The Top Five Trends to Watch in the Chinese Market
Of Chinese travelers, David Becker, CEO of Attract China cautioned delegates to NAJ’s recent Active America China Summit in Atlanta to “stop thinking about them as walking dollar signs,” urging travel sellers and DMOs to be aware of the different segments within the overall Chinese markets, as well as the importance of the overall travel experience to the Chinese consumer.
Becker’s caution came at the end of 20 minutes in which he walked delegates through a compact presentation in which he outlined the Top Five Trends to Watch in the Chinese Market.
He prefaced his remarks with a quick sketch of China’s economic health. Right now, he said, people in China have moved beyond a state away from working to provide themselves with basic essentials and are inhabitants of a fast growth economy in which a surge in a car culture is boosting the urge to travel and the nation is going through a period of modernization. (U.S. travel sellers should take note: modernization does not mean “westernization.”) Growth of the travel experience “is coming at an incredible place,” with all demographic groups making multiple trips yearly.
Against the backdrop above, Becker outlined the Top 5 Trends.
TREND #1: The majority of Chinese are traveling independently. They have moved from group travel to FIT. Still, he pointed out, “they really need information.” (Just days after Becker made his presentation to delegates, results of a survey were released by the China Youth Daily newspaper confirmed this trend, indicating that 80.2 percent of the 2,001 respondents to the survey said that they prefer to travel on their own, and that new technology has made it easier to plan a trip abroad. And while many Chinese prefer to travel without an agent, the article continued, they do not go unprepared, with a total of 61.6 percent indicating that they prefer a detailed travel plan, 61.2 percent felt that travelling with companions is safer, and 57.6 percent suggested booking accommodation in advance.)
TREND #2: There is a new search for health and wellness among the nation travelers, as Chinese consumers are the world’s most health conscious. They seek:
- Mental relief;
- Physical relief; and
- A connection with nature.
Moreover, there has been a 16 percent interested in private, customized travel plans, with medical tourism growing from $1.4 billion in 2016 to a projected $8.3 billion in 2020
TREND #3: Traveling to the U.S. for an education will continue, as spending for education is considered an investment in the future.
There is a shift in the population of students going to the U.S. to study, from university to high school and middle school. The initial visit of a student (and a student’s family) to the U.S. becomes a catalyst for a range of economic activity, including tuition, real estate and business investments. And in the most recent school year for which data are available (2016-17), there were more than 350,000 Chinese students studying in the United States.
TREND #4: China is not a single market—it breaks down into family, social and demographic groups including:
- The 80s vs. the 90s generations.
- Families with kids.
- Medical and educational tourism.
- Travelers from tier 1 vs. lower tier cities.
The 80s vs. 90s generation markets is just part of the way the market is divided according to age. Here is the way it currently breaks down:
Trend #5: Reality vs. expectations. We’ll have to close the gap—the U.S. is not meeting expectations in many areas, and there is a gap between what people expect … and how you engage them. Take not of what travelers are looking for when they are doing their online research:
Most Popular Travel Keywords
- Nature Exploration
- Outdoor Activity
- Family Friendly
- 5-Star Hotel
- Winter Escape/Summer Escape
- Casual Experience in a City
- Medical Travel
Finally, some takeaways—Becker advises the following.
—The majority are now traveling independently
—There is a shift away from shopping and touring basic attractions
—Chinese travelers are willing to spend more on quality travel experiences
—They are looking for an authentic experience to really get to know the destination
To be sure, the Chinese market represents a vast and lucrative market. But be careful, Becker said, and “stop thinking about them as walking dollar signs. Think about the immersive experience they’re searching for.”
International Trade Administration Suspends Release of Overseas Arrivals Data Releases
No Arrivals Data Better than Bad Data as Figures Identified some non-U.S. citizens characterized as U.S. Citizens: Beleaguered by questionable numbers and delays in the release of the monthly data that tallies the number of international visitors to the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) has announced it will suspend data releases on overseas arrivals to the United States pending resolution of underlying technical issues with a significant number of records received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). No data will be reported by NTTO beyond the preliminary data previously released five weeks ago, on March 7th, until the records are properly identified, categorized, and counted.
“The National Travel and Tourism Office is committed to providing accurate statistics on international travelers to the United States as defined by international standards for the travel and tourism sector,” said Isabel Hill, director of the National Travel and Tourism Office. “NTTO is working with CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to resolve these issues. NTTO will resume publication of these data as soon as possible.”
In conducting due diligence on records received from CBP on arrivals to the United States in 2017, NTTO identified significant and increasing anomalies affecting DHS I-94 visitor arrivals data. NTTO uses data gathered by CBP to calculate overseas arrivals to the United States, including those who are traveling for business, leisure, and education, and staying one night or more. As such, residents of the United States are not counted as visitors.
During this process, NTTO detected a meaningful and increasing number of non-U.S. citizens traveling on visas to the United States being categorized as U.S. residents. Therefore, those travelers were removed from the visitor count of overseas travelers arriving into the United States, resulting in a probable undercount for 2017.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses these data when calculating the balance of trade, as expenditures by these visitors are counted as exports for the United States. In 2016, travel and tourism accounted for 11 percent of all U.S. exports and 33 percent of all services exports. The United States realized an $83.9 billion balance of trade surplus for travel and tourism in 2016. These data are also used by destinations and private-sector companies in expanding exports, and by U.S. government agencies in the development of policy.
Prior to the announcement of the suspension in the release of the data, NTTO had been struggling to reduce the lag time between its receipt of data from CBP and its monthly releases. Prior to the announcement, the most recent data were about six months behind real time. In trying to expedite the release of data, NTTO had stopped the issuance of accompanying releases that summarized the monthly numbers—which were sometimes wildly at variance with the final numbers.
It was unclear from this action by NTTO when the release of data might resume. It used to be that NTTO used to time the release of its annual spring long-range forecast to coincide with IPW. But that did not take place last year, nor will it
Williamsson Appointed as President of NAJ Group
Sofia Williamsson has been named president of the NAJ Group, the tour and travel industry organization that targets the needs of international and receptive tour operators and which produces a series of events, publications and online resources which include the RTO Summit series of conference-and-business meeting sessions; Active America China Summits; TourOperatorLand.com and the INBOUND Report.
A long-time veteran of the NAJ Group, Williamsson, who previously was chief operating officer of the company, recently celebrated her 20th anniversary with the company. A native of Sweden, she moved in 1998 to San Francisco from Miami, where she had been a nanny for a family that regarded her so highly—and saw her potential—that they financed her college education for four years.
Recalled NAJ founder and CEO Jake Steinman: “Her resume in our interview consisted of unfolding a newspaper article honoring her as one of the top ten graduates in her class—a marvelous combination of smarts, grit and sweetness all rolled up in someone with a huge heart.”
Williamsson can be contacted at [email protected].
Celebrating IPW 50 Years: What Was Your Most Memorable Moment? From Mike Prejean, Louisiana Tourism, Brandon Barnes, Atlanta CVB
As we prepare to gather in Denver on May 19th for the 50th iteration of IPW—the most important event on the inbound tour and travel industry’s calendar—the INBOUND Report shares recollections of and about the event from those who have been a part of IPW (formerly Pow Wow) over the years. This week, we feature the recollections of two veteran tour and travel industry professionals: Mike Prejean, international marketing and sales, contracts and missions, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Brandon Barnes, director, international sales and marketing, Atlanta CVB.
Mike Prejean: “My most memorable moment? That’s easy: getting the registration complete. I wrote to them and told them that I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I cannot get the registration done correctly the first time. So, every year, I bring them booze from Louisiana because I feel so sorry that they have to take extra time completing my registration.”
Brandon Barnes: “Five or six years ago, during an appointment at IPW with an Australian tour operator, he happened to remark about how intensely popular the TV show ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ had become in Australia. And then he looked me in the eye and said ‘You’ve got to get those bitches down here.’”
Acquisitions and Additions in the Tour Operator World
- Apple Leisure Group and Mark Travel Corporation Form Combined Company: The Mark Travel Corporation and Apple Leisure Group have signed a definitive agreement to join for the deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018. Trisept Solutions, a leisure travel technology solutions provider and sister company of Mark Travel, will also be part of the combined company, which will continue to operate the various brands offered by both Apple Leisure Group, Mark Travel and Trisept Solutions and will maintain principal executive offices in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, a Philadalphia suburb, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Apple Leisure Group’s subsidiaries include AMR Resorts, tour operator Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions and OTA CheapCaribbean.com. Mark Travel’s tour businesses—they include the receptive tour operator Mark International—will gain access to 52 high-end resorts and spas operating under the Zoetry, Secrets, Dreams, Breathless, Now and Sunscape brands.
- Flytour Travels and MMTGapnet Announce Merger: In Brazil, the Flytour Group’s Flytour Viagens and MMTGapnet recently announced their merger, creating Brazil’s second largest tour operator company, behind only CVC. The move brings together the domestic and international market strengths that the two companies had separately.
“Flytour Viagens MMT is the most complete operator in Brazil in terms of national and international services,” said Michael Barkoczy, who had taken over as president of both brands. “We will never let go of the DNA of each company, Flytour Travel with excellence in the domestic and MMTGapnet strongest in international products of high standard and personalized service, always with travel agents as the only distribution channel, of whom we want to be even closer.’
Data from the Flytour Group indicate that 65 percent of travel agents who bought MMTGapnet did not buy Flytour Viagens, the same as those who bought with the second and did not work with the first. “This shows the opportunity when we talk about this merger. Apart from product differentiation, there is a huge opportunity for customers to work,” noted Barkoczy.
- Vision Travel to Acquire UNIGLOBE One Travel: Vision Travel, a Direct Travel company, has announced that it is acquiring UNIGLOBE One Travel, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The acquisition continues Vision Travel’s strategy to expand in key markets throughout Canada. UNIGLOBE One Travel, a franchise of UNIGLOBE Travel (Western Canada), has been delivering innovative, customized and technology driven corporate travel solutions to Canadian corporations and the SME market for over 25 years. They will continue to operate under the UNIGLOBE One Travel brand for a transition period. The acquisition is certain to increase the standing of Direct Travel among North America’s largest travel companies. Based near Denver, Colorado, it is already ranked No. 15 in the 2017 Travel Weekly Power List of the largest travel agencies in the U.S.
A Look Back at Active America China 2018 in Atlanta—Part Two
We closed out last week’s photo journey of Active America China in Atlanta with Monday’s luncheon. The rest of the day featured a busy afternoon of one-on-one business appointments between Chinese tour operators and U.S. travel suppliers, followed by an evening social function at the World of Coca Cola.
Day Three: A morning breakfast program featured Alaska’s two top destinations—Anchorage, which will host the 2019 Active America China Summit, and Fairbanks—and a luncheon by Delta Air Lines and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The business appointment sessions were full right up to the closing bell. For the evening, delegates were treated to food, music and entertainment in a program hosted by Travel South USA.
Marijuana Tourism—Are DMO’s Afraid to Promote it?
On Jan. 1, 2018 the possession, growing and sale of cannabis, or marijuana¹ became legal in California, although there is some latitude for local officials in establishing points of sale and locations of cannabis dispensaries.
But little thought seems to have been given to the role of local governments or their tourism promotion organizations in affording cannabis a role in that promotion. This became evident last week during a meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors when Tony Smithers, executive director of the Humboldt County CVB, delivered his annual presentation to supervisors.
Overall, it was a very good year for the Humboldt County tourism product—located about 280 miles north of San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean, the county is famous for its redwood forests and stunning vistas,, which no doubt helped it earn Lonely Planet’s designation as the best travel destination in the United States. Richard Stenger, media and marketing director for the bureau, said that this designation alone was worth a billion impressions online from around the world.
Still, in a thoroughly written report on the session by Thadeus Greenson of the North Coast Journal of Politics, People and Art, in its presentation the bureau overlooked the potential of cannabis-based tourism to attract more visitors to the county.
Smithers indicated it is, but not immediately, according to the Journal’s account. He indicated that, with the Redwood National Park celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, “it’s the year of the redwoods,” meaning that there were no plans plans to market Humboldt County as a cannabis tourism destination. The bureau’s focus is a mix of “destination marketing” and “destination management,” he added, noting that the cannabis industry has some “endemic problems” and needs to become “part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, Terra Carver, executive director of the Humboldt Cannabis Growers Alliance, said that while her organization supports the bureau’s efforts she was “very concerned with the lack of cannabis” in its plans. The board, she said, passed a landmark cannabis land use ordinance four years ago and has continued to be on the forefront of regulating the industry, most recently with the consideration of an ordinance that would allow farm-based retail sales, farm stays and tours.
“Why would an organization, after four years, not have a plan to incorporate cannabis into their strategy?” she asked. “Just imagine if Napa didn’t market wine.”
Chuck Leishman, the Journal‘s general manager and publisher of its Insider tourism magazine, warned the board that he sees Humboldt County in danger of entering a “severe recession” as it transitions out of an “underground” cannabis economy. The county has national brand recognition when it comes to cannabis, Leishman said, and marketing that to potential tourists would help strengthen the local economy.
Mariellen Jurkovich, owner of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center—it operates a dispensary in the county and is working toward getting one permitted in Eureka—told the board she’d like to see someone from the cannabis industry on the bureau’s 21-member board of directors. She said she sees the bureau marketing “wine-and-dine” opportunities in Humboldt and wonders why cannabis wouldn’t fit into that approach.
Supervisor Estelle Fennell made the point that, underground or regulated, the local cannabis industry is already putting heads in beds, noting that when Napa County markets the wine industry it showcases people imbibing in a “beautiful environment,” adding, “We’ve got both.”
While there was no indication that the CVB was prepared to change its plans in the near-term future, it seemed clear from the article that cannabis tourism advocates had made their point.
To contact the author of the original article, write [email protected].
¹ Cannabis is used in three main forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil. Marijuana is made from dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It is the least potent of all the cannabis products and is usually smoked or made into edible products like cookies or brownies. Learn more in this brief article from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington: http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org/factsheets/whatiscannabis.htm
RTO Summit NY UPDATE: US Travel’s Public Affairs VP on “Extreme Vetting” Proposal Requesting Social Media History from 14 Million Inbound Tourists
Patricia Rojas-Unger, vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association, will speak at NAJ’s RTO Summit East next week in New York City, addressing a controversial U.S. State Department proposal which would ask visa applicants to provide details on the social media accounts they have used in the past five years, as well as telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel during the same period. Rojas-Unger will speak on April 17 during an “in conversation with” session moderated by Jake Steinman and Jason Hackett the first day of the two-day Summit, which will be held in the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel.
The proposed State Department regulation would not affect countries that are a part of the Visa Waiver Program—there are 38 nations in the program—but would affect such key overseas source markets such as China, India and Brazil, as well as all of South America except for Chile. The proposal, which comes from the state department, would require most visa applicants to give details of their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Those affected by the proposed regulation—some 14.7 million people a year—would have to disclose all social media identities used in the past five years. The information would be used to identify and vet those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
A Little More than Six Weeks to be Heard: If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the new rule will expand the vetting process applied to those flagged for extra immigration scrutiny –a policy implemented last year—to every immigrant visa applicant and to non-immigrant visa applicants including business professionals and tourists. The State Department published its notice of request for public comment in the Federal Register on March 30. The comment period on the proposal concludes on May 29, 2018. The notice posted by the State Department indicated that it wants to expand the information it collects by adding questions to its Electronic Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (DS-260).
Agenda: NAJ’s RTO Summit East
April 17, 2018
9:00-9:05 am: Opening Remarks
9:05-9:30 am: Receptive Operator Channel of Distribution: Evolution or Devolution? How the Receptive Operator Channel of distribution has evolved over the past 40 years. Through bankruptcies, acquisitions, consolidation, and fragmentation the RTO channel has experienced one challenge after another to its existence. Yet, through craftiness, spunk and entrepreneurial spirit, they continue to survive. Presenter: Jake Steinman, Founder of NAJ Group
9:30-10:10 am: The Supplier Panel. A panel of seasoned suppliers whose business depend primarily on the inbound market, discuss trends they see with receptive operators. Panelists: Juan Sepulveda, Director of International Sales, The Roosevelt Hotel; Sheelagh Wylie, Vice President, Business Development & Head of Sales, Midways Attractions, North America, Merlin Entertainment, Stefan Merkel, President, Explore Marketing
10:10-10:30 am: Morning Break
10:30-10:50 am: Case Study—Capital Region USA. Using Social Media Marketing and Targeting to create Demand International for your destination or product. Presenter: Stacey Sheetz, Digital Marketing Director, Capital Region USA
10:50-11:30 am: The DMO Panel. A diverse panel of destinations experts will provide insights into their international marketing strategies as well as…
- How they hold in-country reps’ feet to the fire
- Tips and tricks to get the most out of IPW
- Their opinions of what “Trade show of Future” might include?
Panelists include: Greg Eckhart, Manager Global Sales Asia, Travel Oregon, Jennifer Costa, Director, Elizabeth (NJ) DMO, Greg Edevane, Director of Global Development, The Countryside of Philadelphia
11:30-11:45 am: Thinking Outside the State—How Lake Charles Louisiana partnered with Visit Houston to create an international marketing program that eschews the traditional DMO silo and political norm that prohibits working with out of state entities Presenter: Anne Klenke, Tourism Director, Visit Lake Charles
11:45 am-12:05 pm: Latest Trends that will Affect Chinese Inbound Tourism in 2018-19. For the past 10 years inbound tourism from China has been on a vertical growth trajectory. In addition to the top trends affecting the market, the presenter will also address what, if any, impact the Trump Administration’s recent trade policies may have on inbound tourism from America’s number one emerging market. Presenter: Yiling Pan, Associate Editor, Jing Travel
12:05-12:30 pm: Case Study—What we Learned from Using Facebook Live to stage a Fam Tours and Site for Travel and Meeting Planners. Presenter: Jason Hackett, President, Brier Katama Agency
12:30-2:00 pm: Lunch on own
2:00-2:30 pm: Say What? What we as an Industry Can do to Prevent a New State Department proposal that will require 14 million international visitors to provide their Social Media histories. Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President, Public Affairs, US Travel Association.
2:30-2:45 pm: Forward Thinkers—Faisal Subluban, President and CEO, Bonotel ExclusiveTravel (i)
2:45-3:00 pm: Forward Thinkers—Mark Morello, CEO, AlliedTpro (i)
3:00-3:15 pm: Forward Thinkers—Jack Lok, Advisor, Universal Vision (formerly L&L)
3:15-3:30 pm: Afternoon Break
3:30-5:30 pm: Receptive Insight Roundtables. Invited Receptive Operators include:
- Esther Roth, AlliedTPro
- Suzi Steiger, RMP Travel
- Yves Fore, America & Beyond
- Jack Lok, Founder L&L, Advisor, China Nihao
- Tomás Rey, Rey Royal
- Josephine Formato, AmericanTours International
For more information, visit www.rtosummit.com.
At a Glace: Loudoun, Virginia
For full information CLICK HERE
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Louis Lu is leaving his post as international sales manager at Destination DC to join Brand USA, beginning next month. Lu had been with Destination DC for more than four years. Previously, he was a partner and marketing director at the Shanghai-based Wowo Trip Club
Lisa Tejeda has joined New York City & Company as director, tourism market development, serving Latin America and the USA Hispanic market. In her new role, she will work together with NYC & Company’s travel trade representatives in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina to drive business to New York City’s five boroughs from these key markets, in addition to Colombia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States. She reports to Makiko Matsuda Healy, managing director, tourism market development. Tejeda joins NYC & Company with more than 14 years of sales experience, most recently as senior group sales manager, overseeing leisure and incentive markets, at Novotel New York Times Square Hotel until March 2016, when she embarked on a two-year sabbatical to travel the world solo.
Jeremy Ellis, TUI UK and Ireland’s marketing and customer experience director, is is leaving the company after 27 years. He has overseen its marketing division since 2011. During Ellis’ tenure, TUI UK rebranded Thomson as a part of the TUI and increased the latter’s online presence and reach. Ellis will be succeeded by Katie McAlister, a 19-year veteran of the company, who will join the Tui UK and Ireland board as chief marketing officer beginning June 1.
Kurt Burkhart, executive director of the Charlottesville (Va.) Albemarle CVB, has announced his retirement from the bureau, effective May 1, 2018. Prior to joining the organization nine years ago, he had tenures as executive director of the Carlsbad (California) CVB and as director of Flagstaff, Arizona CVB. Earlier, he had served as special assistant for tourism and trade to the governor of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The Greater Boston CVB , according to the Boston Globe, has been interviewing candidates for a new number two: a chief operating officer who would be heir apparent to Pat Moscaritolo when he retires, which, the Globe says, “he insists isn’t anytime soon.” Moscaritolo has headed the Boston bureau for nearly three decades.
With the merger in Brazil of Flytours Viagens (Travel) and MMTGapnet into a single tour operator business (Flytour Viagens MMT), Bárbara Picolo has been named the operator’s director of international products for the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. She had held the same position with Flytour prior to the merger.
Steven Harris has been named business development manager for EMEA and India for the Canadian tour train Rocky Mountaineer. He joins the company from MSC Cruises, where he worked for the past 10 years in roles including most recently as national account manager. Harris was previously a regional sales and development manager for Thomas Cook and managed a MyTravel retail stores in the UK Midlands.
JetBlue Airways has announced the appointment of Andres Barry as president of the airline’s new subsidiary, JetBlue Travel Products. In this new role, Barry will lead the growth of the JetBlue Vacations brand and other non-air travel products including travel insurance, cruises, car rentals and more. Barry will be based at JetBlue’s main support center in Long Island City, N.Y. He will report directly to Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s president and CEO. Most recently, Barry was partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group, a global management strategy consulting firm.
Luis Reche, who last month left his position as vice president of product of Hotelbeds for Latin America and the Caribbean, and was replaced by Gisela Blok, has joined W2M, the bed bank of the Iberostar group, as director of Americas, with the responsibility of developing and expanding both the receptive business and the bed bank business in the region. He is based in Cancún. Reche will report in his new role to the W2M’s chief operating officer, Patricia Rosselló.