Venezuela Can’t Even Afford New Passports for Those Seeking to Leave Country
Number of U.S. flights down to 10 per week: The inventory of woes for those seeking to market to Venezuela’s international travelers continues to grow larger. Sparing the reader doleful adjectives—we’ve run out of them—here are some of the recent developments affecting the flow of outbound travel from the country.
- Venezuelans have been informed that expired passports are valid for another two years because the government has run out of paper and ink to print new ones. That is, President Nicolás Maduro has signed an emergency decree to extend their validity because of chronic shortages at the national passport agency. At least a million Venezuelans have been waiting months for new documents and have been unable to travel in the interim.
- Scheduled to go into effect this week (Oct. 18) was a revised version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from certain countries. Originally aimed at six countries, the new ban now covers eight, including a new addition, Venezuela. (On Oct. 17, a federal judge issued an order blocking the Trump Administration from implementing the ban.)
- The number of airlines making international connections to and from Venezuela is down to eight: Air Europa, Air France, American Airlines, Avio Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, Copa Airlines, Iberia and TAME. (Earlier, on July 1st, the remaining U.S. legacy carrier serving the country, American Airlines, announced a reduction in its schedule to Venezuela from 48 weekly flights to 10. United and Delta currently have no flights from or to the country.) The Venezuelan government owes 24 airlines approximately $3.7 billion. This is because the airlines, which have collected airfares and related costs in Bolivars, cannot get the government to repatriate the money into their own currencies, or dollars.
- The situation is even worse for those contemplating a visit for either business or leisure to the country.
At the beginning of August, the British Foreign Office (FCO) advised against all but essential travel to the entire country, citing “ongoing unrest and instability.” It also urged anyone in the country to consider leaving and warned that the British embassy may be limited in its ability to provide assistance. In a recent update to that advisory, the FCO has warned of other issues, including travelers being asked to pay bribes, gasoline shortages, and outbursts of violence. It warns against all travel to parts of the country along the border with Colombia, owing to the presence of drug traffickers and illegal armed groups. “The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela, due to ongoing crime and instability,” said the FCO.
What the Table Tells Us: Though the latest available figures for arrivals to the U.S. for 2017 are partial—they run through April 2017—they show a trend line that is not encouraging for the American travel supplier.
Lead up to WTM #1—So, How was 2017? London to Provide Some Answers
It’s about the Exchange Rate: Ever since it was launched in 1980, the World Travel Market, now held in late autumn every year at the Excel exhibition center in London, has established itself as the venue where the UK and European tour and travel industry bell tolls and provides industry participants a first-hand, person-to-person accounting of just how well, or worse, business has been this year, as well as where it is headed in 2018 and 2019.
It’s about the Exchange Rate: All other factors aside, it appears that the currency exchange rate will be the definitive determinant for 2017 and the following year as well. Tour operator brochures have begun to circulate for the past month or so, some packages for next summer are on sale and winter packages for 2017-18 are being picked-up by late bookers. All of us now await end-of-year financial reports.
There is no question that the U.S. dollar and its position against the euro, the pound sterling, the Canadian loonie and the Mexican peso have made U.S. product a hard sell for the past three years. But could this change—particularly for the 28-nation Eurozone and Canada.
At INBOUND, we’ve monitored a good deal of the news coverage of what European and U.S. financial analysts are saying—this includes the actions of the Federal Reserve Board; how the European Union is reacting to political actions such as the UK’s implementation of “Brexit” (the withdrawal of the UK from the EU); and uncertainty over decisions by the Trump Administration that have an impact on foreign trade.
The consensus seems to be that the euro will slightly appreciate in value vs. the dollar and the British pound will likely stay where it is. Meanwhile, the Mexican peso and the Canadian loonie will stay at levels that make them affordable destination alternatives to the United States. Overall, on the basis of the U.S. dollar’s impact, next year looks to be a slightly better year for inbound tourism to North America. Following is a table tracing the value for the past several years of the dollar versus some major currencies. For the most part, these major currencies last year held steady, or improved their position, against the U.S. dollar.
Lead up to WTM #2—Brits Increase Number of Overseas Holidays by more than 20 Percent
In the first evidence of a structural recovery in the strength of leisure travel by UK residents, the latest report from ABTA shows that, among Brits, the average number of holidays taken per person per year has grown from 3.4 to 3.8. This is the highest number of holidays taken per person in the last five years and almost equal to the 3.9 figure in 2011.
Moreover, according to the report—Holiday Habits Report 2017—which was released last week at ABTA’s annual convention in the Azores, the average number of overseas holidays has bounced back to the 2015 figure of 1.7 per year, having dropped to 1.4 in 2016.
The 2017 report contained more of what ABTA described as “remarkably positive” results. Among them are the following:
—In the 12 months to August 2017, 87 percent of Brits took a holiday either at home or abroad. This is the highest figure seen since 2011 and is a big jump from 77 percent in 2015.
—More than a quarter (26 percent) of holidaymakers are booking earlier—up from 21 percent in 2016.
—Spend on longer breaks overseas has increased to £597 ($793) from £430 ($571), but spend on shorter breaks overseas has decreased to £285 ($378) per person from £301 ($400).
—Almost a third of people (31 percent) are planning to spend more, a notable increase on last year’s figures of 24 percent. The number one reason cited was to ensure they get their first choice of destination.
—The well-off and families with young children are the most likely to use travel agents, with 50 percent of those in social grade A and 47 percent of those with children under five having used their services in the past year.
—Almost half (48 percent) of those who used a travel professional said they did so to save time.
This is especially true of 35-44 year olds (63 percent) and 25-34 year olds (56 percent) and wealthier customers (64 percent).
—Sixty percent of people said they use a travel agent for ease of booking, with the figure jumping to 75 percent among over-65s.
—More than 62 percent of 18-24 year olds and 64 percent of those classed as social grade A stated that they felt more confident when booking with a travel professional.
Lead up to WTM #3—Thomas Cook falls from No. 2 to No. 3 UK Operator
Jet2holidays overtakes Thomas Cook to be the second largest: TUI UK remains number one among operators. The rank is based on seats that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) authorizes ATOL licensed operators. Operators are re-authorized every six months; the October semi-annual update came out last week. The previous re-authorization took place last April.
Jet2 is now licensed by the CAA to sell 2,936,420 ATOL-protected seats. Thomas Cook Tour Operations is licensed for 2,459,518 when factoring. TUI UK is licensed for 5.4 million passengers. It added 250,000 following the shutdown of Monarch on Oct. 2.
At a Glance: St. Louis
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Booking Travel in China: It’s all about OTAs, as China Now Has 751 Million Internet Users, Equivalent to Entire Population of Europe
Ten years ago: “It is no wonder that so many of the newly-middle-class Chinese are taking to travel and even booking online. In 2006, 2.75 million Chinese booked travel arrangements … over the internet, according to the Shanghai-based marketing research firm iResearch. On the one hand, that is a very small number, amounting to a scant 2 percent of the 137 million internet users in China, reported at the end of 2006 by the China Internet Network Information Center. … It will take a while before the share approaches the 63 percent of US internet users who said in August 2006, that they had ‘bought or made a reservation for travel’ using the internet, according to our own statistics.” (From “The online and offline travel experience in China,”—Deborah Fallows, Pew Research Center, Aug. 3, 2007)
Circa: 2017: Since the above article, the numbers have changed–obviously. A recent report of the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) shows that the number of internet users in China increased by 2.7 percent over the first six months of 2017 to 751 million, and that 96.3 percent of internet users access it through their mobile phones, an increase of 1.2 percent point since the end of 2016.
In addition to making their travel arrangements using their mobile phones, Chinese have expanded their use of their smartphones for online food delivery services (274 million users); managing their money (126 million); and making online payments (502 million).
On the heels of the CINIC report, Eye for Travel’s new Chinese Travel Consumer Report 2017-2018 shows that online travel agencies (OTAs) or their apps are used for roughly 80 percent of travel bookings as airline travelers are forgoing direct booking with air carriers.
Chinese Flight Booking Channels When Using Apps
Chinese Flight Booking Channels When Websites
Some other findings from the Eye for Travel report include the following:
—The OTA dominance presents a marked contrast between Chinese and Western markets, where airlines have been able to hold their market share or in some cases grow it and illustrates the unique dynamics of this market, where smartphones and apps play a much larger role in the travel booking process than in the West.
—The report found a similar pattern for accommodation bookings, with seven out of 10 Chinese travel consumers booking through OTAs, compared to around one in 10 using a hotel’s website or apps.
—The struggle to take back market share will be made more complex by the concentration of the OTA market in China, with only a handful of players, and price sensitivity key for Chinese travelers. Ctrip, Qunar and Meituan-Dianping are the dominant forces, with the first two particularly strong in app usage, which will continue grow as China’s younger travel consumers, who favor smartphone and app booking, become a larger segment of the market.
—With more than nine in ten Chinese consumers visiting price comparison sites during research, these younger travelers have also been able to strengthen their market proposition by becoming integral players in metasearch, further entrenching their competitive advantage.
Report Finds Six of World’s “Power Cities” are in USA
Six cities from the USA were among the 44 cities named as the world’s most livable cities in the Annual Global Power City Index 2017. First released in 2008, the annual report evaluates and ranks 44 major cities according to their “magnetism,” or their overall power to attract creative individuals and enterprises from around the world. Cities are rated on the basis of 70 detailed indicators in six categories: “Economy,” “R&D,” “Cultural Interaction,” “Livability,” “Environment,” and “Accessibility.” The report was published by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies, a research institute established by Tokyo-based Mori Building, an urban developer.
The half-dozen U.S. cities selected are: New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC. Japan had then next highest number of cities, three: Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukoka.
Overall, this year’s three top cities are: London, New York and Tokyo – all retained their slots, with London maintaining its No. 1 position for the sixth year running. Tokyo, which claimed the No. 3 position for the first time last year, further improved its scores in the field of “Cultural Interaction”, closing the gap on second-placed New York. Paris experienced a significant decline in its ranking in the “Livability” category, due largely to the recent terrorist attacks, but the host city of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is expected to rise above the competition in the coming years by further strengthening its “Accessibility” scores and recovering its “Cultural Interaction” ratings.
Global Power City Index 2017
Source: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation
Top Ten Cities & Comprehensive Ranking
Source: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation
Note: “Global Power City Index 2017 Summary” uses figures and charts to clearly introduce a city’s power through the lens of 6 functions (Economy, R&D, Cultural Interaction, Livability, Environment, Accessibility) covered in the Function-Specific Ranking, as well as through the viewpoint of 5 urban actors (Manager, Researcher, Artist, Visitor, Resident) in the Actor-Specific Ranking.
Detailed information on the results of these rankings can be found in “Global Power City Index Yearbook 2017,” which is expected to be released in January 201
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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.
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Businesses Reopening, Situation Improving- Sonoma County Update
From Visit Sonoma County, California, Oct. 16: The people of Sonoma County are awed and humbled by the emergency responders who answered the call and came running to Sonoma County during the area’s recent wildfires.The fires, which are in the process of being contained, are situated along Sonoma County’s eastern border, including Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa, and Geyserville.
Western and southern Sonoma County, as well as the Pacific Ocean coastline, have not been impacted.
“While the fires impacted a portion of Sonoma County, the vast majority of our scenic beauty, rolling vineyards, amazing wine, and locally grown food remains intact,” said Tim Zahner, interim CEO of Sonoma County Tourism.
Sonoma County Tourism has been flooded with well wishes and requests from around the country on how people can help Sonoma County recover.While it’s still early in the process, here are some ways to support the recovery efforts:
- Donate to recovery efforts. Local non-profits like the North Bay Fire Relief, www.redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief; and Sonoma County Resilience Fund, www.sonomacf.org/sonoma-county-resilience-fundare collecting funds for those displaced or affected.
- Continue to support Sonoma County wineries, breweries, cheese makers, farmers, and local artisans. Purchases of items that were bottled in, made in, grown in, brewed in or otherwise came from Sonoma County help local families recover economically.
- “If everyone who bought a bottle of Sonoma County wine last year donated the equivalent amount to relief efforts, it would go a long way to helping,” Zahner said, adding, “When the time is right, we’re going to need you more than ever to visit and help Sonoma County’s hospitality community get back to work. Our 20,000-plus tourism jobs are among small, locally owned businesses. We want to see you and welcome you to the Sonoma County we all love.”
Zahner did urge visitors to contact hotels, restaurants and wineries before visiting. Updates on what is open can be found at www.SonomaCounty.com/openforbiz.
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Thomas Cook has appointed Andrew Flintham as managing director for its UK business. He joins the company from Tui UK and Ireland, where he was commercial director. Flintham would take responsibility for the day-to-day operations in the UK beginning March 2018.
Also at Thomas Cook, the company’s former UK managing director Chris Mottershead has been appointed chief of UK source market and group differentiated product. The company said the move would see Mottershead taking responsibility for the relationship with Thomas Cook Group’s “most important partners and hotel procurement.”
Funway has confirmed the departure of national sales manager Andy Travis after more than seven years with the company. Travis, who worked for the tour operator for more than seven years, left at the end of September to “pursue new opportunities.” Travis had previously served in senior positions for The Holiday Team, Youtravel.com and Monarch Travel Group.
Fabrizio Ciafrone is the new Bt2C sales manager for Groupe Paris of TUI France. He will oversee a team of 18 salespeople under the leadership of Ange Derment, director of groups and communities. Previously, Ciafrone was with Karavel / Promovacances, where he created the group and community service departments.
Tamara Whiting has been named director of multicultural sales for Cincinnati USA. Previously, Whiting, who joined the agency in January as a national sales manager, had spent four years as national sales director for Visit Pittsburgh.
Dnata Travel has appointed John Bevan (left) as the new chief executive of its trade division for Europe, including dnata’s Gold Medal and Travel 2 brands. A veteran of more than 25 years in the tour and travel industry, Bevan comes to dnata from Spafinder Wellness; he previously worked for Voyage Prive and lastminute.com. Also joining dnata is Nick Hughes (right), formerly of Attraction World. Hughes will be sales director for the trade division for Europe, with responsibility for the teams at Gold Medal and Travel 2.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has extended the contract of its CEO, Mario Hardy, for another three years beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Hardy joined PATA in 2012 as chief operating officer and was appointed chief executive officer on Nov. 1, 2014. Before joining PATA, Hardy worked for 26 years in specialized aviation businesses with a focus upon data analytics and technology, serving in leadership roles in Montreal, Vancouver, London, Beijing and Singapore.
Nevada tourism director to head Sonoma County Tourism: Claudia Vecchio has been named president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism. Vecchio, who succeeds Ken Fischang—he abruptly resigned from the post last May after serving nearly 12 years in the post—joins the agency from the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, where she has been director for six years. Fischang went on to become executive director of the Saugatuck Douglas Area CVB in Michigan. Vecchio is scheduled to start on Nov. 1. Since 2011 she had been head of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Her resumé contains tenures as Ohio’s state tourism director (2003-2006) and vice president of communications for the Branson Lakes Area Chamber/Convention and Visitors Bureau (1998-2002).