Former Ft. Lauderdale CVB Official Improperly Steered Business to Boyfriend, Report Says
The recent Oct. 1 resignation of Fernando Harb as senior vice president of tourism sales for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and VisitorsBureau after nearly 12 years with the organization coincided, as it turns out, with the completion of report of an investigation by the Broward County (Fla.) inspector general that named Harb as one of those who, in effect, allowed a colleague to channel more than $250,000 in business to her boyfriend.
The report, released last week, said that Christine Roberts, the CVB’s former vice president of convention sales, used her position to select the event management companies of her boyfriend, Marcus Michaud, for all but one of eight events under her control during a period that extended from July 2012 to June 2015. The companies in question were Marcus Clovis Productions and Marcus 4 Productions.
The investigative report also found that Nicki Grossman, former president and CEO of the CVB, operated outside of the county’s procurement protocols and that Harb helped Roberts achieve her goal of hiring Michaud “while knowing that the selection was wrongful.” Roberts resigned in July of last year. Grossman had resigned in June 2016 after heading the CVB for 21 years.
Some other specifics the investigation, as reported by the South Florida Sun Times, included the following:
—Roberts used her authority to increase the overall budget for a 2012 International Association of Venue Managers event by $123,275 to account for services provided by Michaud — services that had not been requested by the host group.
—Roberts was able to steer business to Michaud was through her ability to set the specifications for a contract. For one event she required a specific pair of large prop sunglasses that Michaud’s company already owned. Officials said other vendors did not bid because the sunglasses were “too restrictive or too expensive to meet.”
—Roberts tried to give Michaud as much business as possible, and when the tourism agency made that harder to do, “she simply operated more covertly.”
—A selection committee created by the bureau violated the state’s Sunshine Law on at least two occasions in December 2014 by not publicizing its meetings and not having the meetings be open to the public.
—“Even after CVB managers reported the relationship and misuse to Ms. Grossman,” the report said, “she continued to allow her subordinates to operate outside the county’s procurement process and failed to ensure that her unauthorized practices were working to stop her agency’s imprudent spending of taxpayer money.”
The Inspector General’s Office is forwarding its report to the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Broward State Attorney’s Office “for whatever action those agencies deem appropriate.”
According to the report, the conditions that led to the problems no longer exist. Stacy Ritter, who succeeded Grossman as president and CEO two years ago, oversaw an overhaul of the bureau’s financial administrative practices.
The Mayersohn Law Group, attorneys for Roberts and Michaud, said that the report was biased, left out key facts, and that the two did not break any laws. “Roberts and Michaud ‘made absolutely no efforts to conceal their personal relationship’,” said a statement from the law firm. The loan to Michaud, which was needed because he (Michaud) required surgery and didn’t have health insurance, was “an arms-length transaction” that was publicly recorded as a loan against his property, it said.
The statement said the report overstated the authority of Roberts to influence budgets. For example, it noted the International Association of Venue Managers event extras were decided by an event committee — not Roberts — and they were needed because the committee “sought to augment its welcoming/opening presentation.”
Larry Davis, who is representing Harb, told investigators that his client was following established tourism agency policies and that Michaud received contracts despite Harb’s dislike for Michaud and a previous attempt to cut Michaud off from bureau business.
“If Mr. Michaud was improperly engaged by the CVB on any occasion, it was in spite of Mr. Harb, and solely due to Ms. Roberts’ machinations,” Davis said in a statement.
Grossman suggested that she bears some of the blame, saying, “I regret that I did not follow-up on my directives regarding Ms. Roberts, but accepted and relied upon the reports and assurances of my colleagues. As soon as I was advised that such problems were going on, despite my attempts to avoid them, I acted in good faith to ameliorate them. It was, apparently, not enough, and for that, I am truly remorseful and disappointed in myself.”
TUI wants to Enter U.S. Travel Market
Perhaps buoyed by a projected 10 percent increase in full-year earnings for the company, TUI’s CEO Fritz Joussen has announced that Europe’s largest tour operator plans to increase its presence worldwide by expanding into Asia and the United States.
Joussen’s confirmation of the forecast—it came as a surprise to many tour and travel industry analysts who expected it to be flat or down because of northern Europe’s extremely hot summer—preceded the discussion of expansion plans during an interview with Joussen by the German business magazine Bilanz.
As reported by the German travel trade news publication, FVW, he indicated that TUI wants to become “a global internet group” with customers not only in Europe but also in China and the USA in the future.
“We are going with our offer to China and the USA,” said Joussen, explaining that that the German company will not open any brick-and—mortar travel agencies in these new markets, but will sell online through its international portal TUI.com.
On previous occasions, Joussen has addressed the subject of TUI’s ambition to sell holidays in countries such as Italy and Spain along with emerging markets in Asia, especially China, and Brazil. However, the Bilanz interview marketed the first occasion in which he has mentioned the U.S. market as well.
TUI already has a small presence active in China through a tour operator venture but is not yet a major player. (You can get an indication of what the company offers in China by visiting http://www.tui.cn/en/ or http://tui.cn/en/B2B/Travel-China.)
TUI’s footprint outside Europe already includes its 49 percent share in the CanadianSunwing Group. Sunwing already sells holidays to U.S. customers.
In the interview with Bilanz, Joussenalso emphasized that TUI will invest heavily in digital technology and marketing in order to develop more personalized offers to travelers in the future. He also noted the financial importance of the company’s own hotels and cruise ships for profits as well as the strategy to expand sales of destination activities. (Last month TUI acquired Musement, a Milan-based online travel agency that specializes in tours and activities.)
Second Tier Markets Growing U.S. Inbound Numbers with New Routes, Infrastructure & Services
Tiny Ireland and Dominican Republican Sending Nearly a Million Visitors Annually: For anyone who read the revised inbound arrivals report recently issued by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism, the rankings contain no surprises—until one goes down the list and comes to the end of the Top 20 Overseas Source Markets.
There, one sees this:
The unusually high numbers for Ireland (est. population 4.8 million) and the Dominican Republic (est. population 10.8 million), which together brought 927 million visitors to the U.S. last year contrast with the 992 million sent by Venezuela (est. population 32.4 million) and Taiwan (est. population 23.6 million), which together have a population of more than three-and-a-half times that of Ireland and the Dominican Republic.
Here are several reasons for the high numbers of the two smaller countries:
—Ireland has pre-clearance facilities for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to pre-clear international passengers heading to the USA. And the Dominican Republican will soon be able to provide the same convenience. Luis Ernesto Camilo, president of the Dominican Republic’s Civil Aviation Board, the pre-authorization system for passengers traveling to the United States from the Punta Cana International Airport in the Dominican Republic will enter the service in early November. Camilo told the news site REPORTUR that the modules where the U.S. officials will work are already being prepared and will be finished soon.
—Both Ireland and the Dominican Republican benefit from their locations, which already make them facilitators of international travel. A little-known fact is that the Punta Cana International Airport is the Caribbean’s second busiest for international traffic—behind only Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marin Airport in San Juan. Punta Cana already has service from the major U.S. carriers—United, Delta and American—as well as the Panamanian carrier Copa, which has connections through Central and South America.
—In Ireland, officials at Dublin International Airport will shortly begin a formal consultation process on a nearly billion-dollar capacity investment plan which will allow Ireland’s Aer Lingus and all other airline customers at the facility– to continue to grow their business at Dublin Airport. That plan, which includes provision for a 30 percent increase in aircraft parking stands, new boarding gate piers, enlarged immigration and CBP areas, and modifications to the two existing terminals at Dublin Airport, is complementary to its North Runway project.
—Also, low-cost carrier Norwegian is using Dublin’s airport to increase European connections to the U.S. As well, Norwegian has launched some inventive routes that include a service introduce last February that takes travelers on a one-day shopping trip that uses Stewart International Airport —it’s 60 miles north of Manhattan—to take shopper to Woodbury Common, a popular shopping mall within shuttle bus distance of the airport.
Acquisitions and Mergers in the Travel Trade
A trend apparent in the tour and travel industry throughout Europe has continued apace during the past six weeks. The one common denominator to the activity seems to have larger travel sellers and suppliers acquiring smaller companies in order to fill a niche market segment or to add the same to their portfolios. Here are several examples based on recent activity on the tour and travel industry market place:
- The TUI Group has strengthened its position in the excursions, tours and activities business, as the world’s leading tourism group acquired Italian technology start-up Musement.TUI Group is already one of the leading providers in this market through its Spanish subsidiary TUI Destination Experiences. The acquisition will allow TUI to grow this high-margin segment, to expand its portfolio of travel experience products and to better customize them for clients and potential clients.
Founded just five years ago, Musement has become one of the leading online platforms for activities, tours and excursions. The Italian start-up currently offers travelers some 35,000 products in 1,100 cities around the world. Its collection ranges from admission tickets for museums, events and attractions via guided tours all the way to boat and bicycle tours. Musement has 130 employees and one million users.
The unit will initially be managed as an independent unit within TUI Destination Experiences.
TUI Destination Experiences is one of TUI Group’s three growth areas, along with cruises and hotels & resorts. The company had acquired the unit from Hotelbeds last March. TUI Destination Experiences’ portfolio primarily comprises excursions, tours and activities in all major travel markets worldwide.
- Dubai-based Dnata, whose portfolio of products includes provider of ground handling, cargo, travel and flight catering services for 300 airline customers in six continents, has acquired German tour operator Tropo. Dnata is part of the Emirates Group; its Emirates Airlines is the largest carrier in the Middle East. Tropo provides low-cost travel packages, last-minute holidays and hotel reservations in destinations such as Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Greece and Dubai. Dnata purchased Tropo from German entertainment company ProSiebenSat.1 Group, which has held a majority stake in it since 2012. The purchase agreement also includes TV media worth several million euros for 2018 and 2019. Dnata also owns the UK-based online travel agency Travel Republic.
- Frosch Travel, which is headquartered in both Houston and New York, and was ranked as No. 15 in Travel Weekly’s2018 Power List of the largest travel agencies doing business in the U.S.—it has more than $2 billion in sales last year—has acquired 50 percent of Corporate Travel Management (CTM), a major Irish firm with locations in Cork, Shannon and Westport. Founded in 2000, CTM says the investment offers an advanced suite of technology, including the addition of mobile applications and comprehensive passenger tracking.
Study Explores Emotional Motivation for Marketing of Half Dozen European Markets
While emotion-based marketing is a subject that has been thoroughly explored as it applies to consumer goods, automobiles and appliances, it has been left to scholars and researchers—especially in the area of proprietary research—to explore the subject in the area of travel and tourism.
Now, however, a new study by eDreams ODIGEO* has produced a report that details some areas of emotion-based marketing through a series of findings of easy-to-understand findings that might be both instructive and helpful to the marketer.
The research, part of a study called The Meaningful Journey, is based on an IPSOS survey of over 3,600 people across Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden, and is combined with data from eDreams ODIGEO’s user experience laboratory.
Motivations and the reasons for travel: “In the world of travel, motivations explain why travelers decide to discover a new place as well as the way they feel before, during and after their trip experience,” the report says. Although each traveler is unique and motivations vary based on the type of trip taken – long holidays versus weekend breaks – eDreams ODIGEO has identified the key motivations affecting most trips which have been grouped into six major categories:
Pleasure-Seeking:Seek to maximize personal pleasure, fun and spontaneity. They want to feel alive and let themselves go, sometimes impulsively, without thinking about the consequences. Travelling means adventures, either as a couple or with friends.
Personal Connection:Travels to spend quality time with the family and feel that interpersonal ties are strengthened. Seeks to relax and escape from the daily routine. Always travels in family, with their partner and children.
Uniqueness:Travels to test themselves, break boundaries and live new adventures beyond their comfort zone, which allows them to feel unique. Travel allows them to feel socially recognized. They prefer exotic places that make them feel unique and to have a positive impact on their community. Travels alone or with friends, but rarely with their family.
Sense of Belonging:Want to feel part of a group. Travels to feel part of the destination, living like a local to experience the culture and everyday life. They let themselves go and prefer urban or rural destinations where they can interact with locals. Travelling alone or as a couple, but rarely with children.
Chill and Relax: Look to disconnect from their routine and get rid of stress. They need to feel safe at all times and look for comfort away from any obligations. They travel as a couple, especially to beach or wellness destinations.
Control and Discipline: They seek to disconnect from their routine… but with a new routine. They plan the trip in a very rational way, as a discipline that must be followed with rigor and order. Their goal is to feel totally safe, in control of the situation, trying not to show their emotional side.
Commenting on the study, Dana Dunne, CEO of eDreams ODIGEO, said “By conducting this research and improving our understanding of traveller motivations through Artificial Intelligence and User Experience, we can continue to hone and improve our offering to ensure we provide our customers with a truly personalised travel experience, and one that empowers them to see more of the world.”
* eDreams ODIGEO is a Spanish online travel company that was formed in 2011 as the successor of eDreams with the merger of online travel agencies eDreams and GO Voyages, and the acquisition of Opodo.
All the Trips That Are Fit to Take: The New York Times Partners with Urban Adventures
In one of those “Why-didn’t-we-think-of-this-before” moves, The New York Times is bolstering its tours and activities product by partnering with Urban Adventures with a brand called City Tours, based on its 36 Hours series.
Both partners bring some daunting numbers to the initiative. As of December 2017, the New York Times had a total of 3.5 million paid subscriptions in both print and digital versions, and more than 130 million monthly readers. Its annual travel show, held every January in New York City, is one of the largest of its genre in the world. Last January, attendance included 10,268 travel trade and 22,130 consumer attendees during the three-day event that took place from Jan. 26-28, 2018.
Meanwhile, Urban Adventures—known globally for its day trip products—is part of the Intrepid Group, which includes such brands as Peregrine, Adventure Tours, Peak Destination Management Company and others, which offers more than 2,700 itineraries in 120-plus countries.
The new City Tours will last an average of four hours each. It builds upon the Times launch in in 2013 of Times Journeys, a multi-day tour product. The tours will be co-branded as New York Times and Urban Adventures tours. Urban Adventures will handle all bookings and customer service.
Starting off, there will be nine tours will initially be available in Budapest, Marrakech, New York City, Tokyo, Toronto, Paris, Philadelphia, Prague, and Mexico City—all of which have all been featured in 36 Hours.
All tours are hands-on, include interactions with locals, and have a behind-the-scenes element; group size will be limited to 12 people. Some of the features include: going into a family’s home in Marrakech to have lunch; interacting with humanoid robots in Tokyo; and learning how to make a Philly cheesesteak.
Usually, a New York Times journalist in Times Journeys tours, but the compressed schedule of the Urban Adventures tours will make this less likely; however, journalists have already participated, in a sense, by providing the content that serves as the basis for much of the tour itinerary
For example, a Paris tour will cover about 50 percent of places featured in the corresponding 36 Hours column and will blend elements from both the Times’ and Urban Adventures’ tours.
Anyone who books a City Tour gets access to a one-month free trial of the Times with an email and password. Once the trial ends, tour participants get a 50 percent discount off the standard rate.
Tours will be marketed on both the Times Journeys and Urban Adventures’ sites, but if someone clicks on a tour on Times Journeys they’re taken to Urban Adventures to complete the booking. Tours will be offered multiple days a week and multiple times a day, and Hanson anticipates that the majority of bookings will occur within 48 hours of a tour.
The average cost of a tour is around $100 and are available for as little as $75, which the Times feels is a competitive price point.
Surprise: UK Consumers have Little Regard for Travel Brands
The London-based marketing and advertising agency FKC says that the travel industry has less consumer loyalty than any other sector of the economy. In a just-released report on research that covered 18 major economic sectors including food and drink, fashion, retail, beauty and motoring, found airlines ranked the worst for loyalty.
The study, “The Truth Report: The Trouble with Real People,” indicated that 51percent of consumers are unable to identify a favorite brand at all and 74 percent often feel confused by brand advertising and messaging.
Some key findings of the report:
● Some 42 percent of consumers said they weren’t loyal to any airline;
- 40 percent of said they weren’t loyal to a particular hotel
- Questioned about tour operators, 39 percent said they didn’t have a favorite; and
- 37 percent didn’t have a preferred destination.
Why the lack of feeling for the industry and its brands. According to FKC?
● Customers said the amount of competition and infrequent or irrelevant communication from brands was the reason for their lack of loyalty.
● Findings revealed that consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide them with relevant offers and recommendations but 74 percent of consumers said they often felt confused by adverts.
But, surely, there were some favorites. Yes, so to speak:
● TUI was the favorite travel company consumers, but it was placed only 67th in the league table of preferred brands, which was topped by Amazon. The giant online retailer gained 5.5 percent of the votes.
● Terrestrial and broadband television comes out trumps as the most trusted and credible channel for fostering consumer interest and loyalty, with 22 percent voting it the most powerful source of brand.
About the results, chairman Stephen Fox said,”The research validates that we find it easier to be loyal to brands that we either use or connect with every day, so the big challenge is how can those in the longer-term purchase category like tour operators and car brands increase loyalty when they are not always on our minds.
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HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Alexia Vetter has been appointed executive director of the M56 Group, the firm that operates the One Liberty observation deck in Philadelphia and 360 Chicago, as well as the Berlin TV Tower; the Montparnasse Tower Panoramic Observation Deck in Paris; and La Ferme Aux Crocodiles, an animal park in Southern France. A professional with a varied career, Vetter’s career includes a 10-year tenure with Club Med, lastly as vice president, Switzerland.
Hotelplan has appointed Julie Franklin as head of agency sales. Franklin, who spent nearly four years as agency sales manager at Mark Warner, will oversee Hotelplan UK’s agency sales teams for its brands Esprit Ski, Ski Total and Santa’s Lapland, as well as Inghams.
Meanwhile, Simon McIntyre, Hotelplan’s group head of sales for Inghams, Ski Total & Esprit is leaving the company after nine years to join Iglu’s operations board in the newly created role of general manager, ski, overseeing sales, marketing and commercial teams.
Debbie Evans has been named president of the travel trade show organizer Reed Exhibitions U.S., Evans is currently president of Reed Exhibitions South East Asia and Australia, based in Singapore. With her new role, she will be moving to the U.S. Several senior vice presidents will be departing with responsibilities shifted to other executives. Reed has been with the company since 2000, starting as group exhibition director for Reed Exhibitions Australia.
Gary Oster is retiring from the U.S. Travel Association, where he has served most recently as executive vice president of member services and managing director of Project: Time Off, the association’s campaign to persuade U.S. workers to use all of their vacation time and travel. A veteran of more than four decades in the industry, Oster was one of a number of Marriott executives who joined U.S. Travel shortly after Roger Dow, who came to US Travel as president and CEO after serving for a dozen years as Marriott’s senior vice president, global and field sales.
Michelle Laverick has been named head of sales, marketing and membership for joins HF Holidays, an operator that specializes in walking and recreational activity holidays. Laverick is former head of marketing for Collette. She has also held senior sales and marketing roles at Silver Travel Advisor, Wendy Wu Tours and Explore Worldwide
Mark Scheller has been named group sales director at Snowmass. He comes to the post from GlobauxSource, a Dallas, Texas-based meetings resource management firm. He has also worked in senior sales and marketing positions at major resort destinations in Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Orlando. Schiller succeeds Alan Palmer, who left the post last April.
Canada’s Air Transat, a leisure carrier,has named new UK and Ireland commercial and marketing chiefs.Adrian Keating (left), formerly Malaysia Airlines UK, Europe and North America regional manager, is the new UK and Ireland commercial director. Adam Clarke (right), formerly TUI Group head of brand activation, Adam Clarke (right), has been named UK and Ireland head of marketing.Keating started his career at British Airways in 1999, where he held a number of sales positions, before roles with easyJet as sales manager, Europe and Etihad Airways as global sales manager.Clarke previously worked across ancillary revenue and partner marketing at easyJet and held a marketing role at Flybe.
Lisa Brasgalla for 12 years at Travel Leaders
Maria Elena Kaldani for 11 years at Unique Hotel Solutions
Sevil Arnavutoglu for 6 years at Hotelbeds
Ian Ross for 5 years at Travel Spike
Molly Blaisdell for 5 years at Alcatraz Cruises
Sheena Yu for 4 years at the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board
Grace Li for 4 years at Trip2p