Nasty Fight Erupts after former Travel 2 and Gold Medal Execs Defect
After four new hires from Travel 2 and Gold Medal (both are brands now owned by dnata) apparently did not start work for the operator If Only earlier this month, the travel trade in the UK wondered aloud what had happened. Last week dnata, which is headquartered in Dubai, confirmed in a statement that “legal proceedings were ongoing” but declined to comment further on details of the case. According to Travel Weekly UK, dnata took legal action against If Only and the four individual executives following their resignations on June 5 and the announcement that they were joining the Edinburgh-based If only. (Also included in the action is Andy Freeth, former Travel 2 and Gold Medal managing director, who was not slated to start with If Only until December.)
The other four include: sales director Gordon McCreadie, product and commercial director Matt Appleby, head of sales Tracy Hirsz and Travel 2 business manager David Irving.
According to TW—which was tipped by travel agents that the new hires had not yet started at their new operator employer—all five may now be restricted from starting at If Only, or contacting any agent partners or attending any industry events, until the spring. If Only embarked on a series of agent dinners last week in Ipswich and Edinburgh to promote its 2018 brochures. It was due to hold 14 similar events elsewhere around the UK this month.
“State of the International Traveler Report.” Intent to Travel from 14 Feeder Countries
Asked which international travel destination is their favorite, a third of the travelers from key international markets—unaided or without prompts from interviewers— picked the United States. This was about twice as much as the total for Spain.
And it was just one of the findings from the latest State of the International Traveler report from Destination Analysts, the San Francisco-based research organization, that were presented at NAJ’s recent RTO Summit in Orlando.
David Reichbach, director of analytics and data security for Destination Analysts, also highlighted some findings showing that the USA is a strong favorite of travelers from the key Asian markets of China and India.
For the report, Destination Analysts surveyed 14 U.S. feeder markets: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, India, Australia, Germany France, UK, Argentina, South Korea, Netherlands and Italy. It tracks more than 65 America destinations by familiarity, appeal, likelihood of visitation, promotional buzz and “bragging rights.” Following are the key tables from the State of the International Traveler report.
China Highlights from the State of the International Traveler Report:
India Highlights from the State of the International Traveler Report:
Inside Brand USA’s India Sales Mission– Two Suppliers’ Perpectives
Reports from the Sixth Annual Brand USA-led trade mission to India suggest that all of the hyperbolic reports one might have seen in the past year about the strength of the market from India are not hyperbole. They are real.
The Brand USA trade mission to India, held from September 10 to 15, visited two largest cities—Mumbai (estimated population of 12,691,836, according to the World Population Review), Delhi (10,927,986) and, this year, adding Chennai (4,328,063), India’s fourth largest city. There were 37 companies and 51 delegates from destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers¹, and they talked business with a large number of agents and operators. So intense was this interest in the market this year that, there was a waiting list of 10 suppliers waiting to take the place of anyone who might cancel.
In 2016, there were 1.17 million visitors from India to the USA, making it the 11th highest-ranked country by arrival numbers. Spending by Indians was the 6th highest – more than some countries with higher arrival figures.
To get a first-hand perspective on both the trade mission and the Indian market , the Inbound Report spoke with Robert Y. Graff, corporate vice president of marketing and international sales for the Las Vegas-based Papillon Group who’s spent years developing the market on both trade missions and through his presence at SATTE (South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange), which is held annually in late January in India; and tour and travel industry veteran Stefan Merkl, founder and owner of Explore Marketing, who represented several U.S. travel suppliers on the trade mission.
“India is growing, secondary cities are becoming more important, and major tour operators represent 18 percent of USA visitors,” said Graff. “FIT and online activity are growing.” He also believes that traffic will increase as lift capacity continues to increase. For instance, he noted, the number airline seats to the U.S. are expanding as Middle East carriers and Air India move ahead with more non-stop services to the USA. Faced with stiff competition on U.S. routes, Air India recently launched a new recent flight from Delhi to San Francisco. At the same time, Qatar Airways has added a new flight from its based in Doha to Las Vegas. And that carrier has said that it plans to buy 100 aircraft to better service the India market.
The preferred routes for Indian travelers to the U.S. are via the Middle East Gulf states such as Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, noted Graff, explaining that the UAE carriers provide superior service, with mostly new aircraft. (Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar is the home base of Qatar Airways; Dubai International Airport in Dubai, UAE, is the headquarters base of Emirates airlines; and Abu Dubai International Airport is the base for Etihad Airways. In Abu Dhabi, U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates the only pre-clearance facility in all of the Middle East and Continental Europe for U.S.-bound travelers.)
On the matter of air service, Merkl agreed. “The Middle East carriers such as Emirates continue to be a preferred connector to the U.S., as well as the increasing number of nonstop flights with Air India. Also Lufthansa continues to be strong in this market,” he told us. As for the overall condition of the market, Merkl said “it’s interesting to see how the market is switching quite rapidly from being group-based to being increasingly FIT-focused. Particularly younger travelers want to be independent, while some of the older ones still continue to want a lot of hand-holding. So, for example, they would call themselves FIT, but then would expect transfers all along, even when they travel within a city and could easily take public transit or walk.”
Looking toward 2018 and beyond: In addition to an increase in FIT traffic Merkl and Graff told the Inbound Report, is that there seems to be a building demand for destinations and experiences that are “Beyond the Gateways,”
Said Graff: “Growth from secondary cities is interesting. We’re experiencing more visitors from Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. We all cover Mumbai and Delhi, but there is so much more out there. There is also a lot of growth among the smaller regional tour operators. … 2018-19 should be a good year for Indian visitation to the USA; expect double digit increases as Brand USA plans on pouring more resources in the market. Ironically, we hear that fewer visas are being issued to Chinese—however, this is not the case in India.² A record number of 10-year visas have been issued and the us government plans to exceed that number for this year. MICE is up, GIT is flat, and FIT is through the roof.”
“The Indian economy is strong,” said Graff, noting that the nation’s goods and services (GST) tax introduced on all services including travel has been decreased to just 5 percent. “So, assuming there is no change to U.S. supplier costs or exchange rates, the same U.S. vacation could cost less next year.”
We heard much the same from Merkl regarding 2018. And for the long-term, Merkl is decidedly optimistic: “The market will continue to grow as GDP grows at 7 percent quite consistently and the market is very optimistic about the future of India and their potential for becoming a global player.”
Merkl: “Some of the operators that we spoke to very much said that they want to look beyond the big gateways, and are encouraging fly-and-drive vacations and experiential travel. So from my perspective, this is a good time to start working with FITs. My understanding is that 2nd and 3rd tier cities are becoming increasingly important, as there’s a lot of money there now, with farmers selling land to big developers and then swimming in cash that they want to spend on travel.”
He added, “Student travel continues to be an important aspect of the Indian market, as Indian parents want their kids to see the world, learn from it, and most importantly bring home certificates of any educational experiences that they attended. A certificate on the wall is golden, and parents are more apt to paying a lot of money for an educational trip for their kids than for themselves.”
Graff, meanwhile, gave us a slightly different take, saying that he detected “a lot of interest in new attractions,” but pointing out, “Basically any itinerary that feeds off existing main destinations is of interest. It almost seems like Indian travelers want to explore more, stay longer … but the main iconic cities need to be part of their itinerary.” (Graff wanted to note that Papillon is introducing its Heli Skywalk Tour with VIP Dining Package, which includes a round trip flight to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, with a stop at the glass-bottom Skywalk Bridge and lunch. The experience takes 6½ to 7 hours.)
¹ U.S. delegates included representatives from: 7M Tours; Budget Rent-a-Car; Choose Chicago; Destination DC; Empire State Building Observatory; Experience Kissimmee; Georgia Tourism;
Grand Canyon Tour & Travel & Rodeo Restaurant; Greater Miami CVB; Hornblower Cruises & Events;
L & L Tours; Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority; Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority; Leisure Pass Group and Tour Operator Land; Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism; Maxim Tours LLC; MGM Resorts International; NYC & Company; Papillon Helicopters/Scenic Airlines; Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau; Red and White Fleet;
Red Carpet Travels USA LLC; Roaring Camp Railroads; San Francisco Travel Association;
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; Tours Limited LLC; Travel Nevada; Travel Oregon;
Tualatin Valley Washington County Visitors Association & Mt Hood Territory; Universal Studios Hollywood; Visit California; Visit Fairfax; Visit Florida; Visit San Jose; Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood;
Wyoming Office of Tourism
² The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office reports that, for visas, the average annual growth of about 8 percent disguises the wildly fluctuating issuance levels for any year. Growth of 18 percent, 2.3 percent, and 8 percent from FY 203-15 was followed with a 2.2 percent growth in FY 2016.
Is Anyone Really Qualified to Replace Rossi Ralenkotter in Vegas?
An elaborate succession plan is now in place to prepare the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LCVA) for the eventual departure of its president and CEO, Rossi Ralenkotter,70, who has served the agency for 43 years—he started out as a research analyst—and has held the organization’s top job since 2004.
Put in place in January 2016 as part of a five-year vision plan adopted by the organization’s board of directors, the plan, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, called for the hiring of four “C-suite” executives, including a chief operating officer, to support Ralenkotter. At the 2016 meeting, the board was told the restructuring proposal would cost $1.1 million in salary and benefits and to add support staff for the new executives.
Since the proposal was approved, the LVCVA has promoted Rana Lacer, formerly senior vice president of finance, to chief financial officer and hired Barbara Bolender as chief human resource officer, replacing retired senior vice president of human resources Mark Olson. And Jacqueline Peterson was hired as chief communications and public affairs officer. The fourth position to be added is a chief operations officer who would handle the day-to-day administrative work currently handled by Ralenkotter. A spokesman told the Review-Journal last week that the board is seeking a president.
Who’s Next? There was also wild speculation last week that Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), was a leading candidate for an executive position at the LVCVA—even though this was news to some of the agency’s board members.
While some in the industry expressed surprise, even shock, up learning that Hill was a contender for a top job, Hill seemed confident that he was in line for such a position.“The LVCVA is an exceptional organization and has played a central role in the success of Las Vegas,” he said in a statement. “I am both honored and excited that Rossi would consider me for a position with the LVCVA. I look forward to meeting with members of the board to discuss their vision for the organization and how I might play a role.”
A Major Departure: One is hard pressed to come up with a name that has had such high visibility and durability in the DMO segment of the tour and travel industry as has Ralenkotter. Or as closely identified with the brand he markets. During his tenure in Las Vegas, Ralenkotter has been active in just about every association that intersects with the interests of Las Vegas. He has served on the board of directors of Brand USA and as chair of both the U.S. Travel Association and the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
His tenure has also seen the expansion of the destination’s hotel room inventory to about 150,000 units.
© Statista 2017
At the same time, Ralenkotter has overseen the growth of the LVCVA’s budget to the point at which it is nearly a half-billion dollars—more than the tourism promotion budgets of most nations in the world. (Total expenditures for Fiscal Year 2018 are set at $448 million, while total revenue is pegged at $488 million.)
Responsibility Has its Rewards: Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last year that, including benefits and other expense allowances, Ralenkotter’s salary of $721,461 makes him the fifth highest-paid public official in Nevada behind three medical school professors at the University of Nevada, Reno, and former UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice.
To be continued …
At a Glance : Wyoming
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UK Travel to USA Stuck in Neutral…At least it’s not in Reverse
The latest monthly data released by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that British travelers seem to be holding back on visiting North America for their holidays. The latest monthly report—with numbers covering up to and through July 2017—show stagnant growth overall, even though arrivals for the month July 2017 were 11 percent higher than they were in July 2016. Other data points from the ONS report:
—Last three months: there were 1,040,000 visits to North America—no change vs. same three months last year;
—Year-to-date (January through July) there were 2,100,000 visits to North America—down two percent vs. previous year; and
—Latest 12 months (August 2016 through July 2017) visits to North America were up one percent vs. same period in 2015-2016
—The following table, which covers a five-year window of travel activity to North America by Britons, helps to put the July numbers into perspective.
Part of the reason for the static report lay in the strength, or lack thereof, of the British pound sterling vs. the U.S. dollar from last October through this past March—a six-month window during which many travelers from the UK plan or book their holidays for the summer. During this period, it was stuck around $1.25 (slipping as low as $1.22 in mid-January). Of late the pound has stayed near $1.35 vs. the U.S. dollar. It may be that UK arrivals to North America (usually, about 90 percent of the total is bound for the USA) might have picked up in August and during the current month of September.
NEW AIR SUPPLY
More Canadian tourists expected to visit Florida’s Space Coast with a new route expansion by Porter Airlines: Coming as it did in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the announcement by the Toronto-based regional carrier Porter Airlines that it would expand its route network to include a new flight from the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to Melbourne International Airport (it is about 60 miles southeast of Orlando) provided a special boost to Florida Space Coast.
The new flights by the Toronto, Canada-based Porter will likely mean thousands of more Canadian tourists visiting the Space Coast during the seasonal travel season which runs this Dec. 16 through March 31, 2018. The Toronto flights to Melbourne will continue through April 7, 2018. The carrier also announced Porter Airlines announced it is going to offer non-stop flights to Orlando from both Windsor and Ottawa on a seasonal basis, starting this December.
Enormously popular among Canadians and Brits because much of it runs along the Atlantic Ocean and is home to the Kennedy Space Center—one of the most visited attractions in Florida—and because of its lower hotel room rates, the Space Coast is also home to Cocoa Beach and its surfer-and-beach community.
The expanded offering by Porter comes as the airport is near completing the first phase of a major terminal renovation which includes improvements to process international travelers through customs more efficiently. Also, completion of a new airport tower is expected next March.
Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris added a second route to San Antonio when it began a daily service from Mexico City Sept, 15. The link from the Mexican capital adds to Volaris’ existing route from Guadalajara to the San Antonio. The new route will be operated on the carrier’s fleet of A320s, with it joining Interjet (12 times weekly) and Aeromexico (daily) on the airport pair. With this launch, Volaris now serves eight destinations in the U.S. from Mexico City, with this route to San Antonio being its only one in Texas. Volaris does serve Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston Intercontinental in Texas, albeit from Guadalajara. Volaris, which was established in 2007 and began its first flights to the U.S. in 2009, now serves more than 20 U.S. cities from locations in Mexico and has become a major carrier between the two countries
Norwegian’s UK Subsidiary gets permit to operate flights across the Atlantic between the UK, Europe and the U.S. On Sept. 23, Norwegian UK, the low-cost British subsidiary of Norwegian airlines (NUK) was granted a foreign air carrier permit by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The action came after the carrier was given “tentative approval” in July. Norwegian UK was set up in 2015 to enable Norwegian to grow its long-haul routes by accessing bilateral traffic rights to a series of global markets. The carrier said its American foreign carrier permit now would allow Norwegian UK “to establish a seamless operation and more effectively utilize its long-haul fleet.”
UK Operator Potpourri
Thomas Cook China now Fully Operational: Launched a year ago, Thomas Cook China—the company that is 51 percent-owned by Fosun and 49 percent by Thomas Cook—is now a fully operational business with around a hundred employees across two offices, in Shanghai and Beijing. For inbound operation, the company takes tourists from European source markets to China, and provides both leisure and MICE services in China. On the outbound sector, Thomas Cook China concentrates on the leisure market, organizing short- and long-haul travel for Chinese holidaymakers.
Thomas Cook China managing director Alessandro Dassi said in an interview that the company will have servedd 20,000 customers since its launch by the end of September and that, “Over the next 12 months, we plan to grow this number by more than ten times.”
“We have now a strong infrastructure platform on which we can build and scale up the business,” he added. Our focus at the moment is to increase the volume and customer base for the company.”
Thomas Cook China offers mainly three types of outbound packages: hotel packages to short-haul destinations in Southeast Asia countries such as Thailand, long-haul worldwide itineraries, and sports packages with tickets to football games and other sports activities.
Tui Swallows Thomson: Tui began in earnest last week its campaign to fold the tour operator Thomson into the Tui brand. It began with a TV advertisement during ITV’s X Factor program, showing a man diving into water with the message: “Thomson is changing to TUI.” Other variations of this ad will be shown on long-haul flights, national television, the sides of buses and online.
The move is the latest in a “single brand” strategy that was adopted after Tui Travel, Europe’s largest travel company, merged with parent company Tui AG in December 2014. Since then, Tui has sold off or re-named some national brands, its bedbank Hotelbeds and, earlier this year, its collection of 50 specialist travel brands that make up Travelopia.
Following the integration of Thomson into the Tui brand, the only business left to be merged into the Tui brand, is First Choice. Based on what Tui’s leadership has said in the past, that should take place sometime next year. Thomson was founded in 1965 by Roy Thomson, a Canadian newspaper and media entrepreneur whose holdings included the Times of London.
Q: In One Word, How Do International Travelers Describe Donald Trump?
Is Donald Trump Really a Buffoon or an Asshole? Or is he…
David Reichbach, director of analytics and data security for Destination Analysts, the San Francisco-based research organization, closed out his presentation before NAJ’s recent RTO Summit in Orlando with a brief but telling section on the attitudes toward the United States following last November’s election.
In its survey of 14 key source markets, Destination Analysts asked the following question: Did the results of the recent U.S. Presidential election change your overall opinion of the United States of America? If so, how? (Please select the answer that best fills in the blank below) As a result of the election, my overall opinion of the United States is:
Reichbach went on to show RTO delegates what travelers from key markets thought, in one word, (Question: What one word best describes Donald Trump?) about President Donald Trump through a brief series of slides in which comments from those surveyed are translated graphically into word clouds.
(Warning: The next slides contain word clouds composed of travelers’ opinions about Donald Trump. These word clouds contain words that some may find offensive.)
Receptive Tour Operator of the Week: Destination America
801 E. Katella Ave.
Destination America designs and operates all-inclusive Private Label Series and Custom Guided Group Motorcoach tours throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and South America. Delivering outstanding quality and unparalleled service since 1990, Destination America serves the world’s leading international travel companies. Destination America is a member company of The Travel Corporation.
The TourOperatorLand.com website by the NAJ Group (it also publishes the Inbound Report, has introduces both receptive tour operators, U.S. tour operators and international tour operators to travel product and services of U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs. Visitors to the website can use its exclusive Receptive Finder™ to find the right RTO. It is designed to help both the travel trade and travel suppliers find the right U.S. based receptive tour operator to sell their products on the international travel market place.
The receptive operators, who are vetted and qualified by the NAJ Group also take part in at least one of NAJ’s RTO Summits series. The Summits take place annually in Los Angeles (Feb. 21-22, 2018), New York City (April 17-18) and Orlando (TBD, 2018).
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Joe David Rice (left), the longest-serving state tourism director in the country—he has held the post for 29 years—has retired. Replacing him is former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey (right). The announcement of the appointment came at the end of the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s recent annual Gala Dinner. Dailey was Little Rock’s mayor from 1993 to 2006 and is the current chairman of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission.
Effective Jan. 1, 2018, Matthias Lange will take over as managing director of the DER Reiseik online travel operation. He replaces Jomique de Vries, who has left the company at his own request. The 43-year-old Lange, who began his career as a salesperson and then worked for DB Vertrieb and STA Travel, will report to Dirk Tietz, chief digital and transformation officer of the DER Touristik Group.
Loïc Prouff has joined the French tour operator Solea as sales manager for Paris and Île-de-France. His mission is to enhance the tour operator’s product to travel agents. A 20-year veteran of the industry, Prouff has previously worked with STI Voyages and Royal Caribbean.
The Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) has announced that Jim Marchbank will continue to lead the organization after being reappointed chair of the board of directors. The appointment was confirmed by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor for a three-year period ending in September 2020. Marchbank has been a member of the OTMPC Board since September 24, 2008 and was first appointed as Chair in 2014. Previously he served as a director at Science North starting in 1982 before becoming CEO in 1987, a role he held until 2011.