Exclusive: How Bonotel’s Elliot Calloway Survived Las Vegas Concert Shooting
INBOUND recently spoke with Elliot Calloway director of contracting, brand strategy & secondary markets at Bonotel Exclusive Travel, which is headquartered in Las Vegas. Calloway was at the country music festival the evening of Oct. 1, when a gunman began shooting at a crowd of open-air concert goers, leaving 58 persons dead and more than 500 others injured. Following are excerpts from our interview.
Q: So, what it is that brought you to the concert on Sunday night? Are you a country music fan?
Calloway: I am a country music fan. This was the first time I’ve ever gone. Three-day ticket packages are pretty expensive, so I’ve never really gone before. I had been in Boston on business and finished by Friday, so I re-scheduled my Sunday flight to Saturday and got back a day earlier. On Sunday, a friend texted me that he had another ticket and asked, ‘Do you want to go?’ ‘Absolutely,’ I texted back.
Q: Where were you in relation to the stage? In relation to the Mandalay Bay?
Calloway: We were on the east side of the venue—in one of the VIP sections that had tents. We were a little bit further from the general admission area where there were a lot of people who ended up in harm’s way.
Q: When did you/others first realize that someone was actually shooting?
Calloway: Oh, I knew what it was right away. I was talking with the wife of a friend of mine when I heard the sound. Soon, there were people running off the stage.
Q: Could you take us through what happened for the next 10 to 12 minutes—as the shooting continued?
Calloway: We jumped inside the tent for cover. Then it stopped for a while. “We’ve got to get the hell out of here,” I said. I grabbed her (my friend’s wife) and told her, ‘We’ve gotta go!’ We ran and took cover in an area where there were some vendor stands.
The gun fire stopped again. So we ran east out of the area and down a private road that went to a airplane hangar (that was empty). A few of us broke a window so that we could let others get through and inside.
There’s still gunfire. It was dark, we didn’t know it was from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay … or if there were multiple shooters. We took off running again and ran into a tall fence. Several of us propped it up from the bottom so that the others could get through. It got down to me—I was the last one—and a couple of guys held it up for me so I could get through. By the time we had got under the fence and on the other side, the shooting had stopped. We didn’t know that, though, because there was a loud ‘boom!’ which turned out to be the SWAT team breaking into the hotel room (where the shooter was).
We found (another) private airplane hangar. As we approached, we were greeted by a security guard who directed us inside with others. There was a group of about 150 people inide. That’s when I noticed that a guy in our group had been shot in the leg. There was a nurse in the group who came to him to help. She said that she needed a tourniquet. So, I took off my belt so she could use it as a tourniquet.
(Calloway chuckled as he told us that, in order ease the tension and stress of the moment, he was ‘trash talking’ with the guy who was shot in the leg—he was from Michigan, while Calloway is from Ohio. Michigan State and Ohio State are huge football rivals. ‘After it was over, I asked for my belt back,’ he joked. However, the two have kept in touch since the Sunday night massacre.)
Ten or twelve minutes? It felt like it took an hour.
Q: Did you see what was happening to other people?
Calloway: Some people had simply stopped. They were in a state of shock. We had to get them moving. Others were running and screaming. … I would describe it as utter chaos.”
(Calloway spoke at length about Las Vegas, which has a reputation as a place that people visit—that no one is really from there, but the way people from Las Vegas conducted themselves that night belied that perception. ‘It was amazing,’ he said, ‘how quickly the first responders got there and how they handled things.’)
The way that this city has gotten together is something else. Right now, you can’t even get an appointment to give blood for a week! At the convention center, they’ve received too much water and
Q: Has this changed your outlook on life in any way?
Calloway: Oh yeah. Guns are something I’ve never thought too much about … that’s changed quite a bit.’ … Also, to others who were affected by the shootings, I tell them ‘Get with someone and talk about it.’
(Note: As it turns out, a CBS TV affiliate, Channel 8, did a report on Elliott Holloway and his experience on Sunday night, Oct. 1st. See it by clicking on the link below.)
The tour and travel industry in Las Vegas, is like a family. Everyone seems to know what another, especially those of us in group sales or international sales.
I hope this episode doesn’t deter people from coming to the city. It is a safe place to visit. The police presence is always there. You’ll see a police officer on every block . … But nothing could have stopped what happened on Sunday night.
Q: Any after thoughts in the days that have followed the attack?
Calloway: After a couple of days, it came back to me in my sleep. But what I feel more than anything is grateful. I’m incredibly thankful to be alive. Fifty-nine chairs are going to be empty at Thanksgiving Dinner this year. I’m grateful to be alive.
(Calloway also took the time to note that “the outpouring of support I’ve had is overwhelming. The number of people who’ve called or e-mail or texted me—I’ve even heard from people I do business with in Australia and the UK.”
Hotelbeds: Integrating GTA and Tourico will Double Market Share v. OTAs
As of Oct. 4, what used to be GTA is now part of Hotelbeds, the largest bedbank in the world. Hotelbeds, owned by the UK-based private equity firm Cinven and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), acquired GTA last April. The review of the transaction by appropriate agencies in both the UK and Spain—Hotelbeds is headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, Spain—took months to complete.
The absorption of GTA, which had been part of Kuoni, follows the integration of Tourico Holidays last June. The latter attracted little attention in the international tour and travel industry, which occurred during IPW in Washington, D.C. at the same time. Hotelbeds (Cinven/CPPIB) had announced the purchase of Tourico last February.
Changes and Additions: Publicly, at least, the incorporation does not seem to have caused that much of a disruption in the company’s operations. In an interview with the Mexican travel trade news site, REPORTUR, Hotelbeds Group CEO Joan Vilá said be there will be “changes for practically everyone, but not force.”
“We are going to be about 8,300 employees and 20 percent (1,300) will be in Palma,” he added, noting that there will be new hires coming to Palma, which will remain the home base of the company. Other elements of the integration:
—Vilà continues as chief executive of Hotelbeds Group. Carlos Muñoz will serve as general manager of Bedbank with the responsibility of managing the integration of the three businesses.
—The current CFO, Andrés García, will be responsible for the financial area of the resulting group.
—José Antonio Tazón, considered to be the driving force behind Amadeus, is now a senior non-executive director on the board of directors.
Head-to-Head with the Duopoly: Hotelbeds anticipates that it will double its turnover to 7 billion euros ($8.2 billion) per year, and thus face the “big” ones like Expedia, Booking.com and the Priceline Group, reaching 15 percent market share, up from 8 percent earlier. (Booking. Com is part of the Priceline Group. Along with Expedia, the two comprise what hoteliers have disparagingly called a “Duopoly.”)
Clueless Board in Sonoma County Cuts Tourism Budget
Sonoma County Cuts Tourism Budget, Shifts Funds to Emergency Services … and Some in Industry Support Move: “To promote and encourage more visitors without adequately providing emergency services is both irresponsible, unconscionable and ultimately bad business,” Fred Peterson, a winery owner and long-time resident of Sonoma County told an Oct. 3 meeting of the county’s board of supervisors, as he registered his support for a million-dollar reduction in the budget of Sonoma County Tourism for next fiscal year. Instead, the funds will be made available for emergency responders who say that increased visitor traffic to the area has placed a heavy burden on them.
The reduction applies to the share of hotel-bed tax revenue received by Sonoma County Tourism. Currently, according to the local newspaper, The Press Democrat, which covered the Oct. 3 meeting, the agency receives a share of the funds equal to an estimated $3.1 million this year. The board of supervisors voted to lower that portion as they debated the larger question of how to spend the bed taxes and offset the impacts of the county’s booming tourism sector. Sonoma County Tourism has an annual budget of more than $8 million, most of which comes from a 2 percent assessment on room revenues of more than $350,0000 in the unincorporated areas and most of the county’s nine cities.
(Tourism is an integral part of the economy of the Sonoma County economy. A county of a half-million people, it sprawls across more than 1,700 square miles north of Marin County, along the California coast and into the central part of the state, has more than 425 wineries. Small wonder that vineyard tours, wine tastings and a diverse restaurant scene are popular with visitors. With a deftly aggressive marketing strategy, Sonoma has been able to elevate their brand to compete with their neighbor, Napa Valley.)
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who chairs the five-member Sonoma County board of supervisors—one supervisor was absent on Oct. 3—said the organization could easily afford a reduction in bed tax revenue, pointing to a county review indicating Sonoma County exceeds similar California counties in the amount it spends on its tourism marketing organization. “I feel very strongly that the tourism bureau has an exceedingly rich, rich, rich budget,” Zane said. “You’ve got a good job. But it’s time now for some accountability, and it’s time to spend that money where the real impacts are happening.”
Tim Zahner, chief marketing officer and interim CEO of the Sonoma County Tourism, defended the level of funding his agency has received in the past, crediting supervisors’ previous allocations with helping the county receive an explosive growth in hotel bed tax revenue over the past decade. “Sonoma County’s investment in the hospitality economy is a unique, progressive approach to rural economic development that outpaces other California counties in results,” Zahner told the board. “Reductions in this investment will reduce yields in off-season and midweek visitation.”
The prevailing opinion at the Oct. 3 meeting seemed to be summed up by residents of the county’s Bodega Bay area, several of whom spoke at the session. They are hopeful the new bed taxes can generate some much-needed improvements to their area, which is heavily impacted by tourists, particularly in the summer months when beach goers flock to the coastal village.
“Unincorporated areas like our tiny little town are generating high percentages of the tourism tax-based income for our county while carrying most of the physical and monetary burdens resulting from this tax generation,” said Patty Ginochio, a Bodega Bay resident and business owner. “This increase in tourism has caused an impact to our community’s physical infrastructure, like our roads.”
Sojern Questions Jake Steinman about Tourism Industry’s Hurdles
In a recent interview with Sojern, a San Francisco website that focuses on travel marketing technology, NAJ’s founder and CEO, Jake Steinman, speaks about what gaps he saw in the industry that inspired him to found the eTourism Summit, and some of the hurdles facing tourism today. The Sojern article follows.
In 1992, Steinman launched Active America, the forerunner to North American Journeys, following an 18-year career as co-founder and publisher of City Sports, a chain of regional sports and recreation travel magazines. Accompanying his duties as president and C.E.O. of TourOperatorLand and North American Journeys, Steinman is the Editor-in-Chief of two industry newsletters—Inbound and The Travel Vertical—as well as chairman of Active America Travel Summit, E-Tourism Summit, and NAJ Tour Operators Summits West and East. In our latest interview of the series, I sat down with Jake Steinman to speak about how he got into the tourism industry, what gaps he saw in the industry that inspired him to found his business, eTourism Summit, and some of the hurdles facing tourism today.
When did you first get into the travel and tourism industry?
I had a magazine company and an event company that I sold in 1993. Being too young to retire and wanting to get into something where I could write off travel, I started North American Journeys (NAJ) with one of my writers from the magazine. He was an expert on the travel and ski industry in Japan. I tagged along with him to Japan in 1993 as he was interviewing people for a story on a new “outdoor” oriented shopping mall five stories below the Osaka train station. I watched as he interviewed people whose singular dream was to travel to America for skiing or golf. One thing led to another, and we created Active America Japan, an event that promoted tourism to the US from Japan.
During the seventh year, we held an itinerary contest where destinations submitted itineraries. We had Japanese tour operators rate them. After the award ceremony, tour operators were approaching me to ask if they could Xerox these itineraries for their 300 travel agent offices around Japan. I realized this was something they really wanted. So, the next year we created a coffee table book containing only itineraries. The following year, we dropped all the itineraries into a website, now called Touroperatorland.com, to showcase to the trade. This was around 2000. I had no idea what to do with a website, so we created a conference, eTourism Summit. It was almost as a ruse so I could learn how to market this website. It began to take on a life of its own after we moved it to San Francisco permanently in 2011.
eTourism Summit has been around for almost two decades. How have you evolved it as technology, digital marketing strategies, and travel have evolved?
We used to bring in speakers from platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to introduce attendees to their marketing tools. Now, DMOs are less interested in hearing FROM platforms and more ABOUT them from peers who have used them most effectively. As a result, it’s evolved into a “show and tell” event where their peers are sharing experiences about new campaigns and applications. Attendees walk away inspired with new ideas and are able to mitigate the risk of trying new technology. This year, we found 25-30 DMOs whose management gives them the freedom to try new vendors and campaigns without the fear of failure.
What kind of digital marketing trends in tourism do you expect to see in 2018?
There are three main trends that we see. DMOs want alternatives to the duopoly of Google and Facebook, which get more expensive each year and they are open to investing 10-20 percent of their media budget to experimenting with different media.
The second is social media and content marketing conflating with PR, especially influencer marketing. You can go to some influencer agencies search box and type in “craft beer influencers.” We’re learning that PR people can build relationships with these influencers, similar to that which they have with traditional media. And, in many cases, instead of paying the stated rate, they can offer the influencer a free trip and have them not only create content but amplify it to their follower base. They are turned loose to independently experience the destination and create content for their followers while promoting a destination. The influencers have a media following and ability to create and distribute content.
The third trend is accountability and performance. DMOs are increasingly required to prove incremental visitation that’s aligned with their marketing campaigns. It’s one thing to show the impressions served, but it gets tricky trying to relate it to incrementality because it can be hard to prove. As a result, they are relegated to a “cocktail” approach where they contract with multiple vendors to address the ROI their funders find credible. One tourism director said one of their board members believed the ROI report to be too rosy and suggested they find a fourth-party vendor to verify the report provided by the third-party vendor.
What are some of the biggest hurdles facing tourism in the next year?
For DMOs, one hurdle is getting more budget for digital marketing. Their senior executives have built relationships with print magazines, TV, and other legacy media over the years of wining and dining. Now, they’re trying to evaluate whether they can replace broadcast and print to with digital media without affecting relationships that could result in less free press coverage.
Another hurdle is understanding how to staff a digital department. This includes where various responsibilities lie while deciding what should be outsourced and what can be done in-house.
What is the best trip/vacation you’ve ever taken?
I just got back from a month in Morocco, Spain, and France. In Morocco, I spent 10 days, two of which I camped out in the desert. I spent an hour with a nomadic family who lived in the desert and rode camels. It was tough, being in 110-degree weather in the desert.
To see that and talk about that is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. My experiences that have been the most difficult are really the most interesting. And, right now, everything is about experience and authenticity. This experience in Morocco changed the way I look at future trips. I’m considering visiting Ecuador, the rainforest, and a lot of other places I didn’t consider before.
Marissa is Sojern’s Content Marketing Associate. Indulging in her inner bookworm, watching HGTV, and playing with her puggle, Charlie, are among some of her favorite hobbies. Although she loves both, she prefers the beach over the mountains.
Receptive Tour Operator of the Week
Gastaldi USA Inc.
76 Fifth Ave.
New York, New York 10001
Specializes in ad hoc FITs and groups, multi-language staff of 10 with years of experiences. Attention to details.
The TourOperatorLand.com website by the NAJ Group (it also publishes the Inbound Report) has introduced 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).
NEW AIR SERVICE
- Aer Lingus has just announced its next US destination—Philadelphia, which is already bookable. Aer Lingus will begin flying times weekly between Dublin and Philadelphia beginning March 26, 2018.The route will operate with the following schedule on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays:
—EI115 Dublin to Philadelphia departing 1:50PM arriving 4:15PM
—EI114 Philadelphia to Dublin departing 5:30PM arriving 5:10AM (+1 day)
- Lufthansa takes over Air Berlin long-haul routes: As the break-up of Air Berlin looms, Lufthansa is moving fast to buy more than half of Air Berlin, acquire its planes from leasing firms and take over cancelled intercontinental routes.
Germany’s dominant airline and British budget carrier Easyjet are the two big winners of the Air Berlin collapse by expanding their operations on strategic and lucrative routes within Germany and Europe as well as to intercontinental destinations in the case of Lufthansa and budget subsidiary Eurowings.
The insolvent airline’s creditors and supervisory board have voted in favor of holding exclusive negotiations with Lufthansa and Easyjet until October 12.
In the meantime, Lufthansa announced that it will take over some of the former Air Berlin long-haul routes from Berlin and Düsseldorf. he airline will launch A330 flights from two airports beginning Nov. 8. The new flights will include Berlin-New York five times a week and Düsseldorf-Miami three times a week.
However, Lufthansa plans to transfer these routes to Eurowings next year. Eurowings will already start long-haul flights from Düsseldorf to various Caribbean destinations, also on November 8.
German Operator Files For Bankruptcy after Insurer withdraws from Travel Market
JT Touristik Files for Insolvency: On Friday, Sept. 29, the Berlin-based tour operator JT Touristik filed for insolvency (bankruptcy) proceedings. The young company—it was founded in 2009—will continue its business operations in self-government and under the supervision of an expert during the restoration process. JT Touristik, whose product in the US consisted of Citybreaks in Florida, New York and Las Vegas, filed for bankruptcy following the decision of insurer Generali Versicherungs AG to withdraw from the travel insurance market and the resulting termination of its policyholders as of October 31, 2017. Despite its efforts to find another insurance carrier, JT Touristik did not succeed. Without the insurance for organizers of package travel, no guarantee can be given to the customer; accordingly, the organizer cannot accept payments from customers. A Berlin court has appointed lawyer Stephan Thiemann as the provisional insolvency administrator for JT Touristik and approved the creation of a creditors’ committee.
TUI Germany Shutting down Budget Tour Operator 1-2-Fly: Continuing its policy of a developing a single, global identity through a core brand, TUI plans to integrate its budget tour operator 1-2-Fly into the main business next year. TUI, the largest travel company in both Germany and Europe, will shut down 1-2-Fly after the summer 2018 season. From winter 2018/19 onwards, package holidays in cheaper hotels will be offered under the core TUI brand instead. Stefan Baumert, TUI Germany’s tourism director, told the German travel trade publication FVW that the closure was part of the group’s international brand strategy to put more focus on the core TUI brand. He stressed that all 1-2-Fly hotels would continue to be offered by TUI.
TUI France-Transat Merger Near Completion: Some 16 months after TUI France announced its plans to acquire Transat Holidays in France, Transat several weeks ago officially became TUI Tours. Completion of the acquisition was complicated by strict labor laws in France that make it difficult to lay off and/or relocate employees, as well as testy negotiations between workers and TUI on a voluntary separation plan. Thus far, there have been more than 200 departures from the company (70 percent were former Transat employees); ultimately, some 250 employees will depart. In addition, the new TUI unit has brought aboard new manager-level employees. The company is expected to be fully unified when all employees are located at a single geographic location. They are still separated geographically between Levallois-Perret (headquarters of TUI France) and Ivry-sur-Seine (home base of Transat France). By next January, it is planned to have all employees at Levallois.
At a Glance: Rochester
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Nathan Claycomb, a long-time fixture at Sight and Sound Theatres, has left the organization and the tour and travel industry to pursue a career in higher education at his alma mater, Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where he was just appointed assistant director of alumni engagement. Claycomb spent a decade at Sight and Sound, working backstage as a techie, then for the past four years serving as business development manager for the attraction company, which has theatres in both Lancaster County, Pa. and Branson, Mo.
In the UK, Clare Tobin has been promoted from chief commercial officer to chief executive of Olympic Holidays. Her predecessor as chief executive, George Michalias, has become chairman. A veteran of more than 20 years in the tour and travel industry, Tobin joined Olympic Holidays last February. Previously, she spent 17 years with Tui Travel and First Choice, where she held senior board roles and oversaw the group’s specialist premium family brands including Hayes & Jarvis and Sovereign Holidays.
TUI France has announced the appointment of Caro Degryse as director of long-haul product. She has 20 years experience in working with large tour groups, as well as receptive and niche tour operators. Most recently, Degryse was director of development at Emirates Holidays. Previously, she worked for the TUI group in Belgium from 1997 to 2005.
Visit Surfside, Miami’s “uptown beachtown,” has announced the appointment of Lindsay Fast as tourism director. Fast brings 10 years of travel marketing and management experience to the position. Prior to joining Surfside, Fast lead numerous upscale marketing programs, promotions and marketing events. Fast comes to the post from Club Med USA where she was trade marketing manager.
After six years of successfully guiding Luxperience, founder Helen Logas has sold the luxury travel trade forum to the U.S.-owned company Diversified Communications. Logas created Luxperience in 2012 as a high-end B2B event based in the Southern Hemisphere. It has also sponsored pop-up shows in such destinations as New York City. The current Luxperience team will transition to Diversified, moving into a new home in its Kent Street offices in Sydney.
Chris Oakes has joined Faremine, the UK-based online travel trade-only company, as head of sales following a short period of consultancy with the brand. Oakes has nearly 30 years travel industry experience in senior roles at such companies as Hays Travel Independence Group, Holidaytaxis.com, Traveltek and Stella Travel Group.
Brian McCartin has been named president and CEO of the Tempe (Ariz.) Tourism Office. He joins the organization after heading up his own consulting firm for a year. Previously, he was with Travel Portland, the tourism office for Portland, Ore., for 14 years, lastly as executive vice president. McCartin succeeds Stephanie Nowack, who recently announced her retirement after 18 years with the organization.
Natalie Alvanez is the new director of sales and marketing for the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California. She comes to the position from Visit Oakland, where she was vice president of marketing and business development. Previously, Prior to Visit Oakland, she was senior marketing officer for Amtrak in the company’s Oakland operation.
Former Brazilian receptive tour operator Antonio Lima, is now CEO at Envision Business Development Consultant in Miami. A veteran of nearly 30 years in the tour and travel industry, he was most recently senior vice president and head of business development, Americas, for VFS Global, which he had joined in 2009. Previously, he had served tenures in senior positions with AlliedTPro & Kuoni Connect, Bancor International Travel Inc., and Gray Line of Ft. Lauderdale.
Paul Nakamoto has been named director, strategic promotions, for Aquarium by the Bay in San Francisco. He joins the attraction from Gray Line of San Francisco, where he was executive vice president. Previously, he had been vice president of business development at Super Sightseeing Tours in San Francisco.