Near-Term Outlook for International Inbound Traffic to the U.S.—The Blahs, Continued
The latest data for arrivals from the top international and overseas source markets for inbound travel to the USA—though incomplete—show that, with a few exceptions, the marketplace is performing about as expected and that the remainder of 2019 could see the industry close out with a year with negative to flat growth.
Those who follow the numbers posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office have seen that the UK continues to defy the predictions over the past year that Brexit-related concerns would cause a decline in visitor traffic from the UK to the United States. However, as the tables below indicates, visitation from the UK (Japan, too) registered strong growth for the first half of 2019. Otherwise, there are no real surprises in the figures for the Top 15 Overseas Inbound Source Markets.
More of a disappointment than a surprise is the weak performance of Mexico and Canada. After reviewing the latest numbers on the two countries, David Huether, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association, said “recently released data from Canada (Statistics Canada) and Mexico (Banco de Mexico) on travel volume to the U.S. through April 2019 was more negative than expected. As a result, our visitation forecasts for Canada (-1.0 percent) and Mexico (-1.9 percent) are negative for 2019.”
What makes even a small contraction in the figures from Canada and Mexico significant is the fact that the two markets generate about half of all international tourism to the USA. But despite their decline so far this year, overall visitation from overseas/long-haul markets was up 2 percent for the first five months of the year.
U.S. Share of Global Long-Haul Market Continues to Shrink: Data from US Travel show a continuation of the shrinking of the U.S. share of the total global long-haul travel market. The decline, which is about a decade old, and is forecast to continue through 2012, is driven primarily by the large increase among citizens of Asian countries whose residents have begun travel in greater numbers. One reason that the decline is likely to continue is that millions of first-time travelers in Asia are expected to continue to enter the market in the years ahead and it’s likely they will first travel to other nations in their global region.
Can Inbound Traffic from China Absorb Latest Trade War Salvo?
With visa rejections increasing and the number of new visas decreasing, the outlook was already murky before latest U.S. tariffs were proposed: At first blush, one would generally regard the news last week that U.S. President Donald Trump has called for 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports, effective Sept. 1, as a bad sign for the future of inbound tourism from China, which is the number three overseas tourism source market for the U.S. And it was.
But, perhaps, there was more telling evidence of a decline in the numbers posted last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) and those gathered and released by Dragon Trail Interactive, a China-focused digital marketing agency with offices in China, the U.S. and the UK. The latter held a webinar to discuss data from the first half of 2019, as well as the near-term outlook for the Chinese market. Following are some notes and info-bytes from the Dragon Trail webinar, and from NTTO.
—The most uncomfortable number of those noted during the webinar was this: rejection rates for those seeking a visa to travel to the U.S. have been steadily rising, with a 17 percent rejection rate for Chinese short-term visitor visas in 2018. (They’ve gone even higher according to those who do business in China—see the previous issue of INBOUND for more on this subject here.)
—In the first 5 months of 2019, there has been a 17 percent decrease in B1/B2 visas issued to Chinese travelers.
—Data released by NTTO in June NTTO showed a 5.7 percent decrease in Chinese arrivals to the US in 2018, the first decline in 15 years.
—Meanwhile, preliminary NTTO figures for the first six months of 2019 indicate that, after a year-on-year increase for the month of January, visitor traffic to the U.S. from China has declined every month. For the first half of 2019, the total number of Chinese visitors to the USA was 1.426 million, down 3.3 percent from the 1.475 million registered for the first half of 2018.
—Forbes reported a 10.1 percent decline in Chinese visitors traveling for pleasure in 2018, and a 5.3 percent decrease in Chinese visitors traveling for pleasure from January-May 2019.
—As of June, Chinese visitors to Hawaii were down around 36 percent.
—There has been decreased Chinese shopping reported on both U.S. coasts, with an 11.9 percent drop in Chinese tourism spending in New York City in the first quarter of 2019.
—The USA has dropped in popularity: according to Ctrip, the U.S. was the 9th most popular destination for the May holiday in 2019—down from 5th most popular in 2018.
—In May 2019, Horwath HTL and World Tourism Alliance survey of the Chinese travel trade revealed negative sentiment for North America.
Source: China Outbound Tourism Market Sentiment Survey June 2019
The Reasons for Decline, According to Dragon Trail:
—Travel warnings and worries about safety
—Negative media coverage in China linked to trade war
—Image of the US as unwelcoming, xenophobic
—Visa rejection rates
—A decline in Chinese buying power – the Chinese yuan has fallen 8.7 percent against the U.S. dollar since tariffs introduced (This is affecting other U.S. sub-markets such as the Mariana Islands).
As for the travel warnings and worries about safety, INBOUND asked Sienna Parulis-Cook, Dragon Trail’s communications manager about the matter, and her answer echoed that of Daniel Shen, a marketing rep for a number of major for U.S. DMOs and other clients who told us in the previous issue of INBOUND that the Chinese government had issued a warning to Chinese travelers regarding their safety while in the United States. An identical warning was issued last year both Shen and Parulis-Cook, with the difference this year the constant coverage of the subject in print, broadcast and online news media.
Final Notes from Dragon Trail
—Outside of the U.S., Southeastern Europe “is big” as an emerging destination.
—More country markets and DMOs are using WeChat programs.
—Short videos have become a must for those using WeChat to promote.
—U.S. DMOs are in the lead on WeChat. Australia and Northwest Canada are strong; the top European accounts are Edinburg, Bavaria and Geneva
—In digital brochures and video, romantic themes are doing well, as are nature and wildlife themes.
To view a video of the Dragon Trail webinar, click here.
British Boomlet in Visit USA Traffic this Summer Thwarts Concerns over a Brexit Bust
July (No. 1) and August (No. 2) are the top two months for travel from the UK to the USA. And, as noted in other articles appearing in INBOUND, the news noise for more than a year now has been that Brexit-related issues would dampen summer travel abroad—including travel to the U.S.—by Brits. “But is that really the case?” asks an analysis of the situation by the authoritative airline industry source, OAG, in a new blog post. “Our analysis suggests it isn’t quite that bad….”
The analysis goes on to say, “August will see some 17.3 million departing seats from UK airports compared to 17.0 million last year, an increase of just over 1.5 percent which equates to around another 8,400 seats a day compared to last year. That increase in capacity is also based on fewer flights with some 171 fewer scheduled services planned this month than last year which of course implies the increasing use of larger aircraft and indeed the average number of seats per departing flight this August will be 165 compared to 162 last August suggesting perhaps more squeezing of leg room for some of us!” (For the full analysis, click here.) The data contained in the OAG post show that, once again, while Spain is once again the favorite international destination for British holidaymakers, the United States remains their favorite long-haul destination.
NYC’s Poster House is the first poster museum in the United States, and it has just opened its doors. While there are specialty museums for just about every niche art and performing art activity—and there are poster museums in other parts of the world, Poster House is a first for the U.S. The 15,000 square-foot museum, located on West 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, includes three exhibition spaces, interactive displays in its hallways, and a children’s area. The new museum already has a permanent collection of 7,000 historical posters collected from around the world and 1,000 contemporary posters that will be shown in future exhibitions. The first exhibits include a survey of the works of famed Art Nouveau poster designer Alphonse Mucha and a selection of works by the German design collective Cyan. Retail ticket prices are $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors. Children enjoy free admission. For more information, visit https://posterhouse.org/, or call 917.722.2439.
Pursuit Wins Bid to Expand Flight Ride Experience to Toronto: Part of Viad Corp., Pursuit has announced that it will expand its flight ride concept to Toronto. Modeled after Pursuit’s highly successful FlyOver attraction in Vancouver, the new FlyOver Canada ride will provide guests with a flight ride experience featuring the country’s most famous locations, landscapes and natural wonders. Following a competitive selection process undertaken by Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation (that is, it is a state-owned entity) that specializes in real estate, development and attractions management, Pursuit has entered into a land lease with Canada Lands Company to build the new FlyOver Canada attraction near the base of Canada’s famed CN Tower, the 1,815.3 foot concrete communications and observation tower located in downtown Toronto. Construction on the new building is expected to begin in 2020, with an anticipated opening in early 2022 subject to standard City of Toronto approvals. FlyOver Canada will use state-of-the-art ride and audiovisual technology to reveal some of Canada’s most inspiring sights in a way that guests have never experienced before. Guests will be seated, feet dangling, before a 23-meter x 17.5-meter spherical screen as the film whisks them away on an exhilarating eight-minute journey across Canada. For more information, visit www.flyovercanada.com, or call 855.463.4822.
The Washington Monument Scheduled to Reopen This Month: After spending most of the last 8 years undergoing repairs necessitated by a number of factors, the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.—it is one of the USA’s most famous landmarks—is supposed to reopen sometime this month, giving visitors to the Capital of the U.S. an opportunity to ride an elevator to almost the very top of the 555 feet, 5-1/8 inch structure. The monument’s woes began On August 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake, a rarity for the U.S. East Coast, cracked the monument, displaced bricks and damaged the internal elevator. The shake prompted an almost two-year closure and $15 million in repair work. For much of that time, the monument was surrounded by a chain-link fence and had scaffolding surrounding the spire. The structure reopened in May of 2014. But nearly two years later, the monument was forced to close to tourists again when a cable on its elevator snapped in August of 2016. The whole project was scheduled for completion in the spring of 2019. However, the discovery of contaminated soil in the area of the screening center pushed that timeline to August. For the latest information on the status of the monument, visit https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm.
Cape Cod® Potato Chips is re-opening its Hyannis Factory Tour in Massachusetts, spotlighting renovations, visitor experiences and behind-the-scenes opportunities for the whole family. The Cape Cod® Potato Chip Factory is one of Cape Cod’s top tourist destinations with more than 250,000 visitors annually. For almost 40 years, Cape Cod® Potato Chips has welcomed loyal fans to tour the Hyannis Factory. Through the years, it has become a must-see destination for locals and visitors from far and wide. The free self-guided tour invites guests to experience firsthand how Cape Cod® Potato Chips are produced one batch at a time in custom kettles. The renovations include an expanded space to accommodate more visitors; an up-close-and-personal view of the quintessential kettles with photo opportunities; and a patio area for guests to sit back and take it all in—and of course enjoy some chips. Fans of Cape Cod Chips will also find new merchandise in the gift shop, which, as always, will feature a complementary sample of potato chips at the end of every tour. The Hyannis factory is open to visitors Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm ET. Before visiting, visitors should be sure to check out its website, www.capecodchips.com, for closings and any updated hours.
NTA’s Bob Rouse on Going Solo … with a Group
“Is it a contradiction—or a stroke of genius—to travel by yourself … but with a group? I was part of a group that explored Utah’s five national parks with Southwestern Adventure Tours this spring, and two members of our entourage were traveling solo: Erin Lekberg, an accountant from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Chris Bell, a native of England who works in Australia as a civil engineer. I had a few questions for them, and their answers were enlightening. They were also reassuring, because even though I was on the job, I was also a solo traveler.” (Read the rest by clicking here.)
TUI UK/Ireland Scraps Plan to Scrap Printed Brochures
Europe’s largest tour operator last week announced with much fanfare in an e-news release that it is dropping a plan announced three years ago to do away with all printed brochures for its UK/Ireland market by the year 2020.
Buckling to the apparent demand of some clients and customers who feel more comfortable with material that they can fold and hold, the decision seemed somehow fitting for the Hannover, Germany-based company that has been slow, all along the way, to make a complete migration to e-commerce and digital marketing.
TUI launched the phaseout in July 2016. The move happened to coincide with the company’s “single brand” campaign as it did away with national brands elsewhere in Europe. The most apparent effect of the move was the phasing out of the popular Thomson brand. But the company kept First Choice as a brand as research showed that its customer base had, and still has, a high regard for the latter.
Three years ago, TUI was printing nearly 5 million brochures a year across 58 different titles. There are now 39 titles. Digital versions are available of all brochures, with TUI’s website telling holidaymakers they are “doing your bit to help the planet” if they do not request a printed copy.
Print Product “Still an Important Part” of Process: What happened to change the company’s mind? A TUI spokesperson said, “At TUI we are still committed to reducing our brochure line-up … We undertook customer research last year which identified that the brochure is still an important part of the customer journey for some of our customers. We are now referring to the previous ‘brochure reduction strategy’ as a ‘brochure evolution strategy’.”
Meanwhile, in the other direction back at corporate headquarters in Hanover, Germany, TUI announced plans to close its stations at 18 airports across Germany, replacing 130 customer service jobs with digital services as part of its forthcoming restructuring. “Where possible, other jobs will be sought for the 130 staff at the airport stations,” the company said.
According to TUI, the reason for closing the 18 locations is to further expand digital services for customers: “Continuing digitalization and the changed booking and consumption patterns of customers demand more automated services and new ways of customer communications.”
The 10 Most Popular American States for Foreigners to Visit?
Always on the lookout for a new Top 10 or the “Best Places for This or That,” INBOUND has come across a just-issued list of “The 10 Most Popular American States for Foreigners to Visit,” according a travel website, TheTravel.com, which apparently churns out more than a few top ten lists on its site, and which seems to specialize in travel-related news that is not widely covered, the off-beaten-path material and the “I didn’t know that” genre.
The Travel bills itself as an “up and coming site” and “the world’s most interesting travel site, serving 4 million readers and counting,” and claims 3 million users and 36 million pageviews a month—as well as 2.6 million Facebook followers. It is based in Quebec. For more information, visit https://www.thetravel.com/about/.
With the above as preface, here is the list.
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Elizabeth King has been named director, global tourism marketing, for the Simon Property Group. She comes to the company from Hornblower Cruises and Events. Previously, she served as West Coast tourism marketing manager for Macerich. Her résumé also includes tenures at Macy’s and Catalina Express.
León Herce has joined Hotelbeds as global sales director in a newly created role leading the sales of Hotelbeds’ full portfolio of products including accommodation, transfers, car hire, tickets and excursions via the wholesale, retail travel agents, airlines and B2B2C business lines—including the Bedsonline and Hotelopia brands. In addition to his role as sales director, Herce will become a member of the company’s executive committee. Previously, Herce spent over 15 years at travel technology company Amadeus, most recently as global head of retail business.
Melanie Napier Beauchamp has been elevated to the position of assistant commissioner of rural tourism and outreach at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. A public relations and communications professional, she joined the department in 2012, and has previously served the agency as public relations media manager and director of outreach and engagement.
Tammi Blount-Canavan, president and CEO of the Monterey, California CVB, is leaving the post effective Aug 31 to take over as principal and executive vice president, destination & travel practice for Fired Up! Culture, which is headquartered in Puyallup, Washington, about 10 miles southeast of Tacoma. Blount-Canavan had been with the bureau since the beginning of 2012. Previously, she was president and CEO of the Tacoma Regional CVB.
Australian tour operator Small Group Touring Co., a division of the Bunnik Group, which sells product from more than 20 North American destinations, has appointed Zoe Francis as trade partnership manager to act as the main point of contact for the trade and develop strong relationships and opportunities to support the company’s new brand. With a career in the travel industry spanning 13 years across wholesale touring and retail travel, including roles at Travelex and G Adventures, Francis joins Small Group Touring Co. from Bunnik Tours, where she was business development manager for the past four years.
After nearly a dozen years at the San Diego Tourism Authority, President and CEO Joe Terzi is retiring, effective January 2020. A long-time veteran of the tour and travel industry, Terzi came to the agency in 2008, after serving at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, where he was senior vice president.
Alison Zarella has been promoted to the post of vice president of integrated marketing for The Venetian Resort Las Vegas/Las Vegas Sands Corp. She previously served as executive director/social media content. Zarella, who joined the company in three years ago, had previously served as director of social media marketing for Let’s Rally and as social media manager at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Pepe Avila has been promoted to the post of senior director of tourism development at Visit Anaheim. Avila joined Visit Anaheim 16 years ago as director of tourism development, and has been a mainstay of the organization ever since.
Hans van de Velde, the new CEO of TUI France, will also take the lead of the group structure in Morocco in September. The Moroccan company SIA, Société d’Investissement Aérien, has been integrated into TUI Western Region for more than seven years. With an expertise in the aviation and tour-opera sector, Hans van de Velde took over the general management of TUI France after the departure of Pascal de Izaguirre last January, and will thus combine the two positions (TUI France and TUI Morocco) as of Sept. 1. Van de Velde has been working for TUI Group for 18 years and has been general manager of TUI Fly in the Netherlands.
Brad van Dommelen, president and CEO of the Virginia Beach CVB, is resigning because of personal and family reasons, according to a spokesperson, indicating that he had decided to return to Michigan to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. Before joining the Virginia Beach CVB in the spring of 2016, Van Dommelen had served for more than 10 years as president and CEO of the Traverse City CVB. Prior to that he was senior vice president of business development for the Detroit Metro CVB.
Joe Ward has been appointed president of Experience Rochester (Minn.). He began his new job on August 5. A long-time hospitality, travel and tourism industry professional, he comes to Rochester after having served for more than five years as director of the Greater Saint Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau (Mo.). He has also served in senior positions on several other DMOs.
Jennifer Zammit has been appointed as the new business development manager for Globus for southwestern and northern Ontario. Zammit comes to Globus with considerable knowledge and experience in the travel industry, most recently as travel trade manager for Timezoneone but also with Total Stay/Beds Online, Travel Bound and Thomas Cook.
Troy Anderson has been named director sales for Visit Seattle. Anderson, who joined the agency in 2013 as a national account director, is a veteran of more than 15 years in the tour and travel industry, Anderson has held sales positions with several hotel and/or resort properties over the years.
Rob Lyons, director of tourism and partner strategy at Madison Square Garden, tells INBOUND that the company has recently shifted experienced sales reps from the group sales team to his team to focus entirely on the travel trade. The new roles are: Jen Kurowsky, strategic account executive, tour and travel sales; Jim Celiberti, strategic account executive, tour and travel sales; Max Ettore, domestic account executive, tour and travel sales; and Dan Keller, who had already been introduced as a tour and travel specialist, international sales. The team will focus on delivering tickets for the entire portfolio of Madison Square Garden venues and events to inbound tourists including the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, New York Knicks basketball, New York Rangers ice hockey, venue tours and VIP experiences.
Happy Work Anniversaries
Lucy Steffens for 36 years at the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau
Shane Lauler for 23 years at Starr Tours
Laurel Bennett for 18 years at the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Clay Gregory for 10 years at Visit Napa Valley
Chelsea Benitez for 6 years at Discover Los Angeles
Amir Eylon for 4 years at Longwoods International
Denise Trupe for 1 year at APEX Touring
Jolanda Nazario for 1 year at Bonotel Exclusive Travel
Gerrit De Vos for 1 year at AmericanTours International
POSTED INDUSTRY JOBS
From SearchWide Global:
—Visit Dallas is looking for a president and CEO. For more details, click here.
—Visit Vancouver USA is searching for a president & CEO. Click here for more information.
—Great Wolf Resorts is looking for someone to fill the position of vice president of sales. Visit here for more information.
—Visit Mesas is looking for a director of national sales. For more information, visit here.
—Destinations International is seeking to hire a senior director, strategic alliances. For more information, click here.
—The Georgia World Congress Center has an opening for a senior director of sales. Click herefor more information.
—Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is looking for a president & CEO. For more information, click here.
—A hotel management company is searching for a corporate director of revenue strategy. Click here for more information.
—Experience Prince George’s (Maryland) has an opening for a sales manager. For details, click here.
—Visit Oakland has an opening for a sale manager. For additional information, visit here.
—The Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking for a vice president of sales. For more information, click here.
—Meet Minneapolis is searching for a senior director of destination sales. For details, check here.
—The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau has an opening for a vice president of people strategies. Click here for more information.
—A leading hotel management company based in Dallas is searching for a national revenue & sales reporting manager. For more information, click here.
—From HARP wallen Global Executive Recruitment and Search:
—A London-based tour operator is ultra looking for a public relations manager. For more information, visit here.
—A destination management company is searching for someone who is fluent in Portuguese and English to be a country manager to be based in Lisbon, Portugal. Click here for more information.
—A London-based ultra luxury travel company has an opening for a senior travel designer. For more information, visit here.
—From other sources:
Ad1 Global is looking for an area director of sales for its new brand properties: Wyndham Garden and Tru by Hilton in Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale. For more details, click here