Should RTOs Already be Working on 2021?
In the first of what is planned as a series of “Virtual Roundtable” discussions with receptive tour operators and others in the travel distribution process,* Connect Travel last Thursday hosted “Connect with Receptive Tour Operators”—an hour long online webinar-and-discussion program that featured a panel of receptives who provided their insights as to what DMOs and other U.S. travel suppliers can do to help RTOs manage their way through the coronavirus pandemic that has effectively shut down overseas travel to the United States for at least the near-term future. (* These will include international tour operators, airport route developers and domestic tour operators as well.)
Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, and general manager, Connect Travel Events, who moderated the session, pointed to some major lessons realized by the discussion:
—Communication is Key. “We’re doing a lot more of these kinds of meetings so we can see each other and interact with each other.”
—Indicating that it came as a bit of a surprise to her, Bailey noted that RTOs “are already contracting for next year and that you’re looking for new product. This is very encouraging.”
—Most receptive operators seem to be working to get clients to postpone, rather than cancel, travel arrangements that have been scrapped because of the pandemic.
The panel comprised the following RTO participants:
• Chris Ellis, CEO of 7M Travel Holdings, an Orlando-based receptive whose principal market is India, but also does business in Australia, Brazil and Europe, as well as the Middle East.
• Katja Jahn, head of destination management, G2 Travel, a relatively new brand that has 26 offices worldwide for whom North America is a new destination, with New York, Los Angeles and Toronto popular among its clients, while Japan is the largest market that it serves.
• Tim Ulutin, managing partner, Incoming America—headquartered in New York, the company’s principal overseas market is France, followed by the eastern Europe countries of Poland, Hungary and Romania.
• Peio Cuevas, vice president, operations and business development, SeeUSATours; its principal markets are the UK, Italy, Spain, Asia and all of Latin America.
All four were working (or about to work) out of their homes when they took part in the webinar—an indication of just how the far-reaching the coronavirus pandemic has affected every U.S. economic sector. The format of the hour-long session was direct: Bailey asked some straightforward questions and the panelists responded, interacting with one another at the same time. A number of people dialed into the webinar and they, too, asked some questions of the panel.
What follows are excerpts of the webinar, which Bailey introduced.
“We’re in an uncertain time,” said Bailey, explaining the reason for the gathering. “We want to hear from the RTOs themselves on what the climate is out there, how we move forward, and … how we as suppliers can help the RTOs moving forward, and what they need from us.”
How Are You Doing? “India is in a lock-down,” Ellis responded. “We have to count ourselves lucky being here in the US … we do have Internet access.” Over the next two weeks, I’m not too concerned about Internet access, although I have heard that because kids (who are out of school and at home) are on YouTube a lot, it’s slowing everything down.”
“What we are looking at, at the moment, is our product. We are doing a total revamp of our product—looking at what we are selling, looking at the images, looking at the descriptions of the tours that we’re doing. And that’s where we need help. This is the ideal time to take a step back and say, ‘OK. Yes, we do tours that go to New York or Niagara and Washington, Orlando and Miami. But what else is there?’ And that’s where we need help because—yes, we know New York and those places, but what’s new out there?
“In India, they’ve been contacting CVBs and local offices in India and saying, ‘OK, help us here. What do you have new in your destination, and please give us that information.’ We need more information. We need more images. We need more descriptions, please, so we can build these products.”
Cuevas pointed out that, currently, there are fewer people working in his company, “so, we’re busy. Right now, we are trying to finish some contracts that before, we didn’t have time to finish. We’re talking to hotels. Right now, we are closing up all the contracts and getting new products as well. Hotels, right now, are the main challenge. So, we’re increasing our inventory.”
Not till August: G2 Travel’s Jahn said, “I have told my team to really focus on their relationships, reaching out to everyone, creating this connection—this oft-quoted idea that ‘We’re all in this together’—and together, to come up with plans and time lines. We are not quoting on travel until the beginning of August, because we think that will be the earliest point in time that any group would return.”
“We’re doing the same as Chris (Ellis),” she added. “We’re really looking at all those projects that we never had time for before. As a startup with very slim staffing to begin with, we always struggled with all of these things. So, we’re reviewing all of these matters right now, and we’ll increase our marketing efforts and our training efforts. Because, as you can imagine, with 26 offices throughout the world, our sale teams are selling everything. So, we as a destination now need to promote our destination internationally and this is the perfect time to service them. We’re looking forward to doing that during this time”
For Tim Ulutin and Incoming America, the most important challenge right now is not doing the groups that it had booked for May and June. They are trying to move them further down in the year—toward autumn. “We are in the process of revisiting them, and we are working without partners and the airlines to be able to re-book them. Of course, this involves some complexity. You need to find the seats. You have to talk to the hotels. The most important thing is: you need the help, mainly from hotels, to keep the same rate as you had before. We have to re-book the same rate as we did before … Hopefully, it will be a great fall for all of us.”
Ulutin also pointed out that “most of our 2021 dates are ready. So, now all of our staff are starting to contract for 2021 and our group series for 2021—and doing it from home.”
Hearing this, Bailey observed that all of the suppliers who were listening in to the webinar were “very happy that you’re contracting for 2021.”
IF YOU’RE BOOKING FOR 2021, HOW CAN SUPPLIERS GET INFO TO THE RTOs? WHAT’S THE BEST WAY THEY CAN SUPPORT RTOS?
Relationships Count: “Right now, relationships are the most important thing,” Cuevas declared. “We are talking more than e-mailing people these days. The opportunity to get together with a partner is very important. Sometimes, it’s only e-mails. But we’re doing lots of conferences like this one … the suppliers are understanding of everything … in order to keep our relationships going.”
For instance, he told viewers, “We are trying to give credit notes to most of our groups in order to re-book the group in the future—instead of giving the money back. It’s true that our suppliers are amazing on this … they are not giving us a hard time, except that some hotels are tough to work with. But most of the suppliers are doing very well. I’m so grateful to be able to work with them right now. Now is when you see that a relationship is more than just a day-to-day thing.”
ARE MOST PEOPLE ABROAD POSTPONING INSTEAD OF CANCELLING THEIR TRIP?
Cuevas said that “not so many people are postponing” and that “in recent days, some are cancelling.” (Later on in the program, he suggested that suppliers should “forget about the word cancellation,” and stressed the need for extending current rates through 2021.)
Ulutin volunteered that some tour operators in France and in most European countries have a problem of late in which many travelers have eclipsed or are coming soon to the point of cancellation deadlines. In this situation, some operators are offering credit notes, which are good for 18 months. “We know that our clients will come back, but they want a different product,” he noted.
For Jahn, “it depends on how much of the season is left.”
Responding to a question that a viewer posted that asked, “ow can we help?” Jahn said, “that needs to be on hold a little bit until we see how the situation clears up. The biggest problem we’re going to have is with postponements. Now, everybody wants to travel in September. National parks availability—that’s the biggest thing—has always been dire for September. So, if we are now adding all the pipeline from earlier in the year from postponement, that will be an issue.”
She added, “DMOs can help by getting a clear grasp of their overall ability, talking to hotels about where the distribution is, and where there are time gaps in the availability in their area, so that all of us can do this more efficiently—this postponement into whatever is left of the season. And we don’t know, at this point in time, what’s going to be left of the season.”
What Percentage of People are Postponing vs. Cancelling? Cuevas ventured a guess that, for FIT business, almost all—99 percent–are cancelling. For groups, he estimated that the figure is more like 70 percent cancelling, with the rest postponing.
Suggested Baily: it seems that postponement is “more so on the group side, because they can push it further down the line—while FITs are re-evaluating.”
Ellis, however, pointed out that there are decisions in this question (postponing vs. cancellations) affected by other factors. For instance, he noted, many students from India fly less expensive connecting flights when searching for airfare from the country. When a ban on traffic from China to the U.S. was implemented, the students were cancelling trips because of the cost (of re-booking for a later date).
WHAT ARE RECEPTIVES HEARING FROM THEIR TOUR OPERATOR CLIENTS?
“Basically, they are trying to do the same thing (as receptives) and contract with and their clients—the real passengers,” observed Ulutin. “They try to either re-book them, or try to convince them not to cancel. And the whole question is: When the flights will start within Europe and the U.S.”
“Now, it looks like it’s the beginning of May, but we won’t know for sure,” he added. “We don’t know for sure. What if it happens in June? Or July? So, there is a big urgency. I believe we will need to wait two or three more weeks to see how it will go.”
Ellis told attendees that he currently has two teams working on an update of 7M’s product. When does it need something? “I have a need now!” he said. “Send me some more images. This is the ideal time. (Go on to the company’s website, he urged.) See if material is needed—from images to logos. We want the images and descriptions now, please.”
WILL IT BE NATIONAL PARKS OR SMALLER AREAS THAT PEOPLE COME BACK TO – vs. CHOOSING A LARGER CITY OR A SMALLER CITY … OR LARGE ATTRACTIONS VS. SMALL ATTRACTIONS?
“We’re all in a holding pattern right now. Any guess is as good as the other,” Jahn remarked. “Since we (her company, which does only customized tours) are not working with scheduled departures, we are getting the promise of re-booking at some point in time. But because nobody wants to commit to a particular date, it’s really hard to understand how people are restructuring.”
“It’s a natural thought to think that the more remote areas would be more successful, or that the more nature-bound areas would be more successful going forward, because there’s got to be the lingering thought in people’s minds that they need to travel safe—away from the crowd.”
ARE RECEPTIVES RE-EVALUATING HOW THEY DO THEIR TOURS? WILL THIS LEAD TO SMALLER GROUPS, SOCIAL DISTANCING, ETC.
Ulutin indicate that steps, processes and materials already used by some operators in their products will soon spread to be universal. He said that this will mean:
—Sanitization o buses daily as passengers enter or depart the bus.
—Sanitizing by passengers before and at the end of a tour.
—Restaurants, hotels and attractions will make all such materials more visible to guests.
These small things, Ulutin said, “will be a part of our advertising next year.”
Lang echoed Ulutin, indicating that such practices will be “nothing new … just on a larger scale. I agree that (sanitizing materials) need to be more visible.”
HOW CAN PARTNERS WORK WITH YOU ON MARKETING WHEN THINGS OPEN BACK UP?
What she wanted to emphasize, Lang said, is that, when she is building a product “access needs to be easy.” She would like to have photo and document library “where I have a link, and can go to it when I build a product. It needs to be easy and to be accessible—now.”
As for marketing campaigns, she said that they were not really that valuable for G2, since it customizes, and doesn’t use brochures.
Ellis emphasized the value of training courses that his staff can use, describing them as “fantastic … and you can do it from home.”
WHEN WILL “IT” BE OVER?
In a very sobering tone, Katja Lang tackled this question first: “I really think that we’re dreaming if we think that we’re going to have buses running in May or June. We have to be realistic about this. July? Could be. August is relatively realistic. My mantra that I tell myself—obviously because we (G2) have a big foot in the Asian market—is that Asia will come back first. I don’t think many buses will roll before August. Europe is probably going to take longer to come back. I really think we need to focus on August and beyond.”
Tim Ulutin agreed with Lang. “I agree. August—it will rally be wonderful if it really starts in August, but we are making our plans … more like September.”
“It depends on the segment and pent-up demand,” opined Chris Ellis, who referred to a lag between the opportunity to and the travel itself. However, he asked aloud, “can you imagine all the people in these countries who want to travel and have plans to travel? There’s going to be pent-up demand. And what we need to do is make sure they do it this year, as opposed to delaying to 2021.”
Peio Cuevas suggested that a return to normal levels “depends on each country” and pointed to troubled markets in Italy and Span. “I hope that they will be back in September. But who knows? How are they going to travel? Are they going to come here?
You can view the complete webinar here: https://youtu.be/4A-FG_Nf0B8
Steep Drop in Chinese Visitors Confirmed in February Figures
A Decline of 84 Percent in February vs. Same Month Last Year: The latest monthly report on overseas arrivals from key markets by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO) show a dramatic, never-seen before one month decline in the number of travelers to the U.S. from China of 84 percent. Such a drop was not unexpected, however, following the decision of the United States early last month to ban travel from China due to the coronavirus contagion which, for the most part, had been largely confined to China.
The decline of passenger traffic from China in February was so dramatic, in fact, that the country fell out of the list of Top 15 Overseas Markets, ranking #17—quite a decline from the No. 3 position it held throughout 2019.
It is likely that the red ink in the table below will grow to cover the figures for the month of March, during which travel from (and to) other nations to the U.S. was banned.
How Long Will “It” Last?
“Hang in there and plan for the time ahead,” suggests German tour operator: As the travel and tourism industry, which has probably suffered a greater deleterious impact from the coronavirus pandemic than any other U.S. economic sector, struggles to remain sane, INBOUND took the occasion to talk recently with a German tour operator—Timo Kohlenberg— known to many in the USA’s international inbound tour industry for his company’s award-winning and innovative marketing campaigns and promotions.
Before he became president and CEO of Hannover-based America Unlimited, Kohlenberg studied marketing in both New York and London, and is especially adept at understanding the nuances of spoken English as it applies to American tastes. His social media posts reflect that, and he is much sought after by U.S. travel suppliers at major international travel trade shows.
We spoke long enough for Kohlenberg to answer the key questions that most of us have had since the coronavirus pandemic took over the direction of our lives. Our exchange follows.
INBOUND: Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of air traffic between the USA and Europe, there are many challenges, of course, but what is the most difficult challenge faced by you and other operators who sell the USA to German travelers?
Kohlenberg: There are two main challenges: First, the airlines are not refunding the tickets but we as a tour operator have to refund to the clients by German law. Secondly, there are almost no new bookings coming in for the future, but we still have to pay full salaries to our employees.
INBOUND: Is there any sense among your clients overseas as to when, they believe, the worst part of the pandemic’s effect on the tour and travel business will be behind us?
Kohlenberg: Not really, at the moment it looks like it’s getting worse day by day. My personal feeling is that it will affect us until about the end of the year.
INBOUND: While we all wait for the situation to improve, what steps have you been taking, both short- and long-term, to stay healthy?
Kohlenberg: We have used a common German solution cutting the salaries in half; the government pays the other half. And we have used the opportunity to stop paying taxes—also a program by the government—and we are trying to talk to the clients to move their trip instead of cancelling it. Also, there will be different programs by the government for financial support, which are not 100 percent clear yet.
INBOUND: Assume, for a moment, that there was no coronavirus pandemic. Based on the most recent trade show that you took part in—Connect Travel’s Marketplace in Orlando—was there anything new in the types of products that your clients were looking for?
Kohlenberg: We are seeing more product that are sustainable and “green,“ which seems to be a big trend at the moment.
INBOUND: What advice do you have for U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs who promote to Germany for the near-term future?
Kohlenberg: Hang in there and plan for the time ahead. We are already planning marketing campaigns, new products etc. for the new year. It is very important to look at the next year now and how we can promote travel to the U.S. in fall.
INBOUND: Is there anything else that you would like to say to the readers of INBOUND?
Kohlenberg: Yes! I created a big initiative for the entire travel industry in Germany partnering with the AER (a cooperative for tour operators and travel agents). I created a video where a lot of tour operators mention how many bookings they have lost and how many employees are in danger now. We want to create awareness for the travel industry to get more support from the clients and the government. We launched the campaign yesterday and TV networks and press is already picking it up. Overnight we created 10.000 views of the video on Facebook. (Here you can see it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UBldl3FgSw&t=34s)
Optimism for Recovery High Among Younger Chinese Travelers
A new survey by Dragon Trail Interactive indicates that the generation of Chinese born 1990-99, the “Post-90s” are more likely than their “elders,” the post-80s to believe that recovery will occur sooner. More than four out of five (82 percent) of post-90s respondents predicted that recovery would arrive in the second quarter of 2020, compared with 75 percent of post-80s.
Dragon Trail, a global research and marketing organization with offices in China, the UK and the United States In early March 2020, Dragon Trail Research conducted a survey of Chinese travelers early last month to gather insight for the travel industry on prospects for the recovery of Chinese tourism, and how the coronavirus crisis may impact Chinese consumers’ intention to travel and travel priorities.
Other Top Takeaways from the Survey:
—Nearly nine out of ten (89 percent) of respondents have canceled or delayed travel plans due to the coronavirus crisis. Half said they would travel when the crisis is over, with 19 percent reporting that they either would not travel or were afraid to travel.
—The post-90s, in addition to being the most the most optimistic demographic segment about when recovery will happen, and likely to travel sooner than older respondents, are also more likely to have more budget to travel after the crisis—making it an important target audience for travel marketers once recovery begins.
—Instead of an explosive rebound during any one holiday period, the survey data leads Dragon Trail’s analysts to believe that we are likely to see several smaller waves of growth for Chinese travel, starting in May at the earliest, with summer holiday months and October subsequent periods.
—The coronavirus pandemic has changed travel priorities, and there is now increased appeal for less populated areas, with high interest in nature tourism, small towns, and self-driving.
—Post-80s and post-70s generations show increased interest in wellness tourism now than before the crisis.
—The crisis has made many respondents closer with their families and prioritize spending leisure and travel time with family in the future—expect family travel to become an even more important form of travel than before the crisis.
—Among the most significant reasons preventing Chinese from traveling in the future are fears about health and safety, as well as lack of money and time due to the crisis. While there is very little that travel brands can do about the latter, apart from major discounts, post-crisis marketing will need to put forth a strong message about health and sanitation to convince travelers it is safe to visit.
When Will Recovery Come?
The majority of respondents believed recovery would occur in second and third quarters of 2020, with 82 percent of respondents predicting that recovery would occur in Q2 at the earliest. More than half of travelers predicted that recovery will occur between May and July at the latest, with June being the biggest recovery month. Close to one-third of survey respondents said that recovery would occur between August and October.
Post-90s. meanwhile, are more likely than post-80s to believe that recovery will occur sooner, with 82 percent of the demographic segment predicting that recovery would arrive in Q2, compared with 75 percent of post-80s.
• When asked about the latest date by which recovery will happen, post-70s and post-90s respondents were both more optimistic than post-80s. Fifty-seven percent of post-70s and 55 percent of post-90s believe that recovery would occur between May and July at the latest, compared to 46 percent of post-80s.
• Respondents who originally had domestic travel plans or no travel plans were more optimistic than travelers with outbound travel plans. There is a similar difference when it comes to predicting the earliest recovery timeframe, with over 80 percent of travelers with domestic or no travel plans predicting that recovery would arrive in Q2, compared with 68 percent travelers with outbound travel plans. At the latest, 54 percent of both of the former groups thought that recovery will come between May and July, compared to 42 percent of respondents with outbound travel plans.
• Looking at the question of the earliest recovery dates, singles and four-person households were more optimistic – over 80% of both groups believed that recovery would arrive in Q2. Four-person households and singles are also more likely than three-person households to believe that recovery will occur as early as April. At the latest, 55 of four-person households believed recovery would occur between May and July, followed by 25 percent predicting an August-October recovery. Significantly more members of four-person households still believed that recovery would arrive in April, compared to respondents from other households.
• Instead of an explosive growth of travelers during holidays such as the Labor Day holiday in May, the survey data, said Dragon Trail, “leads us to believe that we are likely to see several smaller waves of travel.” At the earliest, the first wave of travelers will start in May, with 14 percent of respondents planning travel for May and June. This will be followed by a stronger wave during the summer months, with 26 percent planning to travel again in July and August. Another 15 percent plan to wait until the October National Day holiday. As of the start of March, approximately one-third of respondents had either delayed their travel plans until 2021 or were not planning any travel.
Finally, the coronavirus crisis has been a transformative experience for many Chinese in the way they think about and plan travel. When asked about types of trips they intended to take post-crisis, they demonstrated a high interest in trips that are removed from populated urban areas, such as nature sightseeing and self-driving trips. Relaxation is the top reason to go on a trip post-crisis, followed by experiencing local culture.
(To view the full report, visit https://dragontrail.com/)
Update—The Top Travel Companies in Brazil
Brazilian travel trade giant PANROTAS has released its annual Forum magazine, a more-or-less directory of the top businesses in the country’s travel and tourism industry. The 128-page publication, available here, is usually released at the annual FÓRUM PANROTAS, a must-attend event for key figures in the industry, usually held just as Spring begins. However, concern over the impact of the coronavirus prompted the publication to move the forum, which had been scheduled to take place March 17-18, has been re-schedule and will take place September 9-10 in São Paulo.
The top players in the Brazilian travel and tourism industry are called travel distributors—not tour operators or travel agents—because many companies are both travel agent and tour operator, and some also have a stake in other sectors of the industry. For instance, the largest travel company in the country, CVC, comprises RexturAdvance, an airline consolidator; Grupo Trend, which is based primarily in Orlando, where it conducts receptive tour business; Submarino Viagens, a pioneer in online sales of airline tickets, hotels, packaged travel and cruises in Brazil; Experimento, an education-focused operator; and Visual Turismo, a travel agent-only operation.
The magazine also features lists of top performers in various sectors in the travel and tourism industry, as well as a special report on the history of women in the tourism industry in Brazil.
The Top Travel & Tourism Distributors in Brazil*
3. Flytour Group
4. AJMOBI (AJ Mobilidade Corporativa – Alatur JTB)
5. Confiança Group
8. Arbaitman Group
9. Ancoradouro Group
14. Voetur Group
15. BCD Travel
16. BRT Group
18. Teresa Perez Tours
19. Highlight Consolidator
20. Sakura Consolidator
21. Orintor Tour & Travel
22. Agaxtur Viagens
23. Queensberry Viagens
24. BTM Corporate
26. Primetour Viagens & Experiencias
27. Master Turismo
28. Costa Brava Viagens & Eventos
29. Casablanca Turismo
31. Promotional Travel
32. Rio Travel
33. LTN Brasil
* The criteria used in ranking the companies are discussed in the full report, available here.
Lost in the Noise—German Trade Already Foresaw a Weak Year Ahead
“German tourism industry faces dramatic financial hit,” shouted the headline above the lead story last Thursday in fvw, the German travel trade publication, as it went on to explain that the country’s travel and tourism industry called for a government aid program in order to prevent a “massive” financial hit “that could result in countless insolvencies within weeks.”
Now, the crisis in the Germany industry is, of course, driven by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global travel and tourism industry. However, sales and marketing professionals in Germany—it is the second-largest overseas market in Europe, behind only the UK—had already received reports of a weakness ahead more than a month beforehand.
It probably would have been a top story at the ITB trade show scheduled for early last month in Berlin, but which was shut down at the lastminute.
For instance, In an article on March 3—it was to have been the day before ITB (scheduled for March 4-8) was to have started, fvw told its readers: “The German travel industry is facing a tough year with summer holiday sales already 3% down on last year and the coronavirus outbreak now starting to impact on travel demand, according to industry chiefs.”
Citing the latest report by the Nurenberg-based research and marketing firm Travel Data + Analytics (TDA), the following points were noted:
—Germans were holding back on their travel bookings, as sales revenues for both the current winter season and summer 2020 were down by three percent, on a cumulative basis, as of the end of January.
—Bookings for summer 2020 were down by 9 percent (although average spending per package holiday was three percent).
—Sales figures for the largest summer holiday destinations were lower than at the same point in 2019.
—The United States remains the favorite long-haul destination for German travelers.
Top 10 Tourist Destinations
(Based on Sales)
3. Balearic Islands
7. Mainland Spain
Source: Travel Data + Analytics
Also, At a pre-ITB news conference the week before ITB was to have begun, Norbert Fiebig, president of DRV (Deutscher ReiseVerband or German Travel Industry Association), took note of the growing menace of the coronavirus, saying, “We can certainly observe a rising uncertainty among holidaymakers and business travelers … this is creating an additional need for advice from travel agents and tour operators.”
Further Information on/from TDA, contact: Dörte Nordbeck ([email protected])
Don Welsh: There Will be a Silver Lining, but we Are not There Yet*
by Kelsey Ogletree
The coronavirus pandemic has sent the travel industry into a tailspin, but there is light at the end of the tunnel—however long it may take us to get there, says Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International. Here’s his take on the current situation.
Q: How are destinations dealing with the coronavirus from a meetings business standpoint?
Welsh: I think there’s never been a more collaborative effort in the industry and with all the industry players involved in meetings. What we’re realizing, as we go through this, is that knowledge is power, and we’re getting more clarity with every passing day as a country and also at city and state level.
Q: How have communications changed?
Welsh: Cities are taking a proactive response to reach out to planners who have meetings scheduled. Many planners have reached out to destinations needing answers to the questions [being asked by] attendees or their board. There is heightened two-way communication between the destination, particularly at the sales and services level, and planners.
Q: Are destination organizations still trying to sell destinations for the future?
Welsh: We are all spending a disproportionate part of our day [dealing with the coronavirus situation], but that doesn’t preclude us from doing our normal, everyday work going forward. If you talk to CVB leaders, they’re spending a lot of time on webinars and conference calls, digesting information as it’s coming out by the hour. Right now, the situation is very fluid. Destination organizations are doing everything in their power to be responsive to their communities and customers and their needs at this time.
Q: What’s the most important takeaway you want DMO teams to know right now?
Welsh: We’ve certainly had 8-10 years of a positive run worldwide in terms of hotel performance, airline load factors, and hotel and airline profitability. This is a business that can never be taken for granted. As we’ve seen here — and as we saw after 9/11 — with the snap of a finger, or an outbreak of a virus that’s become a pandemic, all that can end and come to a rapid halt.
When we are firing on all cylinders again — back to normal, whatever that is — we will have a much greater appreciation for a healthy tourism economy, including meetings. In some parts of the world, this has been taken for granted for over a decade. I do see a silver lining, but right now we’re not in that. You have to look to the other end, of when we get through this. Travel is part of who we are as people; it’s in our DNA.
To access industry resources from Destinations International, go here. You can also find out information about DI’s weekly coronavirus industry update call, which takes place every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. EST, and upcoming webinars.
*The above reprinted, courtesy of Trade Show News Network. To read the original article, visit here.
“Chinese Tourists Ready to Break Out”
Really? The above headline, which actually appeared late March in the Bangkok Post (see below), seems to be indicative, lately, of the sort of news generated by the travel and tourism industry and government officials who have come to rely on the industry as it has grown to be a major economic force in the past decade in Asia.
A sampler of some of the coverage of travel and tourism developments as the coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the world shows fear, alarm and despair but, also, as new cases of the virus have leveled off within China itself, the upbeat headlines illustrate a sort of willful, official optimism:
—In the same article cited above, we are told, “Chinese tourists expect to resume their travels in April as new coronavirus infections subside, while Thai tourism officials aim to apply a safety and health administration program to help operators upgrade their ability to deal with the pandemic.”
—Also, outbound tour operators in China have informed partners in Thailand that two provinces, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, have lifted travel restrictions but citizens are likely to venture out within their own provinces first, said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
—According to the results of a new survey by the Joint Tourism Big Data Lab of the China Tourism Academy and Ctrip, and as reported by CGTN, “the coming month of May is likely to see the tourism industry pick up, as 16 percent of the respondents showed a willingness to travel in that month that goes with a five-day public holiday, according to the report. Summer season from June to August also proved to be a popular option.” Of course, most respondents were talking about domestic travel.
—Within the same time frame, China’s official press agency, the Xinhua News Agency, reported that eight museums in Shenyang reopened; and that a total of 3,714 tourist sites in 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland had reopened, accounting for over 30 percent of the total. In addition, over 180 museums had reopened, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
—While most of what is being reported has to do with domestic tourism—for the moment, international air traffic to and from China has effectively shut down—ADARA, a research firm based in Silicon Valley, said it has seen a small uptick in the number of flight searches from Chinese travelers. Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer at ADARA, said: “We are seeing subtle but meaningful changes across flight bookings and searches for China travel.
Why It’s So Important to China
Of course, no one in the international inbound travel industry needs a script to understand—or tell someone else about—the industry’s economic importance. But in China, it is even an official canon of economic development policy.
You see, in 2016, China’s State Council issued a
national plan for the development of tourism industry in the 13th Five-Year
Plan period (2016-2020). The reasoning was that China’s growing middle
class could stimulate the nation’s economy through infusions of the disposable
income they now had on travel.
According to the plan, China would strive to develop tourism into the major driver of economic transformation and upgrading. The plan laid out the development goal for the tourism industry during aimed at reaching annual growth in number of tourists, tourism revenue, and tourism investment of 10 percent, 11 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. It is now questionable whether those goals will be achieved.
However, once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, international air traffic is back and buses are rolling, Chinese consumers just might be ready—if not encouraged (Remember: “Chinese Tourists Ready to Break Out” —to travel abroad again.
HODGE PODGE: Appointments & Changes
Riviera Travel has announced that Phil Hullah has been appointed its new chief executive. Hullah replaces David Clemson, who will stay with Riviera Travel as a shareholder and non-executive director. Hullah joined Riviera Travel in October 2019 as chief operating officer, bringing with him a wealth of senior leadership experience in consumer-facing businesses in the UK. Prior to joining Riviera Travel, Hullah served as deputy chairman of AVADO, an international digital education business that he led as chief executive from 2010 to 2018.
Marissa Werner has been promoted to the post of director of sports development at Visit Milwaukee, and will lead the new sports division for the agency. Werner, who joined the agency in 2011, as previously with the Milwaukee Bucks NBA basketball team.
Junior Tauvaa has been promoted to the post of chief sales officers for Visit Anaheim, He was previously senior vice president, sales and promotion services. Before joining Visit Anaheim in 2003, Tauvaa was senior vice president, strategic partnerships & foundation, at Meeting Professionals International, where he served for nearly six years.
Eric Antony recently joined CWT as chief product officer. She joins the company from Workfront, where she was vice president of product management.
Serko Limited has announced that it has appointed Jonathan Starkings as head of Booking.com Partnership to lead the initiative to develop and bring to market the Zeno solution with Booking.com for Business. Starkings is an experienced travel technology executive who previously held roles as Senior Director of Travel, EMEA at Groupon, Commercial Director at Expedia Group (Orbitz) and Digital Marketing and Revenue Director at Langham Hotels. He will lead the multi-functional team at Serko across design, product and technology that is working hard to bring innovative solutions to the SME business travel market with Booking.com.
John A. Klados has been named the new vice president of group sales at Perillo Tours. In this new role, Klados will be responsible for targeting and growing sales within the faith-based tourism market across the entire Perillo portfolio. Klados joins the company with more than 30 years in the travel industry and 20 years of expertise in faith-based tourism. His first introduction to faith travel was at the former Yugoslav Airlines, and is credited with creating several faith-based travel programs at companies including Trafalgar, Key Tours and, most recently, at Homeric Tours, serving as the VP of marketing and sales.
In Brazil, Wilson Silva is leaving Kontik Viagens where he served as director of customer relations and was responsible for the creation of the marketing area and brand repositioning and for high customer retention rates, through new models of management, creation of new products, services and specialized consultancies for corporate travel. Silva was also responsible for customer implementation and quality areas, having served for one year as interim director of events.
Posted Industry Jobs
From SearchWide Global:
—Travel Marquette is looking for a group marketing/sales manager. For more information, visit here.
—Meet AC (Atlantic City) is seeking a new to find their next President & CEO. Click here for more details.
—The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau is seeking a new president and CEO. More details here.
—The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau has an opening for a senior national accounts director in Washington, D.C. Click here for more details.
—Visit Topeka has an opening for a new president, who will also serve as senior vice president of the Greater Topeka Partnership. You’ll find more details here.
—Visit Santa Clara is searching for a president and CEO. Click here for more information.
—Destination Ann Arbor is looking to hire a vice president of sales. For more information, visit here.
—The Port Aransas & Mustang Island Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce is searching for a president & CEO. For more information, click here.
—The Galesburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in Illinois is looking for an executive director. For more details, click here.
—The Spartanburg (S.C.) Convention & Visitors Bureau is seeking a chief tourism development officer. Visit here for more information.
—Visit Pittsburgh is searching for a new president and CEO. For more information, click here.
—Discover Lancaster is searching for a new president and EO. Click here for more details.
—In Little Rock, Arkansas, the DMO there is searching for a senior sales director. For more information, visit here.
—The Monterey County CVB is searching for a new president and CEO. Click here for more details.
—Visit San Antonio is looking for a director of market strategy. For more details, click here.
—There is an opening for a director of sales and catering at a Great Wolf Resort. Click here for specifics.
—The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (Explore St. Louis) has an opening for a vice president of sales. Click here for more information
—The Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking for a president and CEO. For more information, visit here.
—An international hotels & resorts company has an opening for a regional director of sales and marketing; the position is based in Vancouver, B.C. Visit here for details
—The Saugatuck Douglas Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is searching for a new executive director. Click here for more information.
From HARP wallen Global Executive Recruitment and Search:
—A travel company in the North of England is looking for a sales and business development professional who will take on responsibility for designing, developing and implementing tour operating strategies. Click here for more information.
—In the Northern Home Counties, a growing luxury travel company is looking for an online marketing executive. Click here for more details.
—The position of head of sales, b2b Travel with a travel and tourism company in the Northern Home Counties is open. For more details, click here.
—In the North of England, a growing luxury travel company is looking for a marketing executive in a newly created role will help the marketing manager. Click here for additional information.