Coming Soon from NAJ: TravelAbility Summit … because Everyone Should be Able to Travel
NAJ (North American Journeys) Group, publisher of INBOUND, is announcing the launch of TravelAbility Summit, a new tour and travel industry event aimed at making travel easier and more enjoyable for those with physical and behavioral disabilities.
The TravelAbility Summit will address this matter from a business-to-business marketing and product development perspective by bringing together the newest innovative tourism products, technology and existing tour operator who specialize in this niche together in one place. We plan to include educational sessions featuring advocates of those who have challenges traveling, along with a regular, monthly publication featuring relevant news of this sector to the tour and travel industry.
“We’re tapping into a new (to us) market and leveraging our expertise and contacts built over 20 years producing boutique events for the tour and travel industry,” explained Jake Steinman, Founder of the NAJ Group, the parent company of INBOUND. “Once we began to look into it, we were astonished at the creativity and energy that is being invested in the area that most people don’t know about.”
Here are a few examples of what we’ve found:
· Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has created coin-operated roadside binoculars that allow color-blind travelers to experience fall in the Smoky Mountains. See the video
· Myrtle Beach, S.C. has become one of the country’s first “autism-friendly” destinations. See the video
· Travel Oregon has developed a resource guide for the adventure traveler with a disability. .
· Gatorland in Florida offers a disability-friendly zip line that takes visitors over alligator habitats.
Then there are all of the unforeseen challenges that may arise that few of us really think about. One New York destination had to prepare to host an upcoming convention in which several thousand blind attendees would be participating. Not only did they need to address audio-enabled traffic lights, but also find designated areas for up to 500 guide dogs to poop.
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control released last month, 60 million Americans have some form of physical or cognitive disability. If TravelAbility Summit can hatch new products and technology ideas that will help make travel easier for them, it will benefit everyone.
We are planning to form a TravelAbility Advisory Council comprised of experts who can help us develop the best and most relevant agenda.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are a DMO, hotel or attraction with knowledge of product or contact that we may want to feature, send the information to: .
TravelAbility Summit is being planned for Portland, Oregon in late 2019. Date and venue TBA.
Hotelbeds Introduces “Concierge” Services to Upsell FIT’s
- Hotelbeds Introduces Service focused on FITs: Global bedbank Hotelbeds has announced that its Ancillary Bank division has launched a new concierge service for its “end traveler” through the company’s third party travel clients.
The concierge offering specifically targets the FIT demographic. Available across all Hotelbeds channels – including wholesale and retail platforms as well as the Hotelbeds, Tourico Holidays, GTA and Bedsonline brands, the service has been designed to put guests at ease once in situ. Highlights include a personal greeting on arrival; interpretation and translation services; information on local infrastructure, transport as well as culture, lifestyle, sports and heritage.
Javier Arévalo, Ancillary Bank director at Hotelbeds Group, said that the new product “helps keep Hotelbeds Group’s Ancillary Bank as a leading in-destination services specialist – and help give our travel intermediary clients an additional competitive edge with their customer, the end traveler. This allows us to offer the first service focused on Fully Independent Travelers, with the goal to offer advice and personalized attention by local experts from the very beginning of the stay.”
He added: “This service brings together a very complete value proposition for the traveler, allowing not only assistance during all the stay (solving doubts or covering any need), but also gives the possibility to improve the travel experience in-destination by adding additional and relevant services. All this through our local Hotelbeds Group trusted experts that will be available 24/7 via telephone.”
Speaking at the time of the launch, Carlos Muñoz, bedbank managing director at Hotelbeds described the thought behind Ancillary Bank inception: “This fast growing area for our Group forms a core part of our strategy for growth via offering the 60,000+ travel intermediaries around the world who use our platform as the opportunity to upsell their customers with the full range of travel needs and experiences.”
Hotelbeds Group is offering the concierge service, which had a soft launch several months ago, in key Thai destinations such as Bangkok and Phuket; Malta and Bodrum in the Mediterranean and Punta Cana, Cancun and Riviera Maya in Latin America. The group will roll out the service in more territories over the course of the yea
CVC Aims to Rival TUI as World’s Largest Operator
CVC, the dominant travel company in Argentina and South America, is expanding its reach outside its home country. As part of a planned internationalization strategy, the tour operator/travel agency announced last week that it has acquired a majority interest in three Argentine operators and, as a result, nine new brands.
The companies are Biblos and Avantrip (part of the same group, Bibam) and Ola Turismo for nearly $20 million. For the three, the Brazilian company disbursed US $ 19.4 million (about R $ 80 million).
The Bibam Group was founded in 1979 and is among the largest e-commerce businesses in Argentina. It has more than 400 employees and operates in the online sector through platforms that offer travel products and services, as well as a benefits and loyalty program (Avantrip.com, Alliances, Avantrip Pymes and Quieroviajes). In the off-line sector it operates through travel agencies (Biblos and FCM Travel Solution) focus on the luxury, corporate and events market, with confirmed annual reserves of approximately $ 200 million in 2017.
Ola Transatlántica Turismo has more than 40 years of experience and has more than 320 employees. Ola Transatlántica Turismo has three brands: the Ola Mayorista de Turismo, Quinceañas and Transatlántica Viajes y Turismo, with annual reserves confirmed in 2017 of US $ 285 million. Ola Transatlántica Turismo is based in Rosario and offers products and services throughout the Argentine territory through multi-brand travel agencies.
Another consequence of the acquisitions could be increased traffic to the United States, as the CVC corporate structure will now include additional units selling travel to the USA.
Another TUI? In an interview with the Brazilian travel trade news site, PANROTAS, Luiz Eduardo Falco said the choice of Argentina as a country in which start its internationalization, Argentina was an obvious choice, explaining that “the customers of the companies bought go to Brazil, the Caribbean and Orlando, and the only difference is that they go more to Spain than to Portugal. That is, there is a very big coincidence in the flow of tourists where we already have agreements, negotiations and structure. This makes it easier to produce products.”
According to PANROTAS, CVC is negotiating new acquisitions in Brazil and abroad, with a focus on Chile, Mexico and Portugal.
In another interview, this one with Guilherme Paulus, the founder of CVC, Paulus told PANROTAS that, with additional receptive business brought about by the expansion of the company “CVC may be one of those anchors to increase the flow of foreigners in Brazil,” he said, adding that his dream is to see CVC Corp rival the German giant TUI, the world’s largest operator, adding, “With the beginning of the internationalization, much of the way is already gone.”
Editor’s note: Prior to last week’s announcement, CVC acquired a half-dozen Brazilian operators in the past several years, the most notable being Grupo Trend, which is headquartered in Orlando, in May 2017. Weeks later, CVC announced that it had retained JTB Americas, a unit of Japan’s largest tour operator, to serve CVC’s customers New York, Florida and California in the United States, suggests that it is trying to expand its footprint in both North America and South America through the synergy brought about by its partnership with JTB and the latter’s global network, which includes subsidiaries in Brazil. Recently, JTB amended the partnership by informing CVC they would no longer be servicing their F.I.T. clients as they prefer to focus on the group sector.
New Data: UK Arrivals Update
After a six-month lag in time since it produced hard data on the number of UK residents who have visited North America (generally, about 90 percent of those visits are to the U.S.), the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released preliminary data for the first quarter of 2018. They show that compared to Q1 2017, arrivals for the first quarter of were off by just eight-tenths of a percentage point. The figure tends to confirm what U.S. receptive tour operators were telling INBOUND last autumn as the last bookings by British travelers for the 2017-2018 winter season were being made.
A caution to those who would make a full-year projection, based on these data: the first quarter of the year is the weakest for UK travel to the United States and is subject to considerable variation, primarily due to the difference in dates for the Easter Holiday. (This year, Easter Sunday was observed on April 1, suggesting that March figure should have been higher than is reflected in the table below.)
The industry won’t have a definitive statistical measure on how the market is doing this year until the data are tallied for the third quarter, which includes the peak travel month of August, which should be about three months from now. UK Departures to North America.
USA Drops to #3 among World’s Most Popular Country Destinations
The just-released United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has positioned the United States at Number 3 among international tourist destinations, having been overtaken as Number 2 by Spain. The UNWTO had projected such a change in rank nine months ago.
The change in the position of the USA on the world’s Top 10 International Tourist Destinations reflects a real decline in visitors to the United States, as well as a decline in global market share-continuing a downward trend that has been in place for a decade or so.
Not noted in the UNWTO numbers was a confirmation, of a sort, of the last forecast of total U.S. international inbound traffic by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). The just-released UNWTO figure put international arrivals to the U.S. for 2017 at 75.9 million. Last January, NTTO projected a total of 75.1 million international visitors to the United States once final data for 2017 were complete. (However, NTTO last April announced that it was suspending the release of arrivals data due to some technical problems with the way arrivals numbers were being tallied and reported to the agency.) The closeness of the two numbers suggest that NTTO is not far off the mark—even with a projection that relied on faulty data.
New and Interesting (and Sometimes Weird) Product
- Cannabis Comes To Las Vegas. There was a big celebration held in downtown Las Vegas on Aug. 30 to celebrate the world’s first marijuana museum—the Cannabition Cannabis Museum. Mayor Carolyn Goodman joined city councilman Cedric Crear and Cannabition founder JJ Walker for a hemp rope burning, instead of a ribbon cutting, to celebrate the new attraction. Its founders bill it as an immersive installation of the art, history, and culture of cannabis or marijuana. Right now, there is no place to light up, but people could consume marijuana in a lounge-like atmosphere at the museum. Grand opening for the museum is Sept. 20. Retail ticket prices start at $24.20 per person. For more information, visit: https://cannabition.com/, or call 702.909.0420.
- Disney Opens Oga’s Cantina. For the first time in the 63-year history of Disney parks, there will be alcoholic beverages served next year at the new Oga’s Cantina in the new “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” section at both California’s Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. In a post on the Disney Parks Blog, Disney Imagineer Scott Trowbridge wrote, “Oga’s Cantina is the kind of establishment that attracts some of the most interesting and disreputable characters in the galaxy. Cantina customers can expect drinks concocted through “‘otherworldly’ methods, [and] served in unique vessels.” Whether it was coincidence or some other factor, the new policy coincides with the Anaheim’s hosting of IPW on June 1-5, 2019.
- Candytopia, a festival for the eyes and for the candy lover, has opened in two U.S. destinations, New York and San Francisco. The best way to describe the Candytopia experience is to quote its website:
“What if an eccentric chocolatier and a daredevil pop star had a whirlwind romance, got married while skydiving, and had a glamorous, glittering love child who grew up to rule a small nation? Welcome to Candytopia, where colossal candyfloss constructions meld with a tantalizing taffy twistedness!” Candytopia’s interactive art installation celebrates the vibrant colors and flavors of our favorite sugary delights across over a dozen environments, from flying unicorn pigs to a marshmallow tsunami. Bring your family, your friends, and your sweet tooth for an experience like none other! In San Francisco, you’ll find the attraction at 767 Market Street, next to the Four Seasons Hotel. In New York, it’s located on West 32nd Street, across from Penn Station. Retail ticket prices: $34 for adults; $26 for ages 4-12; and free for 3 and under. For more information, visit www.candytopia.com
- Now in operation is The Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The attraction offers a 360-degree view of Washington’s skyline and the surrounding area. The deck, which is mostly indoors—takes up the 31st and 32nd floors, and will has a quick service café where guests can order food, wine, and craft beer before they take a self-guided tour. Patrons are able to see as far as Silver Spring, FedEx Field, and MGM National Harbor. Legends, the firm that designed the space, is also the force behind the One World Observatory in New York. Retail ticket cost: $22 per person. For more information, visit www.theviewofdc.com, or call 703.423.0600
NEW AIR SERVICE
- On September 1, Qantas has launched year-round direct flights between Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco. The 12,646-kilometer (7,858 miles) ultra-long-haul route will be operated four times per week.
- Icelandic airline WOW air is to launch seasonal flights from the UK to Florida in December with one-way fares starting from under £130 ($169). The inaugural flight to Orlando International Airport will depart on December 18 from London Gatwick and Edinburgh. There will be three flights a week, but all of them will operate via Reykjavik, giving a total journey time from London and Edinburgh of just under 14 hours.
- American Airlines is expanding its international network with new flight offerings out of Philadelphia International Airport to a handful of European destinations. Starting next summer, American will add a total of nine new European routes, with four of them available out of Philadelphia.
From Philadelphia, flights will now be available to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Berlin, Germany; and Bologna, Italy. American will also begin offering daily summer flights to Edinburgh, Scotland from Philadelphia for the first time.
Service to Dublin, Ireland and Munich, Germany are being added at Dallas-Fort Worth, while Chicago is getting flights to Athens, Greece and Phoenix’s offerings expand to include London. In Charlotte, daily year-round service to Munich will be added. The new flights will function on a seasonal basis. Service starts between next March and June and will last through September and into October, coinciding with peak summer travel season.
- Also from American Airlines: Next March 31, the carrier will launch daily flights between London and Phoenix, Arizona. The summer only service will operate between Lond Heathrow and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, will be operated by a two-class Boeing 777 featuring Premium Economy. It will be American’s first transatlantic flight from Phoenix and it will complement the service operated to Phoenix by British Airways, its transatlantic partner.
- Is a deal close between those seeking agreement between United Airlines and three Latin American carriers? In a process that has been in the works for more than a year, according to a consensus among the observers who cover the matter, United Airlines is closer to finalizing joint-venture agreements with Colombian flag carrier, Avianca, Panamanian Copa Airlines and Brazil’s Azul.
“I think we will do it in the not too distant future, but it is difficult to predict the exact moment. All the turmoil in Latin America complicates things,” said company president Scott Kirby at the recent International Aviation Forecast Summit in Denver,” adding, “These agreements would improve connectivity between the US and Latin American aviation markets and create growth opportunities.”
At a Glance: Kentucky
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HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Fritz Smith, who has been part of the tour and travel industry in Pennsylvania for more than two decades, has been named the new executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau. Smith has worked in Pennsylvania government as director of tourism operations and as deputy secretary for tourism, film and economic development. He also has served as vice president of tourism for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and most recently was vice president of research and hotel initiatives for Visit Philadelphia
Matias Elisavetsky will be taking on the role of regional director of sourcing for the Americas market for Hotelbeds. Prior to his new role, Elisavetsky had 2006 been with Tourico Holidays since 2006. Tourico became a part of Hotelbeds Group during the summer of last year.
Hotelbeds Group also announced a series of appointments who will report to Elisavetsky, combining existing internal talent from across the three bedbanks—Hotelbeds, GTA, and Tourico Holidays. These appointments include: Renata Cenni, who will serve as regional manager for California & Nevada; Alex Hugh Jones, who becomes regional manager for Northeast U.S.; Alice Kilpatrick, who takes on the role of regional manager for the Southwest U.S.; and Bill Chambers, who changes to regional manager for the rest of U.S. & Canada.
Antonette Eckert has been promoted to the post of senior director, global tourism development at the San Francisco Travel Association. Previously, Eckert, who joined the organization four years ago, had been director of international tourism. Before joining San Francisco Travel, she served as director of Asia marketing for Visit California.
Nick Longman is joining the upscale UK tour operator Audley Travel. The move is quite a shift for Longman who had been managing director of TUI UK & Ireland for several years. Longman, who had been with one brand or another of the TUI Group, joins Audley Travel as chief operating officer at first, then will take over as chief executive on January 1, 2019, replacing Ian Simkins, who has been in the position for seven years, and will step down to become a non-executive director of the company.
Joe Robinson has joined Redeam, a relatively new company that deals with a common problem in the tour and travel industry’s tours, entertainment and attractions sector: paper vouchers and digitization. Robinson joins the business from Big Bus Tours, where he was senior vice president in New York. Robinson had been with Big Bus for more than four-and-a-half years.
Scott Williams is leaving his post as president and chief operating officer of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to take on the role of president and CEO of Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee.
Tracey Bartlam, a former Attraction World national account manager has joined the Hotelbeds Group as a sales manager, covering the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia for the group’s ancillary bank, covering add-ons such as excursions, event tickets, theme parks, cruises and car rental. Bartlam will report to European head of sales Peter Jones.
Elske Doets for 22 years at Jan Doets America Tours