Fixed Glitch: NTTO Revises 2017 Inbound Travel to the US Upward
Following a five-month layoff in which it had suspended the publication of overseas arrivals to the U.S., the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) issued revised arrivals* figures for 2016 and 2017, confirming what many in the tour and travel industry knew: last year was one in which most key overseas markets recovered from a lethargic 2016 during which inbound traffic from these markets declined due to a number of factors—not the least of which was an extremely strong U.S. dollar vs. most key global currencies. (The table of the top 20 overseas source markets, showing those country markets which had record years in either 2015 or 2017 illustrates how weak 2016 was.) Some notes on the NTTO data release:
—By a small margin, 2017 produced a record number of overseas visitors (38.9 million), while overall international visitor traffic was 76.9 million, slightly off from the 77.8 million visitors who came to the U.S. in 2015. Last year would have been a record year for overall international arrivals to the U.S. were it not for a decline of more than a million annual visitors from Mexico—the country’s currency, the peso, plummeted in value against the U.S. dollar.
—Brazil staged a strong recovery last year as the nation’s economy—after mired in a record recession for two years—began to expand in the first quarter of 2017 and continued to do so for the rest of the year and into 2018. The three-year period of 2015-2107 has made CVC, already the largest travel company in Brazil, an even stronger presence, as it acquired a half-dozen smaller operators during the same time frame.
—Arrivals from South Korea to the United States increased by nearly a third from 2015 to 2017, propelling it to the Number 4 position among the Top 20 overseas source markets for inbound tourism to the United States.
Back to the Future: US Travel to Place More Emphasis on Promoting Domestic Travel
“With domestic tourism more than 60 percent of the U.S. travel industry, we wonder why this took so long.”
This was the author’s comment in an article in the travel business publication Skift in reporting on changes underway at the U.S. Travel Association, known also as US Travel, as the organization shifts to a greater emphasis on domestic travel–travel by U.S. residents within America.
Given the history of US Travel, this should not come entirely as a surprise; after all, its mission is to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States. And for roughly the first three decades of the life of the association—founded in October 1941 by a group of destination tourism officials—that was known as the National Association of Travel Organizations (NATO). Somehow, the NATO acronym never really caught on. We wonder why.
US Travel, which under the leadership of Roger Dow, a senior Marriott sales official who took over as president and CEO in 2005, has regularly surveyed the group’s members (there are currently about 1,300 of them) to take the pulse of the organization and its needs, as well as the U.S. travel industry that it serves. This input has led to restructurings and changes in emphases throughout Dow’s tenure in office.
Early on, Dow’s response to membership feedback led to the departure of a number of senior employees as well as an increased emphasis on government affairs and lobbying. The name of the association—it was known upon Dow’s arrival as the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA)—changed to U.S. Travel Association in 2009, and the government affairs activities of the Travel Business Roundtable were folded into its portfolio. US Travel now has a flourishing PAC and has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Republicans and Democrats.
It was also in March 2009 that President Barack Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act that established Brand USA. Then, two months later, Dow arranged for a White House meeting between a dozen or so travel industry leaders with President Obama—a first for the industry.
Where do we go from here? On the basis of feedback from its membership, US Travel has learned that, or determined to show that, it is time to return to that part of the organization’s mission which stresses its charge to “promote and facilitate increased travel … within the United States.”
Expect to see some restructuring of US Travel in the near future.
* Raymond Loewy’s design firm (Loewy/Snaith) designed this Discover America weathervane symbol, which was selected as DATO’s logo and promotional signature, as it can point in any direction.
PIT (Partially Independent Travel, a.k.a. Bare Bones Tourism) Now offered by Cosmos
Globus Introduces à la carte Style of Touring with its Cosmos Lite: For the past two years the INBOUND Report, as well as its Receptive Tour Operator (RTO) Summit speakers, has talked about the emergence of a new kind of tour product that is neither FIT (Fully Independent Travel) or GIT (Group Inclusive Travel), but is an amalgam—a hybrid—of the two: PIT, or Partially Independent Travel.
The PIT model suggests that a tour provide some essentials of both the FIT and GIT models. There is a package, to be sure, but one that allows the customer freedom to tour on his or her own between pickups and drop offs, and to have options instead of a wire-to-wire itinerary in which the entire group keeps to the same timetable.
Last week, the Globus family of travel brands, through its Cosmos label (it is promoted as “affordable touring” product) introduced Cosmos Lite, which it bills as “the world’s first first à la carte escorted tour style.”
What it Offers: The 2019 Cosmos Lite vacation product comprises 10 European packages that include accommodations, daily breakfast and transportation between cities with a professional tour guide.
All excursions are separate, giving travelers the option to purchase only the tours and activities that they find interesting, or none at all.
As an example of exactly what the price point for the new product Cosmos Lite listed the 10 new European holidays for Canadian consumers. Cost of the escorted tours listed below do not include air fare:
—Spanish City Explorer (9 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
—Spanish Heritage Explorer (8 days, priced from Cdn$929)
—Portugal Explorer (7 days, priced from Cdn$989)
—Italian Explorer (8 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
—Northern Italy Explorer (8 days priced from Cdn$1,189)
—Veneto Explorer (7 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
—Danube Explorer (8 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
—England Explorer (7 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
—Ireland Explorer (7 days, priced from Cdn$1,129)
—Scotland Explorer (7 days, priced from Cdn$1,189)
Tower of Voices Dedicated at Flight 93 Memorial: At the Flight 93 Memorial just north of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a 93-foot tall Tower of Voices was dedicated earlier this month—on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when terrorists commandeered four passenger jets and crashed two of them at the World Trade Center in New York and another at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The terrorists had planned to crash a fourth jet aircraft at the U.S. Capital, but passengers banded together and, instead, United Flight #93 went down a rural part of Pennsylvania about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The 2,200-acre Flight 93 National Memorial is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service. For more information on groups and other matters, visit: https://www.nps.gov/flni/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm.
In a move that seems certain to accommodate greater visitor numbers, including groups, the Motown Museum in Detroit will begin restoring three historic homes adjacent to the Hitsville USA house in Detroit’s New Center following approval for the project from green light from Detroit’s Historic District Commission. The home restoration is the first phase of a $50 million expansion project that will add 40,000 square feet to the museum and transform it into a 50,000-square-foot campus. The enhanced center will have interactive exhibits, The Ford Motor Company Theater (which will feature live entertainment on a regular basis) recording studios, meeting spaces, a cafe and expanded retail facilities. For more information, visit: www.motownmuseum.org, or call 318.875.2264.
The widely anticipated Fashion District Philadelphia, a mall which is a joint venture by Macerich and PREIT is expected to open in September 2019 at the site of the former Gallery on 9th and Market Streets. Some stores are open now. The new mall will feature designed label favorites, dining options that range from fast food to linen-tablecloth options, an entertainment zone that includes movie theatres and event space. Located in Center City Philadelphia, the Fashion District will be within walking distance of many of the city’s famous attractions. International visitors who visit the mall are reminded that, in Pennsylvania, there are no sales taxes on the purchase of shoes or clothing. For more information, visit: http://www.fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com/Development.
Lake Tahoe Opens Underwater Trail to Sunken Ships—it is one of the most photographed sites in the state—is opening an underwater trail to four sites where there are more than a dozen sunken ships resting in a boat graveyard that dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. The collection is the largest, most diverse group of sunken small watercraft of their type, in their original location, known to exist in the nation, says Denise Jaffe associate state archaeologist with the California State Parks and a scuba diver who helped develop the project. While it seems that it would be a tour that would be especially interesting to scuba divers—and it is, as divers can pay from $50 per dive and more to get up close—boat passengers will also be able to see the sunken boats because of the clear, see-through water for which Lake Tahoe is famous. As well, waterproof interpretive cards created for divers, with GPS locations, are be available at the park’s visitors center, local dive shops and online at the state park website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=506.
Chinese Traveling More, Spending Less
Earlier this year, David Becker, CEO of Attract China, a consultancy that advises companies on how to tap into the Chinese traveler market, cautioned delegates to the NAJ* Active America China Summit in Atlanta to be aware that, although the Chinese market represents a vast and lucrative market, one should be careful, Becker said, and “stop thinking about them as walking dollar signs. Think about the immersive experience they’re searching for.”
The latest Moodie Davitt Report, citing the findings of mid-year research by Chinese online travel agency Ctrip (it is China’s largest OTA) and the China Tourism Academy (CTA)that average spending of Chinese tourists, said that—even though outbound travel volume increased—spending by Chinese travelers had once again dropped. That is, average spending by Chinese tourists per outbound trip fell by 14.2 percent in dollar terms to around $758 (5200 yuan), down from $883 for the whole of 2017.
The research results provide a context for this this phenomenon:
First, while a 14.2 percent drop in average spending per trip is no small figure, the decline is to be expected as more Chinese residents of more modest means are going abroad and act as the main driver of outbound tourism growth from China.
Second, more tourists going abroad will mean more spending overall, even it’s less on average per trip.
Third, the falling yuan has had a dramatic impact on purchasing power, and is a big factor in constraining how much Chinese tourists choose to spend on outbound tourism. Inbound did a quick study of the Yuan vs. the U.S. dollar on the global currency markets, and found that the yuan had dropped more than 8 percent against the dollar in the past six months.
Other points made in the Ctrip-CTA report include the following:
—Overall, outbound trips are up and 2018 is well on its way to blow past 2017. All in all, 71.31 million outbound trips were made by Chinese tourists in the first half of 2018, up 15 percent from 62.03 million. This fact alone will help keep overall spending by outbound Chinese tourists steady and should serve as a reminder that the fundamentals of Chinese outbound tourism will likely remain strong for the foreseeable future.
—What initiatives are working to attract Chinese tourists? The CTA cites marketing pushes by major tourist destinations, visa facilitation, tax-exemption policies which promote shopping and innovative travel products such as island hopping, parent-child tours and customized travel.
.—In dollar terms, the drop in average spending is quite dramatic. But when comparing average spending in RMB terms, average spending by Chinese tourists stood at around 5,750 yuan ($838) per outbound trip in 2017. In yuan terms, outbound spending then decreased by a more modest 9.6 percent.
—Despite lower spending power, Chinese consumers seem to be maintaining a strong appetite for travel. A 15 percent increase outbound trips is an impressive figure, especially with the yuan losing its value.
—The top 20 outbound travel departure cities are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xi ‘an, Hangzhou, Kunming, Tianjin, Changsha, Zhengzhou, Nanchang, Guiyang, Jinan, Hefei, Nanning and Fuzhou.
—The Top10 outbound destinations for Chinese travelers are Thailand Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, the USA and Cambodia.
—The demographics of China’s outbound travelers were 53% female and 47% male, with the post-80s the backbone of outbound tourism at 31 per cent
* NAJ (North American Journeys) is also the publisher of the INBOUND Report.
A View from the Commode: The Toilet Awards Reveal Bathrooms as Attractions
It has long been known that rest rooms are an important and integral part of group travel. Buses with groups make regular stops at National Park Service visitor centers and highway information or visitor information locations. But so do FIT travelers who are driving an automobile or van.
A now, the understanding of the importance of the toilet, the public bathroom, the restroom, to the tourist has reached the point that there is an annual international awards ceremony for the best in the world: this past summer, the Second Annual International Toilet Tourism Awards were hosted in Sydney, Australia.
In a playfully worded, yet serious take on the subject—well designed and accessible bathrooms are critically important to those with disabilities or mobility issues—Richard Davison, a columnist for the Otago (NZ) Daily Times, laid out the case for, the reasons for, and the popularity of, the destination toilet. Including our edits, it went like this:
—Tourism businesses need people.
—People need toilets.
—Nicer, more aesthetic bathrooms add value to a destination’s brand
—Brand aware travelers remember and return to the destination brands they value.
—Or, in a sentence, build a better bathroom and they will come (and maybe go).
The move toward building better bathrooms seems to have caught on in recent years. Davison tells us of a facility in the nearby town of Roxburgh that cost $583,000 and included a canopy, living wall and original artwork from Bill and Michelle Clarke totaling $113,000. Now five years old, the bathroom reportedly has delivered an additional $1 million per year in tourist revenues.
Two of the 2018 International Toil Tourism Awards’ six winners are in the USA:
Best Location –– Hotel La Jolla (a Curio Collection by Hilton), Shores Drive, La Jolla, California. “Sitting on the 11th floor overlooking La Jolla and the sea, the restroom offers a breathtaking view of the coastal urban village of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean off San Diego.”
Quirkiest Experience – Bowl Plaza, Lucas Kansas. “Bowl Plaza is a public restroom with bling! The restrooms, which took four years to build, are now a major attraction in Lucas, the small town grassroots arts capital of Kansas. The bathroom’s walls are covered inside and out with detailed mosaics created by local residents and artists. The entire building is shaped like a toilet tank. The entrance is designed like a raised toilet lid with benches that represent the curved toilet seat. The sidewalk to the loos flows from a large concrete toilet roll. Bowl Plaza is now very popular with residents and tourists and has its own guest register.”
For more information, visit: https://www.mytravelresearch.com/the-mytravelresearch-com-2018-international-toilet-tourism-award-winners-announced/
At a Glance Series: Sevierville at a Glance
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HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
After 12 years at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Fernando Harb, senior vice president of tourism sales, is leaving the organization. A long-time veteran of the tour and travel industry, Harb previously served as director of sales and marketing at the Hollywood Beach Marriott and, prior to that, as director of international and production sales at the Roney Beach Palace Resort.
Doug Killian has left his post as senior director of international tourism for Mall of America. He had been with the shopping attraction for nearly 17 years. Previously, he had been with Northwest Airlines for almost 20 years, lastly as director of international communications.
Jeff Guaracino has been named the new president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia. Guaracino, who comes to the position from Welcome America where he was president and CEO, succeeds Meryl Levitz, who is retiring next month after 22 years on the job. Guaracino had previously served in several leadership roles at Visit Philadelphia from 2001 to 2012. Visit Philadelphia promotes leisure travel to the Greater Philadelphia area, while the Philadelphia CVB focuses on city, and is the primary marketing agency for the city’s convention business.
Markus Daldrup has stepped down as managing director of Germany’s fourth-largest tour operator, Alltours, leaving it to owner Willi Verhuven to once again run the business. Daldrup, who took over as managing director, has been with the company for more than 15 years in two separate periods. According to Alltours, he will stay until the end of 2019 as head of the travel agency business. Daldrup is the latest in a series of managers to leave the company, reportedly due to disagreements with Verhuven who founded Alltours more than 40 years ago.
Jim Forward as has been named the new commercial director for Riviera Travel, a UK-based operator that offers escorted tours worldwide. Forward starts in the new position on December 1. He has been chief executive at walking holidays co-operative HF Holidays for five years. Previously, he held roles including managing director of Warner Leisure Hotels and head of sales and marketing for Butlin’s.
Carrie Christoffersen has been appointed executive director of the Newseum. She takes over the responsibilities of Scott Williams, who served as president and chief operating officer to take on the post of president and CEO of Discovery Park America in Union City, Tennessee. Christoffersen comes to the new post—which, she has explained, is a reconfiguration of the job—from her post as vice president of exhibits.