First Casualty of China Trade War: Golden Week Travel to America down 40%
As Jing Travel, a leading publication on Chinese travel, recently put it, “Golden Week consistently provides some of the most important indicators on what Chinese tourists value in leisure tourism, where they aspire to go, and how they plan on paying for it.”
If so, Golden Week, which was the first week of October, told us that the United States tour and travel industry is a victim of the U.S.-China Trade War. (Along with the Chinese New Year, the Oct. 1 National Day, which celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China and which kicked off Golden Week, is one of China’s two biggest holidays.).
The Proof? According to the Chinese mega-travel agency Ctrip, the U.S. saw a sharp decline in Chinese visitors with this year’s Golden Week, with flight bookings to the country down 41 percent compared with last year’s Golden Week. This year, seven million Chinese were expected to go abroad for Golden Week. The 7 million number represents more than 5 percent of all overseas travelers who leave from China annually.
In fact, when Ctrip reported its findings on Golden Week travel, America is now the 11th most popular destination for Chinese tourists, down from No. 5 last year.
In a brief, one paragraph summing up of the situation, the Japanese Nikkei Asian Journal, had this take on the Ctrip report: “Chinese travelers place a lot of weight on the current state of foreign relations when deciding where to vacation, and Sino-U.S. relations have been strained since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president at the beginning of 2017. The trade war that has been heating up lately has not helped the U.S. in this regard.”
2019 Looking Like a Robust Year for German Trade
The latest monthly analysis by the Nuremberg-based marketing research firm GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung, or Society for Consumer Research) shows that late sales for the last two months of the summer 2018 season—September and October—were up by 3 percent. As reported by the German travel trade publication FVW, this growth went completely to online sales channels, while travel agency revenues dropped by one percent.
Summer 2018 sales are now 12 percent ahead of last year on a cumulated basis, with one more sales month to go. This means that both online and offline sales channels will end the year with strong growth rates.
Above: GfK figures for German holiday sales in September
The top seller in travel agencies and online last month were winter holidays, which comprised more than 40 percent of revenues, according to GfK, which analyzed sales by 2,000 representative travel agencies, OTAs and tour operator websites. Sales grew by 11 percent last month September, leaving cumulated sales 9 percent ahead of the same time last year.
Early bookings for next summer were also an important factor, representing almost a quarter (23 percent) of total revenues. Summer 2019 revenues are so far showing double-digit growth, although the basis is too low for solid forecasts, according to GfK.
This news, from the perspective of the retailer, seems to complement what INBOUND has heard this year from international and receptive tour operators who—despite the concern by some that outbound travel to the U.S. might fall off due to the unpopularity of U.S. President Donald J. Trump and a resurgence in the popularity of short haul destinations in the Middle East, Turkey and Spain.
From a longer-term perspective, it is quite possible that German visitation to the United States next year might equal, or exceed, that of the record year of 2015—even if early (through April 2018) YTD figures for this year are flat vs. 2017.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Celyta Jackson: The road from NYC to Miami Cat Café Proprietress is Littered with Litters
For one reason or another, the paths of Celyta Jackson and INBOUND have intersected time and again over the years through different stops in a career that had her working in the hotel industry in Washington, DC; at the storied Plaza Hotel in New York for a decade; as vice president of tourism for New York City & Company when it was still the New York CVB; and as a Miami based strategic planning, marketing and communications official. Like others in the special constituency of international travel consultants who speak multiple languages (for Jackson, they are English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), she was ready to go on site and work in many countries on a moment’s notice. Some would contact her for help in promoting a new program in markets in Europe and South America—especially in Brazil—and she was always a reliable source when called upon to recommend someone to talk to or refer us to an expert in some market.
Then—it was sometime in 2017—she “went dark.” Lights out. Was she writing a novel? Was she holed up at some ashram, re-connecting with who she is, or wanted to be? Then, earlier this year, it turns out that she had just taken a break, spent her time chilling out in Miami Beach and decided to open a café along one of the city’s main tourist thoroughfares. Not just any café. No. By the time this profile piece is published, she should have marked her re-entry into the tour and travel industry as the owner of the The Cat Café South Beach. The rest is, well … read the excerpted version of our one-on-one interview with her last month as she was putting the final touches on her new venture.
INBOUND: So, when did you get the idea to pursue a career in the tour and travel industry?
Jackson: The original plan was to be a diplomat. I went to George Washington University, and received a degree in international affairs. I took the foreign service exam and passed. Then, after graduation, after all this, I had the existential moment that you’re supposed to have in your freshman year, and realized that I wasn’t blue-blooded enough … George Washington wasn’t Ivy League enough—for me to ever get a significant posting. And I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in passports in Angola, or wherever, which is where I would likely end up, speaking Portuguese as I did.
In talking to a friend who had worked in a hotel during his college years, he told me, “You should be a concierge! Because all you have to do is speak a couple of languages and call up some restaurants.”
That sounded like a possibility. I was in Washington, D.C. There was a hotel that was opening at that time. So, I stood in line and filled out an application for concierge and was hired, and that was that. I was in the hotel industry.
INBOUND: How long were you in D.C.?
Jackson: From 1981 to 1984. I moved to New York with Omni Hotels, and then went on to the Plaza in 1989.
INBOUND: Where are you originally from?
Jackson: That is the hardest question. It has always been the hardest question for me to answer my whole life. I was an Army brat. So, I’ve lived in a lot of different places. Miami Beach is the 13th city in which I’ve lived. Lucky 13—I hope. So, the concept of “home” is a little ethereal … even growing up in Brazil, it didn’t feel like home. The only physical place that felt like home has been New York. And I can’t even explain why.
INBOUND: You’ve lived in 13 different places?
Jackson: Wherever I was, if my work took me away, I always felt like a New Yorker. New York has become part of my persona. When I go to other places, I’m always Celyta Jackson from New York. When I’m in Brazil, I’m introduced as Celyta Jackson from New York. Here in Miami Beach, it’s “Oh, Celyta? … she’s from New York.”
What defines a New Yorker?
INBOUND: If you had to answer in just a couple of sentences, What is it that defines a New Yorker? Is it the way one carries himself or herself? The way they speak? Their references?
Jackson: I think that being a New Yorker is about being savvy … as far as doing business is concerned, as far as being able to get things done … it’s a pace and rhythm of life … a worldliness, if anything.
INBOUND: Where did you acquire your other languages?
Jackson: The Spanish? By necessity. At the Plaza Hotel, after Brazil, I was assigned the rest of Latin America, Spain and Portugal. So, Portuguese is very close to Spanish-not identical, but it was enough to go and speak and immerse myself in the language. You pick it up. My mother was of German descent, so at home we spoke Portuguese, English and German.
Over the years, because I’m not using my Portuguese as much, I can hear the American accent that I have when I speak Portuguese. And it is mortifying, and I am teased mercilessly by a friend and family in Brazil. It’s more a cadence than an actual accent … yes, I have developed an accent when I speak Portuguese, to my chagrin. It goes away, though.
Why a Cat Café? … “It Happened”
INBOUND: Like so many others in the past 15 years of your life, I know of you primarily as a person in the tour and travel industry. All of a sudden, it seemed to many people, you kind of dropped out during the past year. Then, word came that you are opening this cat café. What gives?
Jackson: First of all, I have to tell you that it’s nice that people even noticed that I was gone. It’s awfully nice to be missed. I went dark because of necessity. There were all kind of reasons not to announce the project—in marketing risks, audience fatigue, too many things could go wrong, people would start dropping kittens at my doorstep. So, I needed to work quietly with a complicated project. It took a lot longer than I expected. But I didn’t expect it to take such a long time.
It happened. It wasn’t a natural segue by any means. It was an idea that was kind of thrust on me, and I was hounded ceaselessly until I was convinced. In Miami Beach, I live next to a small little coffee shop that was run by two brothers from Morocco who were using financial investments in business as a path to citizenship They are younger, and into all kinds of—anything that was new and trendy. And one of them happened upon some videos of a cat café and thought that was the coolest thing on the planet to do.
Because I was involved with cat rescue here—they had seen me coming and going with boxes of kittens—something clicked, and they thought I would be the perfect person to be brought aboard. A conversation started and then just morphed into a business plan.
INBOUND: Where do you get all the cats? Do you have a limit?
Jackson: We are going to be large cat café. We can accommodate thirty-plus rescue cats. Miami Beach is a lot like Rome. Cats are part of our bio-cultural heritage. The cats were brought to Miami Beach by one of the early developers to take care of the rat problem here. That was very successful, except that—we’re an island, and it created this tremendous cat overpopulation situation. We are known in the country as having one of the largest cat populations. In Miami Beach alone, we have a community cat population that’s estimated at 150,000.
So, everywhere you go in Miami Beach, you’ll see cats. Most of the condominiums have a community of cats that live there. I inherited the care of the community that lives in my little condo. I have 10 outdoor cats that I look after. Cats are part of Miami Beach, and it’s a good thing … because cat cafes go out of business for two major reasons: One, they ran out of cats. There have been a couple in Canada that have closed, because they have no more cats. It is inconceivable to me; I would have sent them plane loads if that were the case. Or, two, they run out of people. We’re not likely to do that, either.
→ This Way to Be with the Cats
INBOUND: What makes you think you can make your Cat Café a tourist attraction?
Jackson: It has all the right components. It’s part of, as I’ve said, our bio-cultural heritage in Miami Beach. It’s a local feature. Our location is ideal for any kind of attraction. We’re easy walking distance from two of the main tourists drags (Lincoln Road and Española Way). We’ve got a stellar food and beverage component. There’s the novelty component—of just the words “Cat Café.” That’s new to the United States. There are only about 50 of them nowadays. A year ago, there were only 27. So, it’s something that’s increasing in popularity, but it’s still scarce. Yet, it gets very widespread coverage on the internet with videos and everything else. In a place that’s notorious for bars and clubs, we’re very family friendly. So, it will be a good place for people who come here with children to have an alternative to the beach.
We’ll have unique activities—we have a stretch class with cats, juggling with cats … We’re ADA compliant. We make accommodations for people who are allergic to cats, who have food allergies. We’ve got vegan and gluten-free items on the menu. The place is divided by a big glass wall so that people who are allergic to cats can stay safely on the other side of the wall and see the crazy antics of cats and people interacting with them. We have the ubiquitous gift shop that people will exit and enter through, plus … I’m going to promote the hell out of it!
INBOUND: A big part of INBOUND’s audience is comprised of international and receptive tour operators. You’re going to go after domestic business, obviously, but what about overseas traffic?
Jackson: Oh, very much so. That’s a huge part of the tourist business that we get here. So, I’m using all of my contacts in the international press that I’ve acquired over the years to promote the cat café. We have a special information package that facilitates international adoptions; if someone from Brazil, for example, falls in love with a cat, that’s OK. They can fly home with a new four-legged family member.
INBOUND: So, you’re going after every segment?
Jackson: I am—yes and no. With groups, it’s a little tricky because of the cats. Studies show that when groups of five or more humans —and they’re people who know each other—are together, they’re loud. And cats don’t like loud. So, we’re a great place for the right kind of group, if they can use their “inside” voices. We have to be careful with the kind of groups we can take. Plus, because of the financial structure of the business, our margins are miniscule. The minimum donation required to enter “Purradise” goes toward the care and feeding of feline residents. (I can’t) I don’t have the financial wiggle-room to pay commissions. I can’t do the 30 percent markup. So, wholesalers are not likely to feature a visit to the Cat Café in their Miami Beach packages unless they accept direct deposits into their account at The Bank of Good Karma instead. But that’s OK.
I was known at the Plaza Hotel for not working with receptive operators. Made me hugely unpopular in some circles. It took me awhile to mend those fences, which I did when I was at NYC& Company. (I think. I hope.) But, at the Plaza Hotel, for the 10 years that I was there, I didn’t work with receptive operators for the Brazilian market. It was all direct-to-customer business and business with travel agents for the most part. My reach was that enormous. But that is another story altogether.
INBOUND: Then, does this mean that you be a part of the tour and travel community again? Will you be a part of the CVB?
Jackson: Certainly the CVB. They’re going to be a very, very helpful partner. As well as the local chamber of commerce.
INBOUND: What about your timeline? What about the next five years? The next 10 years? Do you have any hopes, any aspirations?
Jackson: The cool thing about the Cat Café is that it’s a scalable business. So, there are plans for a cat-themed trade show. There are a couple that already exist—POP cats and Catcon.* (We both chuckle.). Yeah, I know: Who’d a thunk it? I never thought that I would say this: but I miss trade shows. I miss going to IPW. I miss that. So, it’s like, godammit—if I don’t have a place for it there, then I’ll just make my own event; I’ll make my own trade show. And then, there are also plans to do a cat film festival.
INBOUND: A cat film festival? What would that involve?
Jackson: Much like any other film festival, people would submit their little cat movies or cat videos. There would be prizes. It would be a week-long event of watching cat videos and cat movies.
It’s already taking up a lot of space on the internet. People like them. There are a couple of venues here in Miami that I think be ideal and would like the idea—so, we’ll see where it goes.
INBOUND: Have you missed the travel industry? The trade shows? The people. The Hotels? The Traveling?
Jackson: Oh, I do. On the one hand, it’s nice to be away from the politics and the ups and downs. But I do miss it. The hospitality and tourism industry—it’s like a virus; you never really get it out of your system. So, I’ve gone dark, but I’ve been watching it. And the people are so special. There’s a camaraderie that you build with people over the years. We may change our roles and our geographic location, but it’s still the same motley crew.
*More than 16,000 people attended CatCon 2018 August 4 and 5 in Pasadena.
For more on the Cat Café, visit: http://www.catcafesobe.com/
TW Report Underscores Importance of Europe’s Top 3 Markets—Germany, UK and France
Travel Weekly has come out with its 2018 report on Europe, which underscores the continent’s importance to the global travel and tourism industry. For, although organizations such as the UN World Tourism Organization have taken note of the growth of Asia, especially China, as a global source market, it is Europe, in fact, that comprises 48 percent of the global source market for international travel—almost double the size of Asia-Pacific, and receives 51 percent of the world’s international arrivals.
Inside the 46-page report, there are a number of tables that illustrate the importance of the EU and its top three source markets for international arrivals to the USA: the UK, Germany and France. Last year, the three produced about one out of every five—just over 21 percent (8.2 million)—of all overseas visitors to the United States.
We’ve taken a selection of tables from the report that go into greater detail on the size and importance of different demographic segments of the Top Three and how they compare to the European Union as a whole.
OTA Growth Slowing: In the report, Francesca Benati, executive vice president for online Western Europe, Middle East and Africa at Amadeus, says: “Europe is a mature market, especially in the UK, in Germany, in Scandinavia. Growth in online travel has plateaued, which calls for more targeting of market share. At five to six percent a year, online growth is still outpacing growth elsewhere, but it is slowing.”
For your own copy of the Travel Weekly Europe report, click here
Meet Molly 猫力—China’s Top Key Opinion Leader (KOL)—According to Jing Daily’s “Top 7 Chinese Travel Influencers with Style.”
The daily news publication that has become must reading among those who sell travel to the Chinese market have a new tool: Jing Daily’s “Top 7 Chinese Travel Influencers with Style.” The seven were profiled recently in an article that begins with the following preface: “Standing apart from most travel influencers is a small group of KOLs that insist on traveling in style. They’re an artful group whose alluring travel posts on social media offer aspirational value and are highly persuasive to consumers. Thankfully for brands, Jing Daily has waded through a virtual sea of Chinese travel influencers and identified seven of the most important Chinese travel bloggers—with a fashionable flavor—that you need to know (based on social media numbers, the caliber of brands, and aesthetics, among other qualities).”
To find out more about Molly and the other 6 KOLs, click here
Is India Becoming the New Flavor of the Month?
Sales missions to India over the past year, along with anecdotal and statistics-based testimonials have affirmed the current strength and huge potential of the outbound travel market from India. Because the country has always been about as far away as any overseas market to the U.S. can be from major U.S. gateways, it didn’t configure into the route schedules of major U.S. carriers—although this is beginning to change.
So, when developing strategies for expanding their reach into the Indian market, U.S. travel suppliers would do well to know that the largest bloc of flights serving India from abroad emanated from the Middle East—primarily through Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. This factor is illustrated in a recently released infograph from OAG, the London-based group that is the de facto world leader in airline analytics.
Also, according to data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office, India is on track to once again exceeding the previous year’s total of international visitors to the United States. India has not had a year-on-year decline in traffic to the U.S. since 2009, which was the trough year of the Great Recession of 2008-09.
At a Glance: Arizona
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HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Kevin Murphy, who earlier this year left his position as general manager of Sports Leisure Vacations in Sacramento, California and opened the doors to his own company—Open Roads Tour & Travel Solutions—which will be focused on custom group and receptive tours. In addition to offering product in the western U.S. and Canada, Murphy, who served as president of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) from 2014- 2017, and his company will also provide speaking services, consultation, and planning and operational support for destination marketing organizations, suppliers, and tour operators.
Matt Hodgson, who joined DER Touristik (UK) earlier this year, has been tapped to head up Meraki Travel, a new tailor-made DER brand for long-haul holidays. The company will offer complex, long-haul trips that customers will be able to build themselves online within an existing framework. DER Touristik said it is targeting consumers who weren’t already customers of Kuoni, which it acquired in 2015, or its other specialist brands Carrier, Kirker, CV Villas and Voyage Jules Verne. Hodgson previously worked for Trailfinders, Travel Nation and the British Exploration Society in commercial, sales and strategic development roles
After 20 years with the company, Gail Dunwoodie is leaving Attraction World, which sells entertainment and attractions tickets (and more). Dunwoodie, who was also directed public relations activity for Attraction World, plans to set up her own business in the travel industry. Said Dunwoodie: “This company has been completely amazing to me over the past 20 years, taking me to places I would only have dreamt of and I owe it everything.”
After a two-year hiatus during which she managed projects for a number of travel companies, Christine Leader is back with New Sun International Travel as sales and marketing director, just as the operator is expanding operations. New Sun will be opening 20 branch offices in China—currently it has five offices in China and one in Boston, as well as its Los Angeles office. You can reach her at [email protected].
Mark Bloxham has stepped down from his post as managing director of Wendy Wu Tours and has left the company. While the search for a new MD takes place, the company’s founder, Wendy Wu will step in as interim MD, supported by the senior leadership team. Bloxham had been with the company for a little more than a year. Wu said: “Mark was appointed to grow the company’s digital business, a remit that has now been completed. “We all think very highly of Mark and we thank him for his contribution to Wendy Wu Tours. We wish him well for his future career.” Prior to joining Wendy Wu Tours, Bloxham had served in senior managing positions for several major travel and marketing companies.
UK tour operator APT has appointed former Kuoni branch manager Carrie Grant as business development manager for the north of England and Scotland. Grant joins the company with 10 years of travel industry experience, with her last four years spent as branch manager at a Kuoni agency. During her time with Kuoni, Grant was a founding member of Kuoni’s LGBT Expert program. Grant will report into APT national sales manager Jessica Shelton-Agar.
Helen Medler for 25 years at Hawthorne Tours
Robin Richman for 25 years at Steppin’ Out Adventures
Joni MacLaine for 15 years at Comedy on Deck Tours
Alison Kelly for 12 years at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Anthony Liu for 7 years at American Holidays, Inc.
Lanuyangla Kichu for 5 years at Trekkers N Trotters
Sandra Edwards for 4 years at Jungle Queen
Chin Han Leow for 1 year at Great Eastern Singapore