While the IPW focus on the growth markets of China, India and Brazil has been the event’s de facto number one story for the past five years, the familiar and mature (some might say “older”) markets of Western Europe still generate traffic in substantial numbers. In fact, the markets of France, Germany and the UK, combined, still send more than one out of every five (23 percent) overseas visitors to the USA each year.
In addition, the infrastructure and codes of doing business for the receptive tour operator industry in the United States—as well as that of the destinations, hoteliers and other travel supplies that service it—offers a degree of ease in doing business that is not yet available in most growth markets.
With the above factors as a context, Steve Paganelli, head of destination marketing, TripAdvisor ®, walked delegates to NAJ’s RTO Summit East last week in New York through a collection of the company’s data on the travel markets of France, Germany and the UK. Gleaned from data collected through the company’s TripBarometer surveys of more than 34,000 participants worldwide, the findings revealed such interesting points as: for German travelers, it is important that they “be the first” to find or visit a new destination, so that they call tell others about it; and travelers 65 and older spend more on their trips than do other demographic groups.
Also, timing is all-important in working the three markets, Paganelli told delegates. That is, in addition to introducing one’s product or destination to these markets, it is important to find the right time to make a specific “call to action” to any of these three markets by late winter or early spring. What this means, in practical terms, is that it is probably too late to generate any traffic from France, Germany or the UK for travel this year.
Following are some of the key data sets in tables assembled by Inbound Report, based on the numbers from TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer.
Who’s Planning a Trip and Where in 2016
|Country||Planning Domestic Leisure Trip||Planning International Trip|
|Source: TripBarometer, 2015. 2016 Travel Trends|
2016 Travel Spend by Age Group
(Plus Percentage Who Are Increasing Spend Over 2015)
|18-34||$4,090 (26% will be increasing spend)||$4,456 (31% will be increasing spend)||$5,491 (41% will be increasing spend)|
|35-64||$6,129 (18% will be increasing spend)||$6,489 (25% will be increasing spend)||$8,468 (31% will be increasing spend)|
|65+||$7,195 (20% will be increasing spend)||$7,347 (18% will be increasing spend)||$9,628 (33% will be increasing spend)|
|Source: TripBarometer, 201. 2016 Travel Trends|
Reasons/Influences for Traveling to another Destination
|The culture of that specific country (61%)||The culture of that specific country (57%)||Weather (72%)|
|Recommended by a friend/relative (22%)||To get a tan (31%)||Flight prices (65%)|
|Seen it in a documentary (20%)||Seen it in a documentary (26%)||Somewhere Ive never been (65%)|
|Hotel/accommodation special offer or package (18%)||A specific hotel/accommodation option (25%)||Accommodation prices (64%)|
|To get a tan (15%)||Recommended by a friend/relative (25%)||Having a travel companion (64%)|
|Seen it in a TV show (14%)||Hotel/accommodation special offer or package (22%)||Somewhere foreign/international (64%)|
|Source: TripBarometer, 2015. 2016 Travel Trends|
Key Take-Aways from Paganelli’s Presentation:
—European Markets continue to grow in visitation, but spending lags.
—Mexico, China, Japan, Brazil continue to be growth areas.
—Spending from France projected to grow least.
—The UK’s relatively strong economy continues to make it a powerhouse for USA travel.
—Planning for summer travel is most common in the 3-5 months prior to arrival.
—Branding efforts should be in-market 6-12 months by winter.
—Stronger Calls-to-Action needed from late-winter to early-spring.
—Cultural experiences tops for all age groups.
—Weather biggest influence for mature travelers.
—Though they spend the most, mature travelers motivated more than other categories by deals
—French are interested in assuming local lifestyle.
—After culture, shopping is highest motivator for Germans.
—Brits, like French, cite local lifestyle and beaches as significant motivators.
For more information, visit: www.tripdvisor.com/tripadvisorinsights
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Melissa Cherry continues the exodus of senior personnel from Choose Chicago. She has just taken on the job as chief marketing officer for Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI). She leaves her post as senior vice president, marketing and cultural tourism at the Chicago bureau. Nina Winston is also leaving Choose Chicago to become DMAI’s executive vice president, membership and partner relations. Cherry and Winston will join their old boss, Don Welsh, who was president and CEO of Choose Chicago before becoming the new DMAI president and CEO on March 29. He immediately announced a restructuring on his first day, and nine staff left the organization.
Those who left DMAI included: Nancy Elder, executive vice president; Valencia Bembry, senior vice president, accreditation and strategic initiatives; Vickie Singer, senior vice president, marketing and communications; Linda Andreani, vice president, education and professional development; Mitchell Gehrisch, director of member relations; Alan Lotenberg, member relations manager; Tonia Williams, office coordinator; and chief operating officer Charles Jeffers—he also served as interim CEO following the resignation of Michael Gehrisch last September—who will stay on through May to assist in the transition period.
Stacy Ritter, a Broward County, Fla. County commissioner, has been named the next president and CEO of the county’s tourism bureau, the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry—as a county commissioner, Ritter is one of Henry’s bosses—made the appointment. Ritter will succeed the long-time president and CEO of the organization, Nikki Grossman. Grossman, who has served in the post for more than 20 years, announced her retirement last October. She officially leaves the bureau next month. Ritter is resigning as a Broward County commissioner.
Patrick Yvars has left his post as senior sales manager, Disney Destination Sales, to join Visit Orlando where he will be director for Latin America. Yvars had been with Disney since March 2004.
Canika John has been appointed as the new director of marketing for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. Born and raised on St. Thomas, John interned with the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association before beginning 10-year tenure with the organization advocacy group where she eventually served as office and events manager. She also served as meeting services and catering sales manager at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa.
Shanna Smith is the San Antonio CVB’s new chief of staff. Smith was previously the bureau’s partner relations manager for three years. Prior to that, Smith was the director of communications and marketing for the City of Granbury, Texas, where she served as the leader for Visit Granbury and as the city’s Public Information Officer.
Paul Romero has left his position as senior national sales director at the Long Beach CVB to become convention sales director, Mid-Atlantic Region at Visit Anaheim. Romero had worked at the Long Beach bureau for more than a decade. Prior to that, he had served in several positions at several properties in the Long Beach-Anaheim area.
Funway Holidays has announced three new appointments. Jermaine Agyako has been appointed commercial executive and Magdalena Michalik as product executive. And Lizi Wharton has been appointed to the newly-created position of marketing assistant. Wharton was previously a costume technician for Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Dream.