11 CVB’s to ‘’Opt Out” of Visit Florida after Being Forced to Divulge Staff Salaries
Just a little more than a month after Florida’s legislature caved in to pressure from its governor, Rick Scott, as well as the state’s entire travel and tourism industry, and approved the restoration of the $76 million budget of Visit Florida (the state’s public-private sector tourism promotion agency) it appears as if the move might have created some unanticipated problems.
According to a report by a trade publication that specializes in coverage of association and DMO news, major destination marketing organizations in the state are bailing on the organization, which had already lost more than 15 senior sales, marketing and operations executives since late December 2016.
The saga began with the forced resignation late in December of Will Seccombe, who was ousted from his position as president and CEO of the public-private sector organization over an expired $1 million dollar contract with a globally known rapper, Pitbull, whose efforts included a video of a scantily clad women performing with the rapper on the state’s beaches. (The video did not go over well with certain key members of the Florida legislature.) It seemed to conclude with the July 7 resignation of Alfredo Gonzalez, the organization’s vice president of global meetings and trade.
Now, as Visit Florida goes through a restructuring phase, USAE News reports that—apparently because of the fine print requirements in the bill funding Visit Florida which call for the release salary information from the agency’s member organizations—a fifth of Visit Florida’s DMO members have left the state agency.
Stephen Lawson, vice president of government relations for Visit Florida, told USAE that 11 Visit Florida members have “opted out” of the organization. These include: the Greater Miami CVB, Visit Orlando, Visit Tampa Bay, Experience Kissimmee, Discover the Palm Beaches, Florida Keys Tourist Development Council, Visit South Walton and DMOs representing Santa Rosa, Brevard, Franklin and Seminole counties.
Language in the legislation funding Visit Florida stipulates that the state agency’s partners which received more than half of their revenue in the previous fiscal year from a public source must report all public and private financial data to lawmakers, including the salaries of employees and board members from both public and private sources.
William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami CVB, as well as chairman of the 31-member Visit Florida board of directors, told USAE News that his organization is taking a pause due to concern about the ambiguity surrounding the reporting of board members’ salaries. The Miami bureau can always return to Visit Florida, he added, noting that tourism bureaus throughout the state are still figuring out the recently passed legislation.
“At this point we are reviewing the new provisions and have not determined our formal response,” said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “Any position we may take would not be done until after consultation with our board leadership and legal counsel.” And DT Minich, president and CEO of Experience Kissimmee, told USAE News that his bureau has engaged in several conversations with Visit Florida leadership regarding its concerns.
Explained Minich: “Our decision was based on several factors which include, but are not limited to, the fact that Visit Florida had not disclosed the 2017/2018 marketing plan prior to last week (the fiscal year began July 1st) and the provision reporting structure for DMOs participating in marketing programs with Visit Florida are unclear. This is about protecting the privacy of our board members and the viability of relationships and contracts with private sector companies, many of which carry non-disclosure clauses. To share this type of information would be detrimental to both current and future strategic partnership.”
2016 Arrival Statistics Finally Arrive: Strong $US Causes Steep Declines in Europe
Not since the first full year of the Great Recession of 2008-2009 has the United States a decline in overall international visitor arrivals. But, on the basis of two percent year-on-year decline in arrivals, was 2016 a lost year for growing the international market?
To answer the query, first, here are the raw, preliminary numbers released late last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) as the agency struggles with a system of collecting and compiling raw data by another federal department that has caused it to fall about six months behind the schedule it once maintained of providing arrivals figures in a window of two-to-three months after the passing of a calendar month.
Putting the Numbers in Context, or—was 2016 really that Bad? The answer is “No.” At first blush, the numbers point to a year in which the USA experienced its first annual decline in international arrivals since 2009, and only the second year since the trough year of 2003 following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Overall international visitor traffic to the U.S. dropped 2.4 percent from 2015.
Upon a closer look, however, the trend line evens out. Here are several reasons why:
—First, 2015 was a record year; arrivals for 2016 were still greater (by just 0.8 percent) than they were in 2014.
—Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the decline from 2015 to 2016 was due to a drop-off of 1.4 million visitors from Canada alone.
—As for a cause of the decline in long-haul overseas arrivals (this excludes visits from Canada and Mexico), it appears that 2015 numbers were strong because—despite the decline in the value of both the euro and the British pound vs. the U.S. dollar, tour operators were able to lock in prices before the slide of the euro and pound began in late 2014. In this context, 2016 was a shakeout year—the first full calendar year in which a strong dollar made a travel package to the U.S. costlier.
What about this year? In its latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), the U.S. Travel Association sounds almost defiant in its positive tone: “International travel continued to defy the expectations of many in May 2017, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), posting its 13th straight month of year-over-year growth. International travel to the U.S. grew 5.2 percent in May versus the same month in 2016.”
It should be noted that US Travel was trying to make sure people knew that there was no real “Trump Slump” in travel to the USA from abroad. It made a point note that “the latest TTI even revised upward (to 6.6 percent) its positive international travel figure from April—the first month of data to begin fully reflecting any effects of President Trump’s initial executive order on immigration issued January 27.”
(US Travel has been able to provide the closest thing to “real time” analysis of inbound travel trends and shifts, thanks to a data base that includes input on advance search and bookings data from ADARA and nSight; passenger enplanement data from Airlines for America (A4A); airline bookings data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC); and hotel room demand data from STR.)
If the industry’s business turnover is as healthy as the TTI seems to suggest, 2017 is certain to be an improvement on 2016 and could also be indicative of consumers adjusting to increased prices by reducing their spending levels by reducing length of stay and class of hotel. We’ll all have a better idea once data on the key travel months of July and August are recorded.
US Travel, in assaying the performance of the overall travel market—both domestic and inbound international—said “travel will likely grow by about 1.8 percent through November 2017, and domestic travel growth will lead the U.S. travel market into the end of the year. However, while growth in forward-looking domestic bookings and searches remains positive, their pace of growth is markedly slower than this time last year.” The graph below illustrates NTTO’s most up-to-date long term outlook for inbound travel.
Will New Air Service Compensate for Trump Effect and Strength of US $?
Perhaps the world’s long-haul air carriers, both low-cost and legacy, know something upbeat that the rest of the tour and travel industry and its analysts don’t know. This is a message one receives through a recent flurry of announcements of new airline routes and connections between overseas source markets and the USA. In our memory, the first part of July 2017 has produced more new service notices for both the near and long-term, than any similar period in the past. They include the following.
- On July 7, Air Indialaunched a first-ever non-stop flight connecting Delhi (DEL) and Washington Dulles(IAD), with the carrier scheduled to operate the route with a three times weekly 777-300 service. Previously, Air India had operated to the U.S. capital up until May 2010, when the city was flown to as a tag-on stop from its New York flights. Sabre Global Demand Data shows that for the year ending March 2016, the Washington D.C. area welcomed more than 281,000 Indian visitors. Washington Dulles is Air India’s fifth US destination after New York JFK, New York Newark, Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco. †
- Even as it shifts to a strategy that emphasizes increasing its growth domestically, on July 8, American Airlines began service to Guatemala City, Guatemala from Chicago O’Hare. †
- Eurowingshas begun twice-a-week (Tuesdays and Saturdays) services from Cologne Bonn to Seattle-Tacomaon July 11. (In addition to Cologne Bonn, Seattle-Tacoma will add new non-stop service to Mexico City and London Gatwick later this year.) †
- Beginning July 13, WOW expanded its service to the USA by adding Chicago O’Hare(ORD) to its network. The carrier flies the route four times a week from its Reykjavi/Keflavik base in Iceland. WOW air now operates to 10 destinations across the USA (eight destinations) and Canada (two). †
- Low-cost Danish airline Primera Air has announced that it will open new bases at Stansted and Birmingham in the UK, and start direct flights to New York and Boston from both airports next year. In doing so, Primera Air will be the first airline for nine years to fly scheduled services to the USA from Stansted. Beginning next April, the airline will offer daily service to Newark (Liberty International) airport. Then, starting in May, Primera will fly four times a week to Boston’s Logan International Airport. The airline said it will also announce two more trans-Atlantic routes from the new bases by the end of summer 2017. Flights to both destinations went on sale starting July 20 with prices starting from £149 ($194) one-way inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges. Another transatlantic route from Stansted and two more from Birmingham are to be announced by the end of the summer.
- Delta Air Lines is bringing back direct flights from Atlanta to Shanghai next year. The carrier will restart Shanghai Pudong service in July 2018, six years after terminating the then-underperforming route—before outbound traffic from China to the USA began its exponential growth. Now, Delta announced, there is much stronger demand in both directions, it said Delta has strengthened its partnership with major carrier China Eastern Airlines, which has a hub in Shanghai. (Delta bought a stake in China Eastern two years ago.) In addition to its Atlanta service, Delta flies to Shanghai from Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.
- Thomas Cook Airlines is adding a new twice weekly service from Manchester to Seattle next summer.
Tickets are now on sale with the first flight to Seattle taking off on May 27. Announcement of the new service follows the recent introduction of San Francisco and the year-round service to New York JFK from Manchester. In explaining the move, Christoph Debus, CEO of the Thomas Cook Group Airlines, said, “We work closely with partner airlines, allowing us to connect customers to 90 destinations within the USA. Alaska Airlines, based in Seattle is an important partner offering our customers even more choice to the likes of British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska and Hawaii.”
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has given tentative approval for a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian’s British subsidiary, Norwegian UK (NUK). When finalized by the DOT, the permit will allow Norwegian’s UK subsidiary to operate low-cost flights between the U.S. and Europe.
NAJ Re-Introduces PhotoFinder:
Question to operators: Do you want high-resolution royalty-free photos from destinations for your brochures or website?
Answer: Then visit www.touroperatorland.com. TourOperatorLand.com was just reintroduced to the tour and travel industry from throughout the world at the recent IPW in Washington, DC by the NAJ Group, the same company that publishes the INBOUND Report.
It’s Super Easy: Once at the site, click on the PHOTOFINDER link here (you’ll be asked to register). Select a destination or state, then your photo selection will appear. For instance, if you were looking for photos from Flagstaff, Arizona, you would have 17 photos from which to choose. Here’s a sampler:
“I don’t have time to review hundreds of photos to find what I need. Touroperatorland.com has curated the most relevant ones and that saves us a lot of time.”
–Sanya Hamilton, head of sales, AlliedTPro
High Drama at DMAI (now DI): Litigation with former CEO Settled but Lawyers Sued for Malpractice
On the one hand, the annual convention of Destinations International (formerly Destination Marketing Association International) July 11-14 in Montreal was a smooth success as the rebranded organization which underwent a top-to-bottom management change early last year seems to have found an ideal blend of a trade show cum education and networking event.
On the other hand, and what many talked about at some point during the convention, was the litigation that has ensnared the association in the wake of the forced departure of Michael Gehrisch, who served as DMAI’s president and CEO for 15 years until he formally left in January 2016. He actually had to go, in a de facto sense, in September 2015, albeit with a nice severance package, with the organization deeply in debt (to the tune of $1.8 million) and forensic audit report showing “significant financial mismanagement” under Gehrisch.
Under that separation agreement, DMAI/DI was to pay Gehrisch in the form of “salary” through Dec. 2015, and then an additional year’s worth of “salary” – $397,000 – over 18 months. The association would also continue to provide health benefits for Gehrisch and his wife until Dec. 31, 2016. Then, last September, Gehrisch sued the association, charging it with not meeting the terms of the agreement. Why? Because Destinations International had notified Gehrisch it would stop payment in Aug. 2016 unless he supplied documentation it sought. Court documents say when Gehrisch did not provide the requested documentation, the payment of his buyout—as well as his and his wife’s health insurance – ceased. More than $165,000 had been paid at the time Destinations International stopped payments.
A month later, Gehrisch sued DMAI/DI (He sought $694,751 for violation of the wage law and $1,191,000 for a board member or members’ who allegedly slandered him). Such litigation, with depositions and interrogatories and amended filings, etc., takes time. With the association facing the possibility of a triple damages award should it lose the case, and with Gehrisch facing expensive legal costs in the interim, the whole matter suddenly came to close last week when it was announced that the two parties had reached an agreement.
A statement furnished to the trade publication USAE News by Destinations International said, “Destinations International (formerly Destination Marketing Association International) and Michael Gehrisch have agreed to settle and dismiss the lawsuit between them. The parties wish to resolve this dispute, to put it behind them, and to focus on their future endeavors. The terms of the Settlement will be kept confidential. On behalf of Destinations International, no additional comments will be made, and no interviews will be granted.”
But it’s not Completely over: Still pending is a suit Destinations International filed last February against the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery LLP–a Chicago-headquartered mega-firm with more than 1,100 attorneys—charging legal malpractice, saying the law firm and two of its lawyers gave it bad advice about how to fire the group’s CEO and failed to fully disclose its prior relationships with him. In its suit filed in New York Supreme Court, Destinations International accused McDermott Will and two partners, Banks Brown and Kristin E. Michaels, of malpractice because they allegedly advised the group to characterize termination payments to the ex-CEO Gehrisch, as “salary,” thus exposing the group to an ongoing suit by Gehrisch under Washington, D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law.
“The drafting of the separation agreement was so flawed as to constitute legal malpractice,” the association charged, adding “The defendants also advised DMAI to make substantial payments to Gehrisch, even though they knew or should have known that Gehrisch was in breach of his underlying employment agreement with DMAI, and that in fact Gehrisch should have been forced to return money he improperly took from DMAI.”
In addition, Destinations International alleges that the lawyers failed to disclose the full extent of their prior personal and professional relationships with Gehrisch. The suit claims that the McDermott Will defendants’ misconduct and ethical violations support an award of punitive damages based on their professional malpractice and receipt of payment for conflicted legal representation.
Brown and McDermott Will represented the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) while Gehrisch was its executive vice president between 1988 and 1999, prior to his serving as CEO of Destinations International, according to the suit. Although McDermott Will disclosed to the group that it had worked with the AHLA while Gehrisch was there, “it did not disclose the volume of work that Brown did for the AHLA and how closely he worked with Gehrisch,” the suit said.
While Brown also disclosed to Destination Marketing that he was personally friendly with Gehrisch, he didn’t advise the board of directors to seek other counsel to handle Gehrisch’s termination or tell the board that he had also represented Gehrisch personally, the suit said.
Part One of China International Travel Monitor: Fewer Chinese Visitors Now Interested in Shopping
Shopping no Longer Number One: Nothing in the new, seventy-four-page sixth annual China International Travel Monitor (CITM) put out by Hotels.com catches the attention of the reader as much as the declaration that “Shopping is no longer holds the attraction it once held for Chinese travelers as the key motivation.”
The CITM, which has achieved status as the most authoritative, comprehensive and non-proprietary resource work on the Chinese travel market, goes on to tell us, “Chinese travelers have entered a new phase in their evolution. More educated and increasingly sophisticated in their tastes and expectations, they want more of everything—more time traveling, more locations, more exotic experiences, and they are spending more … This is a key finding of this year’s CITM and it applies across all age brackets. Just like their millennial counterparts, those born in the 1960s are spreading their travel wings, seeking more adventurous destinations further from home, visiting more locations on each trip, staying away longer and traveling internationally more often.”
No More “Boomers”—CITM Uses Different Demographics: The CITM fashions its findings using a slightly different take on demographics. When analyzing the response of those surveyed for the report, travelers were divided into four age categories—those born after 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990 in order to provide further insights into choices and preferences of different generations. Those born after 1980 and 1990 rea also referred to as millennials. This group, also known in China as the “new generation” as distinct from the “post generation” born prior to the 1980s, is increasingly driving consumption and spending patterns of Chinese travelers.
As noted, for the first time in the survey’s history, shopping is no longer the prime reason for international travel. Leisure, culture and eco-tourism are the new flavors. Shopping as the prime reason for traveling dropped from 68 percent of travelers expressing an interest in 2016 to only 33 percent doing so in 2017, indicating the increasing diversification of Chinese travel activity preferences.
Chinese travelers intend to spend an average of 10 percent more on international travel over the next 12 months. Millennials looked to increase their spend the most, with around two-thirds of post 80s and 90s saying they expect to spend more. Dining and entertainment are the main winners for future spending.
Methods of Payment: The preferred method of payment across the age groups is UnionPay. (Obviously, there is an overlap of payment methods with travelers using a number of different methods depending on available facilities. Alipay is also common among younger millennials. “As UnionPay and Alipay are not commonly accepted overseas,” says CITM, “this is seen as the most important area for improvement for Chinese travelers.”
Traveling Longer and More Often: There are a number of standout trends in traveler behavior in this year’s CITM. Chinese travelers are traveling internationally more often and for longer, and many are seeking new, more adventurous destinations. All age groups are traveling more often and for longer, with the number of trips and days per trip increasing in the past year from 3.4 and 3.9 and from five to seven days.
Time Spent on Planning: When planning their trip, Chinese travelers spend considerable time researching. On average they spend 12 days researching online and start planning one to two months before their trip. Younger travelers spend less time planning than older travelers.
Influencers: Spouse/partner and friends are the key influencers for travel, followed by online and offline professional channels across generations. Parents are ranked sixth out of 17 influences on post 90s travel destination selection and 13th among other generations.
Travel Companion: Non-millennials and older millennials (post 60-80s) usually trvel with their own family. Post 70s and 80s tend to travel with their children, while post 90s are more likely to travel on their own or with t heir parents.
Part Two of INBOUND Report’s take on the China International Travel Monitor will appear in our next issue.
A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: Hotels.com engaged the market research firm Ipsos to conduct interviews during May 2017 with 3,000 Chinese residents, aged 18-54, who had traveled overseas in the past 12 months. A computer-assisted web interviewing technology was used for the interviews and the representative sample consisted of men and women from a number of different-tiered cities.
Chinese cities are classified into different tiers based on their population, economic size and political ranking. Tier 1 includes cities such as Beijing and Shanghai; Tier 2 provincial capitals as Chengdu; Tier 3 medium sized cities such as Zhuhai; and Tier 4 smaller sized cities. The travelers were asked about their spending patterns, travel preferences, booking methods, accommodation choices and future plans, along with many other aspects of their travel.
Pricing for 2018: Hotels and Air Prices to Rise Around 3.6%
According to the just-released 2018 Global Travel Forecast, a stable and strong global economy means travel prices are expected to rise sharply in the coming year, reaching nearly 4 percent increases in some sectors. This year’s report, the fourth annual forecast—it’s sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based GBTA Foundation in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel—also shows that, in 2018:
—Global airfares are expected to rise 3.5 percent;
—Hotel prices are expected to be 3.7 percent higher; and
—Ground transportation such as taxis, trains and buses are expected to rise only 0.6 percent—significantly less than the 3 percent inflation forecast for 2018.
We’ve gone through the report, and isolated those areas as they pertain to North America. The projections for 2018 follow.
2018 Air Projections: North America will see prices rise by a modest 2.3 percent, according to our projections. Citing the potential for stronger U.S. travel restrictions, flights to the United States have already been reduced accordingly. Canadian airlines are expected to aggressively compete given new market entrants and capacity growth of about 11 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018. With the region’s air travel market nearly flat year-over-year in early 2017, competition is fierce between carriers who now compete on branded fares rather than on bundled fares or by carrier type.
2018 Hotel Projections: North American hoteliers may be banking on economic growth as demand has leveled off since mid-summer 2016 – but supply is expected to continue growing steadily through 2018. With international travel projected to grow 4 percent in 2017 and 2018, U.S. hotel growth is expected to be concentrated primarily along with the West Coast and in Washington D.C. In Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are expected to maintain good pricing power amid a weak Canadian dollar.
2018 Ground Transportation Projections: Canada is expected to see a healthy 4.6 percent increase in 2018, but the overall region will only be up 1.0 percent. Limited railways, along with improved income per capita and increased corporate travel, are expected to push up rental car rates in North America. Still a low-margin business, rental car companies have implemented operational efficiencies and made investments in technology to better manage fleets and improve utilization. Sharing economies continue to grow, but face improved competition from traditional cabs and government regulation.
About the 2018 Forecast: Forecast projections provided by CWT Solutions Group. Data analysis provided by Rockport Analytics.
UK Travel to North America on a Downward Flight Path?
Still the largest source market for overseas visitors to the United States, the UK is, the data clearly show, not strengthening its position. As a source market, China, which is now ranked Number three, could well surpass the UK by the end of 2020.
Two reports issued last week—the monthly update on overseas tourism from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the release of preliminary data full-year arrivals figures for 2016, along with monthly figures for December 2016 from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)—show that visits to the USA from the UK ended last year at a level that was 10 percent less than it was in 2015. And this year, through May, the ONS said that visits to North America (usually, about 90 percent of the number goes to the United States) were down 3 percent vs. the same period last year. Some other data from the ONS monthly report:
—For the month of May 2017, visits to North America by UK residents declined by 4.2 percent vs. May 2016. (For the same period, all visits abroad by UK travelers decreased 4.6 percent.)
—Visits to North America by UK residents for the latest three months (March, April and May) totaled 920,000—declined 3 percent for the same three months in 2016. (For the same period, all visits abroad by UK travelers increased 2 percent.)
—Visits to North America by UK residents year-to-date (January through May 2017) numbered 1.4 million—declined three percent for the same period a year ago. (For the same period, all visits abroad by UK travelers increased 4 percent.)
—Visits to North America for the year ending with May 2017 by UK travelers totaled 4.09 million, a change of zero percent. (For the same period, all visits abroad by UK travelers increased 6 percent.)
What Happened? One is hard pressed to find a one-size-fits-all explanation for the 17-month decline. First of all, few in the industry knew of it, as there were no NTTO data readily available for much of 2016 and into 2017. Second, the UK has been the beneficiary of the strongest of any Brand USA marketing promotions. We actually had cause to believe that Visit USA traffic was increasing, not decreasing. Third, nothing in the regular monthly ONS reports gave anyone in the travel and tourism industry cause for concern. And, while there might be some discrepancies in ONS figures and the preliminary figures of NTTO, they are not sufficient to be a cause for alarm.
What Will Happen in the Future? We don’t know. We’ll keep you posted.
The UK/France and the United States: We Really Like One Another
The just published Sojern’s Destination Report: A Focus on the United Kingdom and France, reveals that there has been some slippage in intent-to-travel to the United States by residents of the UK and France, but it should not last. While the major points of the report have to do with the popularity of the two countries as destinations, it contains several points of interest for those whose focus on the two as markets—not destinations.
The USA has fallen out of favor with French travelers this summer, dropping from second to fourth, says Sojern. British travelers follow a similar trend, with most American destinations slightly down compared to last year. This, the report suggests, “could be a knock-on effect of the strength of the U.S. dollar, meaning that it is more expensive to visit the U.S.”
Weakened since the June 23, 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union, the British pound has stabilized in the last few months, about 15 percent less valuable against the U.S. dollar than it was at its pre-referendum peak. Sojern notes that, according to BMO Capital Markets (it is the investment banking subsidiary of Canadian Bank of Montreal), although the pound to dollar has dropped due to the general strength of the dollar and also a rocky start to the UK/EU negotiations for an agreement on the UK’s exit from the European Union, a rebound is expected. This fluctuation could potentially be playing a role in the slight decline in UK to U.S. travel intent
For travelers who book travel to France or the UK, Sojern looked at what other destinations they considered for similar departure days. The other destinations considered depend highly on the traveler’s place of origin:
- The United States is the most popular alternative destination for North American travelers
- Singapore and Australia are strong alternative destinations for travelers from APAC
- Across regions, those who end up booking travel to France or the UK actually search multiple destinations within those countries. For example, people may book Paris, but search Marseille or Nice as well.
Alternative Destinations by Origin Region:
Surprise! Americans like to visit the UK and France: Travelers from the U.S. comprise the top non-European source market for both countries.
IN MEMORIAM: Selia Garcia and family
Members of the travel and tourism industry in Central Arizona have created a fundraising site to help with the burial and other expenses incurred by the extended family (they number 10) of Selia Garcia who were killed by the flash flood that occurred on July 15 at the Cold Springs swimming area in the Tonto National Forest, near Payson, which is about 90 miles north/northeast of Phoenix. A sudden six-foot tall, 40-foot wide torrent of murky water that carried tree trunks and logs rolled through the area at 45 miles an hour, sweeping away the victims, who had no time to fathom what was happening.
Several family members worked at well-known area businesses, including the Horny Toad, El Encanto, Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, Buffalo Chip Saloon and Carefree Resort.
The matriarch of the family, Selia Garcia, was well known and warmly regarded in Carefree. Here is an excerpt of a Facebook tribute posted by her friend and colleague, Terri Zimmer, senor sales manager at Carefree Resort & Conference Center:
“Selia Garcia was a beautiful kind woman that I had the privilege of working with for several years. She always had a smile on her face. She was one of the ten victims who lost their lives in the Payson flash flood last weekend. The lives of her two daughters, her son, and five grandchildren were also taken. The flood also left four other members of her family injured and her son-in-law is still missing.”
For information on making a contribution, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/selia-garcia-family
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Lynn Dorsey, the former executive director of the Webster Parish (La.) CVB who gained national attention after she accidentally live-streamed herself nude on a bureau phone, has received a settlement of $37,000 after being dismissed from her post last February. Dorsey reportedly live-streamed herself nude the night of last Dec. 19 in what was intended to be a private session with her husband while she was in Baton Rouge on business. Instead, the video was streamed from Dorsey’s work-assigned smartphone to the tourism board’s public Instagram account.
Gavin Landry is resigning from his post as executive director of tourism for New York State to take on the job of director of the Americas for VisitBritain, with offices in São Paulo, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York City. Landry had been with New York State for nearly 4½ years. Previously, he had been a principal with Landry Hospitality Consulting Services, L.L.C, based in New York City. He also served for a dozen years as president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Blanca Rosa Espinosa has joined Super Shuttle Airport Transportation as regional business development director. She’ll be based in New York City. She joins the company from Gray Line New York, where she was executive director of sales. Her tour and travel industry career includes tenures with the Heartland Brewery and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
World 2 Meet, owned by the Iberostar Group, has named Susan Barjan as the new vice president for the Americas. She will report directly to the global commercial director, Noelia Baez. Barjan has previously been a regional director for Hotelspro Travel Wholesaler America and has 17 years of experience in Tourism.
In the UK, Riviera Travel has appointed Amanda Weir to the company’s agency sales support team as the operator continues to expand its trade-facing staff. Weir previously worked in the company’s operations department in tour manager relations and will be the sixth member of Riviera’s agency sales team. Weir’s new role follows the appointments of Tom Morgan to key accounts manager in February and Tamzin Bishop as agency sales executive in March. Riviera first started selling through the trade in 2012, after having spent years selling direct through newspaper advertising.
Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air has appointed Stephen Jones as executive vice president and deputy CEO. He will take up his appointment during the latter part of this year reporting into CEO Jozsef Varadi. Jones, who is a national of both New Zealand and the UK, joins from Air New Zealand where he was chief strategy, network and alliances officer. Before this, he held a number of other roles at Air New Zealand, where he has worked since 2001, including general manager of its low-cost carrier Freedom Air.
Brand USA has named Maria Sheetz as director, partnership development. She leads the organization’s effort to develop and maximize partner engagement, retention, and growth in Brand USA’s cooperative-marketing programs. Sheetz has 16 years of experience in the travel and hospitality sector; prior to coming to Brand USA, she was senior director for national sales and business alliances at Amtrak. She also worked for Choice Hotels International as senior director for account management and marketing within Choice’s strategic partnership group.
Kirsten Feld-Türkis, who has been responsible for Thomas Cook Germany‘s premium and long-distance product for two years, is leaving the company. According to a trade news report, she wants to devote herself to her consultancy activities, which she had already started in 2014, with a focus on advising medium-sized companies.
John Reyes has been named chief operating officer of Visit Sacramento. Reyes will be leaving his current post as executive vice president and chief sales officer for the San Francisco Travel Association, where he has worked for nearly 6 years. He begins his new job on Aug. 14. Previously, he was president and CEO of the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. He was also president and CEO at Florida’s Visit Jacksonville. Reyes worked, too, with the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau for 18 years, progressing from national sales manager to director of travel industry sales to vice president of sales.
In Germany, Benjamin Jacobi will chair the management of TUI’s last-minute holiday brand, L’Tur, as of October 1. He’ll take over from Marek Andryszak, the new head of TUI Germany, who has been handling the post on a temporary basis. Jacobi came from TUI to L’Tur at the end of 2015 and is currently the product and purchasing manager of the last-minute brand.
Affordable Car Hire has recruited Royal Caribbean’s Stephen Joyner as head of sales. Prior to Royal Caribbean, Joyner was cruise club manager for The Travel Network Group. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the travel industry.