Resources for Coping with Coronavirus and Its Impact
“The coronavirus public health crisis has taken a devastating toll on the travel industry,” says the U.S. Travel Association. The national industry for the travel and tourism industry, US Travel equips visitors to its website—https://www.ustravel.org/—with a complete inventory of resources designed to keep industry professionals equipped. Visit now and take a quick survey of what the association has to help you and all of us in the industry.
Receptive Operators Need Your Help—Continued:
Receptive Tour Operators in North America are eager to receive more than just visitors to America; more important, in the months ahead, they want to receive ideas, material and suggestions from DMOs and travel suppliers as they are using much of their time—until the coronavirus-induced shutdown of the tour and travel industry fades before business can restart at some point this year—putting together new product, fine-tuning existing product and, generally, making sure that they will be ready for anything.
Such was the tone recently at Connect Travel’s second “Virtual Roundtable” of industry experts comprising a panel of four RTOs and scores of participants who watched and took part in the live webinar discussion.
“This is a situation such that we’ve never faced before. It requires more than an ordinary solution; it has to be very innovative, something that we don’t normally do, in order to resuscitate travel … all the DMOs have to help make the message known to all the attractions and hotels.”—Jack Lok
As the event neared its conclusion, Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, and general manager, Connect Travel Events, who moderated the roundtable, asked panelists if they had any closing thoughts, prompting Jack Lok, an advisor to the New York-based RTO Universal Vision, to declare, “This is a situation such that we’ve never faced before. It requires more than an ordinary solution; it has to be very innovative, something that we don’t normally do, in order to resuscitate travel … all the DMOs have to help make the message known to all the attractions and hotels.”
The panelists, all of them working from home (which some have been doing for some time, so the experience is not new or unique) included:
—Tresie Benoit, director of contracting, North America, W2M/World2. An Iberostar brand, its key markets are in Europe—mainly Spain and Portugal, but also the UK and Germany; it’s also strong in South America.
—Charles Zhao, managing director, CP Trip Service Inc. Headquartered in Toronto It sells product in North America from mostly Asian, especially the Southeast Asian region—such as the Philippines and the emerging market of Vietnam—and, “of course,” China.
—Jack Lok, advisor, Universal Vision (owned by Ctrip, the largest travel company in China). Key market is China. The company covers most of the United States, with operations teams from Seattle to Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also works closely with Seagull Holiday, a large RTO based in the Los Angeles area. Altogether, the Universal Vision operation brings about a half-million visitors a year to the U.S.
—Tereza Reis, president, Personal RGE Tours. Reis founded the Orlando-based RTO 30 years ago. It caters mostly to Latin America—especially Brazil—Portugal and Spain. The company is also a wholesaler for Disney and works with hotels throughout the western U.S. in designing incentive and specialized tours.
HOW ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW?
Shari Bailey began the discussion by noting that, at the previous Virtual Roundtable, it was felt that “plans being put on hold now is how everyone is doing right now … all things have stopped and people are trying to reschedule and to cancel their trips.” With that as preface, Baily asked panelists how they were doing right now.
Tereza Reis: “We’re not getting any new reservations and I’m not expecting anything until the second semester, at Least. So, right now, we’re trying to organize the company for what comes ahead. We know this is going to bounce back, and we know that we need to be prepared, and that’s what we’ve been doing and are doing right now. My whole team (Reis said that she has only laid off one individual) is preparing for when we come back.”
Reis also noted that she is working to keep her team, as well as her clients, educated about new product: “We’ve keeping them educated, providing both with educational seminars. We are partnering with Disney and we are seminars for all our clients from Latin America and Portugal … That’s what we’ve been doing—putting together the seminars, putting together new products for next year and contracting with the hotels.”
Tresie Benoit: “For me, personally, nothing has changed a lot. I was already working from home. I’ve had my home office already here for several years so, in that regard, it’s business as usual for me. The offices that we have in Cancun, the office that we have in Spain—right now they’re all home-based. They’re all set up to work from home and I would say for my team here in the United States … probably, we’re busier than ever. We need to be prepared so we’re not only now also dealing with more daily operations transactions—following the protocol that the company put in place, so we’re helping there but, in addition, yes, we need to do our jobs contracting, looking for what is coming next so that we are prepared and that we also do product development and that we get new hotels on board. So, we’re busy.”
Charles Zhao (after Bailey said that she realized that he had some incentive groups scheduled for later in the year and that, now, it didn’t look they were going to materialize, and asking If there was ‘anything we can do to help reschedule and making more palatable for your clients?’
“Many of our businesses are customized, and we have incentive travelers from different companies and, especially, we have a lot of pharmaceutical companies for the incentive organizing—let’s say medical doctors—and obviously, these people won’t be able to travel at all now.
“Interestingly, back in January and February of this year inquiries were coming in quite strong, so that we had new requests for quotations on daily basis—usually several a day. At the time, we thought ‘What a great year,’ so me and my business partner put down a deposit to purchase another bus. it’s a luxury one, manufactured in a company close to Los Angeles, and we told them they could deliver it to us in early May when all these groups were coming to the eastern part of Canada.
“At that time, hotel rates were quite high everywhere. For example, in Banff—in the Rocky Mountains—the Fairmont Hotel would likely charge you several hundred dollars easily, and then, many of the dates are sold out. it’s so hard to get the space.
“Then, toward the end of February, everything happened. We started to see a slowdown of the new inquiries, then the cancellations started coming in one by one. And just a few days ago one group with 70 people scheduled to come in October had to cancel. People know you feel uncertain—and especially, we do not know how many months it will take. Right now, we basically have nothing on the books for this year. Everything got cancelled.”
Bailey: “To 2021! We’re looking forward to 2021 for you.”
Zhao: “Yes. For sure, that year will come.”
WILL CHINA BE THE FIRST OVERSEAS MARKET TO COME BACK?
Jack Lok: “Well, the way we look at it, I don’t think China’s gonna come back so quickly. The reason is because, for anything from overseas, there is a limitation: all the international flights from the U.S. China have to be limited now. China itself is now getting back to normal, however.
“They have to restart the international flights, and even they when they restart the international flights, the capacity won’t be that much. The airline ticket for the International portion of travel will be very expensive. And we already see what has happened right now during the COVID-19—the international flights from the U.S. to China have doubled or tripled its cost. At Ctrip, they have already forecast that, for the whole rest of the year, it’s not gonna come back strongly, so we’re looking for 2021.
“However, with that being said, we’re using this time, pretty much, planning not only for next year but … expanding within the U.S. People forget about the U.S. Chinese American market—there’s like 5 or 6 million of them, so that is a very sizable market and we’ve been serving the market for all this year. They are beginning the first organized local tour, a one-day tour. Operations teams in Washington, Dallas and Houston are going to start the one-day tour for Chinese American market. (Lock later pointed out that the company also has operations in Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, Orlando and Miami who will have one-day local tours, and that the company started out in business with local tours and has always done local tours.) The staff have something to do and when it’s the appropriate time—when the situation lessens and when the home quarantine is lifted, then those are the tours that we think are gonna happen first.
“I don’t think Americans are going to rush out jump on a plane and go somewhere … yet. Right now, like everybody else, we’re concentrating on improving our whole operation—from the IT side to the management side, and then to create and prepare new products for the coming year. I’m sure this COVID-19 will change some of the product that people are looking for, in a way. So, we will try to find a feel for it and then prepare for it.”
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO FOR SUPPLIERS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO YOU?
Shari Bailey: “I’ve heard each one of you say that you are looking for new product for 2021 or the end of this year. how is the best way for all of the suppliers to get information to you? Do you want that information right now and should they email you directly, or is there another process on how they can provide you the information that you’re looking for?”
Tresie Benoit: “Right now.”
Tereza Reis: (Nods head “Yes.”)
Charles Zhou: “I would say this is the best time because for us, we were busy every day, then nothing new coming in. It’s easy to get hold of us. We have more time to focus on what your future product will be. Also, it’s a perfect time for the suppliers to host–maybe, let’s say, through Connect Travel–virtual fam tours. We don’t need to be physically there. Or we can do a zone meeting to learn about your product. You can do a virtual fam for the RTOS and we have tons of times you do that.
“One of the DMO offices, based out of Montreal, did a fantastic virtual fam. They are very positive and they are also targeting the Chinese Canadian community (like what Jack Lok mentioned). In the Toronto region we have more than 700,000 living in the area.
“You know, the temperature’s going up now and we feel the spring is right at the corner and people are eventually looking for some short distance places to go. I one hundred percent agree (with Jack Lok) that this group of people might be the first to hit the domestic market—within Canada and possibly in the U.S. There’s time for them to travel to any of the destinations. It’s so easy to just drive. Then tend to drive as a family instead of using a motorcoach.”
WITH MOST HOTELS CLOSED RIGHT NOW, WHAT INFORMATION CAN DEMOS PROVIDE YOU THAT CONNECT YOU WITH NEW PRODUCTS?
Tresie Benoit: “That is indeed a little bit of the challenge—that we have that hotels are closed and lots of people have been furloughed, and we want to send out a message but they’re just not there, so I would say the CVBs, if they can help (usually we have the contact information), it’s just a matter of sending the message to the right person and then when that person picks up the message, they can respond right away. We just cannot stop contacting people. We need to continue contacting them and at some point, they will pick up the message.”
Shari Bailey: “I think that might be a good a good message for all of the DMOs out there—you know your destination better than anyone and if there are hotels that are closed or furloughed employees to be able to provide the correct contact to our panelists and all operators and RTOS out there to make sure they’re getting the right information.”
Tereza Reis: “I was going to say that, even though most of the hotels are closed, the ones that we’ve been contacting—they left at least one person or the sales department working from home. So far, all the hotels that were trying to connect, getting the contracts for 2021, they are responding to us because, even if they are not sending the contracts because a lot of people are waiting to see what’s going to happen, if they are going to contract with a lower or a higher rate. But we were able at least
get some specials already so, even though the hotels are closed, the sales departments are still running from home.”
Charles Zhao: “Through my experience, when there is a cancellation and we found out the particular sales manager we deal with, knowing that person’s not there for a temporary or indefinite period. So, at least you know we need to have someone that we can get hold of—especially for customized tours. We don’t contract for a whole year one way; it’s based on the inquiry and what are the cities they want to go to.”
“In February, I remember, I approached a contact for referrals going to Yellowstone, let’s say. These are coming out of Manila for a group of doctors—so they have very specific requirements or expectations. Last December, we got groups going to New York and Boston based on the level of the hotels they are looking for or their budget—all customized or incentive. And it’s early for this type of business to receive next year’s rate without determining when the market will resume, when it will come back and how strong or how weak they will come back.
“During 9/11 and its aftermath, and during SARS, I was in Toronto. I worked in the hotel industry. At one point, in order to attract people to stay in a hotel in one of the major brands downtown they promoted a one-dollar-per night rate. Still, nobody went there at all because your well-being is more important.
“It’s supply and demand. and we do not know how soon or how slow the market will come back and you can decide on your rates. My final job was 15 years ago in the hotel industry as the director of sales in a regular three-star out of the downtown core. One tour package out of New York at the time was $58 a night, including breakfast for two. That’s crazy. But the market was desperate and, as we called it, it was ‘Put the heads on the beds.” Just bring in people to sell the rooms.
“And then look at up to a few months ago: the market in many of the major cities in North America was very healthy. Average daily rates were in the reasonable or high range. They reflected the value the dollar had and the healthy industry that we were in. One concern for me, having worked in the hotel industry, was we might feel desperate or some of us then they will dramatically drop the rates to try to attract occupancy. People come in, but you have to remember we’re in a different market: you have to analyze it rather doing something so quickly without a reasonable reason to do it.
“I learned from Ctrip (Zhao is also a vendor in Canada for Ctrip). Their people approached us and asked us to provide them with who are our star tour guides. They wanted to interview them over the WeChat
phone to make sure we have good to make sure that we have good people reserve, so that when the market comes back, they will work with good companies.
“This is a good time to do trainings, to upgrade our knowledge or skills and this and that. Just one week prior to Toronto announcing the lock down and this-and-that, our company hired a trainer to provide us soft skills training like communication skills, problem solving for all of our bus drivers the tour guides and the office people. It’s a two-day training; people enjoy it. They know that what they do is important, which is to deal with people; it’s a people communication type of job.”
Tresie Benoit: “I just wanted to share some information on this, and myself being European and working
with the European market: Traveling is in their genes. And now, especially, that they’re all locked down and they’re sitting at home, they’re watching everywhere dreaming where they’re gonna go next on vacations. Actually, I was reading an article this morning that, for the people in UK, there was a hit of 1,600 percent more than last year to travel to Spain as soon as they are able and can get out of their houses, so people are looking. They’re going to be so ready to travel. And that’s why we have to have not only 2020 good offers in place, but people that will not be able to travel in 2020 due to maybe a financial reduction or not having the financial possibility, they will travel in 2021. So that is why we need these 2021 agreements that we have the hotels ready to take the bookings for 2021.”
ON THE MATTER OF TRAINING, WHAT CAN RTOs DO FOR DMOs AND VICE VERSA?
Shari Bailey: “In the previous roundtable, the conversations we had were about training staff members. Now, we’re hearing talk about training your clients. So, I think all of our suppliers are going to sit up straighter and say ‘How can we be involved in that? How can we not only train your team but also provide information when you are training clients about destinations hotels attractions?’… and is that something that you’re open to with all of our clients?’ I know our DMOs are jumping on that. I was a DMO myself, you know. How do you, how do we, get that information to you to train about the destination?”
Tereza Reis: “Yes. We have partnered with Disney to do the seminars. and we are trying to put together something very similar with Universal, but by the same token, I’m willing to work with the CVBs from
other places—not only to promote the destination but, most importantly, to educate our clients from the destinations the understanding that our clients overseas—not that they lack information—they thirst for more information. And that’s where I’m going to try to see if I can also put together some seminars and webinars with some of the CVBs to help out in promoting the destination. That’s my second step.
“We don’t need to overflow our clients with webinars, but that’s what we’re trying to do—at least once every 10 days we are going to try to see if we can have one destination broadcasting whatever they have to offer to our clients.”
Shari Bailey: (To Tereza Reis) “You just made all of our CVBs and DMOs on this call very happy right
ALSO, COULD DMOs PROVIDE RTOs WITH AN INTERACTIVE LINK FOR THEIR TRAINING PROGRAMS?
Tereza Reis: “Yes, that’s similar to what we are doing already. First, there is the presentation and, like we’re doing here, sending in questions. The same thing happens on our webinars. We are able to answer the questions, but we have to limit the number of questions because, otherwise, the webinars would take four or five hours. But we are trying to resolve as many questions as we can by the end of the seminar. It’s something interactive; it’s not just like a PowerPoint presentation.”
TO THE RTOS: HOW ARE YOUR INTERNATIONAL TOUR OPERATOR CLIENTS
Charles Zhao: “First, whenever a request or cancellation comes in, we consider it as first priority and we get it done. it’s always been our company’s philosophy whenever new inquiries have a request for a quotation, we write back the same day because we’ve got to consider the 12-hour time differences in Asian countries. So, in the past 12 years, that’s been our mandate—a same-day response. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new booking or it’s a new cancellation. I don’t want them to wait.
“This also relates to suppliers and the hotels or attractions that we already have business from. At the same time, we also look for an instant reply from the suppliers. At the end of the day, before 5 PM here (EST), we send out emails and, write ‘cancelled without penalty, and keep safe and healthy.’ These are the ways to respect our clients and to make their life a little bit easier, but we also know from their end it’s also a not-easy job because, like you know, they are facing their end users and don’t ask questions why you canceled. I did have one hotel ask that particular question. All I needed to do to is just type in ‘COVID.’
“So, there is no need to ask that type of question. As a tour operator, we don’t want to cancel business against our will. Also, this is the time, we all know, what’s the reason behind it. So, let’s do it effectively. It’s also a good way to be connected with my tour operators based in those countries, those destinations.
“Going further back to what Tereza (Reis) has mentioned, a good point is: DMOS, let’s say if you would like to do one to promote together with me to my clients, I’d rather have a one-page piece, not too complicated. It’s not to educate them with an update article on COVID-19. That’s way too much it’s one page with your logo and my logo on it to keep help people to keep safe and something like ‘Miami. Come back!’ (Said Shari Bailey: like a one-page newsletter type information? Zhao also said Power Point presentations are OK, but not with too much information.)”
WILL U.S. CHINA RELATIONS HAVE AN IMPACT ON RECOVERY?
Jack Lok: “This is kind of a political question; however, we’ve been through a trade war that has already affected the travel business. And there have been the visa restrictions for many students. Before, we were doing roughly about five thousand students coming to the U.S. for study travel. Because of the trade war and the visa issue, that number has significantly decreased.
“The Chinese and the Americans are supposed to be very friendly with each other. It’s very important, however, with this climate right now— it really depends. If the relationship doesn’t get too bad, then I see a kind of an improvement. However, there is the COVED-19.
“My worry is that I keep hearing people now blaming China as the cause for the COVED. Hopefully that voice is not too loud. It will strain the relationship more. That’s why I try to say that ‘hopefully’ the relationship can improve, and China we will not become a scapegoat for the COVED-19. But I’m an optimistic guy, so I think it will come back. That’s why we (Universal Vision) started as a local tour provider first—we don’t wait until the relationship improves. Because a majority of the people cannot tell when that when the group goes out whether they are they from—from China or if they’re from the local Chinese community. So, they will be the ambassadors going out to spread the message. We come back to help the local economy. Yes, we are the ambassadors.”
WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION DO RTOs WANT TO RECEIVE? WHAT DON’T YOU WANT? WHAT DRIVES YOU CRAZY?
Tereza Reis: Right now, we have a lot of time on our hands, to be honest with you. We are welcoming any kind of emails with information because sometimes you think there is nothing to be added and then there is a little information in the scope of the email that you are going to be able to pass it on to your clients, and you reach the experience of their clients next time they visit that destination. So, with all of the time that I have in my hands right now, keep the emails coming.”
Jack Lok: “That’s right. I agree with that! Let them come! Let them come!”
Tresie Beloit: “Driving me more crazy is not getting any response because, right now, the frustration is that some people are not working. Some people don’t have access. They are furloughed. So, we would love to have more information from hotels, but the people are just not there. That is probably more challenging than getting bombarded with emails.”
Charles Zhao: “My point is, because the nature of our business—we offer mostly customized tours—the request has already been quite specific. A lot of the time—I one hundred percent agree with what Tresie (Benoit) said—a quick response or same-day response as a courtesy, not just before the COVED, but after COVED, always. Because I don’t want my clients to wait, then they think ‘Oh since no response.’ Then I eliminate, let’s say, Toronto. I move to another destination. Or go with another company.’ They can do that.
“Especially for incentive groups, they have to make a decision by their end users of the company to pick which place they want to go. And then, sometimes, it’s a little bit frustrating that the DMO people might say ‘Oh, all these submissions are from the official website; check it yourself.” You have too much information there. It will take me hours to figure out—especially for some of the destinations that I have never been to. So, I have to ‘guesstimate’ or maybe … today stay in this location tomorrow probably in another small town of your state–this and that—so that makes our life a little bit hard to do that, because we don’t know. Your local people know better than us what is a smooth itinerary.
“Also for us: Hotels that say ‘Oh you only have less than ten rooms. Just call our reservation department.’ They will give you whatever the best rate of the day is.” You have got to remember we are RTOs. We also rely on the package product to make our profit. So, if we call your reservations for the whatever the best-selling rate or BAR rate is—hotel people call it B.A.R.—then we lose our … motivation, I would say. I know that in hotel sales, ten rooms or less won’t be considered as a group by many of the sales departments.
“When I was working in the hotel business, it was the same way when I told my clients the same. Now, sitting on the other side of the table, I fully understand—especially now going through this difficult time. Our feeling is there might be more smaller groups coming out, instead of large ones. There may be more families traveling. People don’t want to sit with 50 other people. They want there to be a little bit of distance. My company now focuses on the medium-size or small-size buses. That’s the reason why we put 10 people on a 29-person bus. They also feel comfortable in that way. So, you might hear more smaller groups with five rooms, six rooms, or up to nine. So, if we keep on getting denials and ‘not my business; you just go to reservations or go to our website to see what the rate is,’ it’s hard for us. We hope that we can understand each other better through this seminar and then help each other to bring back more business.”
Tresie Beloit: it’s also what Charles says—that people are going to look to travel to safer places and they feel good in that regard. They also will be looking at clean places. So, for hotels, it may be a good message to send out how clean the hotel is how what their policies are (so) that they will have a clean room an d people will look at that and at clean and safe places.”
Teresa Reis: “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We don’t know how long this is going to last, but at least I can assure you that my team and my clients are going to get the information and resources that they will need … to put their packages together.”
Jack Lok: “This is a situation such that we’ve never faced before. It requires more than an ordinary solution; it has to be very innovative, something that we don’t normally do, in order to resuscitate travel … all the DMOs have to help make the message known to all the attractions and hotels. And everybody has to be innovative, accommodating, working together hand-in-hand to resuscitate travel whether domestic or international. So, I want outside-the-box thinking. that’s how we couldn’t do it we cannot just do it normally.”
TOP TWO TAKEAWAYS
—Training is number one right now—teaching educating employees and clients as well on the new protocols and ways of marketing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
—Working and communicating together—RTOs, DMOs and travel suppliers—in order to restart travel by residents of, and travelers to, the United States.
DMOs—Prepare for a New Normal
Had it been held at a standard-size hotel conference room, attendees at last Wednesday’s Connect with Brand Experts and DMOs from throughout the U.S. might have spilled out of the room and into a hallway. But since it was a “virtual roundtable” format, the 300 or so travel and tourism industry professionals who gathered for the Connect Travel event fit neatly into cyberspace as they discussed challenges that confront the travel and tourism industry, which awaits a reactivation of business.
Top Takeaway—A New Normal: Asked to offer some opening remarks for the session, Will Seccombe, president of Connect Travel, said: “We’re going to go into a new normal and the new normal is not going to be like the old normal, and for destination marketers that’s really important. We’re not going to be able to turn the switch and go back to doing the same things that we were doing prior and expect to be successful.”
He added, “I think there’s just there’s just no question that as tourism marketers—and we kind of have to think of where we can have been the last ten years—our organizations, our marketing plans, our organizational structures and our strategic plans are all really optimized based on 10 years of record month-over-month, year-over-year growth. I mean we’re optimized to perform at a really high level in a place where most of us were doing extraordinarily well and growing destinations all across the country were winning and growing and creating more economic impact for their communities, and at some point we’re gonna come back and then we’ll be in a new normal. We’re all gonna be starting at zero.”
The Top 5 Takeaways
# 1 (See above) Shift our mindset to this “new normal,” which will affect not only the travel industry, but our normal day-to-day. The “new normal” will not look like the “old normal.” It won’t look like anything we know. But with the “extraordinary luxury of time, we have the opportunity to start from scratch and re-think this way forward together.”
#2 Redefine our marketing message and audience (perhaps shift our message back to “safe, clean and affordable” and expand our drive market as examples).
#3 Now is the time to develop a first-party data strategy, and think about new ways to use old data sets. Begin by writing your questions down. Q: How do we define community? A: Let data show the way for new opportunities, community marketing, pent-up demand, road trippers and even day trippers to begin with.
#4 “Don’t come.” Whoever thought we’d be pushing that message out? But right now, paid media is tone-deaf.
#5 Virtual tours can be done by your attractions (let’s watch baby otters swimming) and with DMO’s amplification. Indeed, there are behind-the-scenes views being provided that visitors don’t normally get to see.
Notes to add about the other takeaways that one derived from the webinar:
During the current shutdown of travel, use the time to accumulate and study the data that track where people are staying overnight; communicate with peers and colleagues and find out what they are doing;
When travel opens up, it is probably better to focus on drive markets first; and
The road-taken-destinations are likely to benefit from people who want to “get out” and explore after being unable to travel for so long. (The last point syncs with the belief on the part of those who market internationally that there is already a pent-up demand for travel abroad.)
The Panel: Familiar to many in the business of destination and brand marketing, as well as its meeting and event management sector, the panel of experts included:
—Josh Collins, moderator, director destination activations and marketing, Streetsense;
—Zeek Coleman, director of data intelligence, Visit Savannah;
—Becca Smith, senior director of marketing & events, Connect Travel;
—Jeff Robinson, director of marketing, Visit Indy; and
—Will Seccombe, president, Connect Travel.
The panel (clockwise from top left): Zeek Coleman, Josh Collins, Becca Smith, Jeff Robinson and Will Seccombe.
About those attending: Observed moderator Josh Collins, “You’re friends and colleagues and that’s the greatest thing about this industry is the people in the great relationships we build and we create that certainly invite people to experience the amazing places that we curate and market—to the world that fulfills that dream, that inspires the dream that people have to go and travel and experience the world in new ways and create new horizons for themselves and so on. So, we decided to throw up these webinars and over 300 of you registered for this one alone.”
About those attending: Observed moderator Josh Collins, “You’re friends and colleagues and that’s the greatest thing about this industry is the people in the great relationships we build and we create that certainly invite people to experience the amazing places that we curate and market—to the world that fulfills that dream, that inspires the dream that people have to go and travel and experience the world in new ways and create new horizons for themselves and so on. So, we decided to throw up these webinars and over 300 of you registered for this one alone.”
Old Data = New Opportunities
Collins asked Zeek Coleman, who has been with Visit Savannah for nearly a decade, how the destination and its marketing team was doing in developing a strategic plan “to come out on the other side of this.”
“We’re looking at key statistics right now, and key things like search volume and just looking at demand,” Coleman responded, “but as we’re building out our plans to come out of this we’re just keeping our ears to the ground for new ways to use old data sets that you’ve had access to but haven’t really thought about how they could be useful at a time like this. Like writing out a list of the questions that you have and then figuring out how can the data be the answer.”
“One thing that you can do is if think about when you buy something on Amazon or from eBay or whatever, and if you happen to have to get a refund what you’ll see on your credit card statement or online is a negative transaction to show that refund you can actually use that to, perhaps, target people who have a negative transaction from a cruise line or a flight to target people who had vacations back in February/March—maybe even April—and give them an alternative. Especially those that are in your local market. So, we’re looking at things like that, and that we will at least explore doing in the future … to speak to people who may be looking for options but really, honestly, may have changed what they want to do in the future.”
Added Coleman, “I don’t want to sound like we’re not sympathetic or opportunistic but just being realistic. you have to think about these sorts of things.”
Promoting Positivity: The discussion produced a unanimous consensus that the pandemic’s shutdown of so many businesses that depend on visitor-driven income and jobs has presented the travel and tourism industry with an opportunity to build support. Some ways in which that can be done are evident in the example of Visit Indy, whose long-time (14 years) director of marketing Jeff Robinson, explained in a detailed response to a question.
Robinson pointed to a March 2015 law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which allows individuals and companies to assert as a defense in legal proceedings that their exercise of religion has been, or is likely to be, substantially burdened. Considered by many to be an attack on LGBTQ people, the law generated substantial opposition among groups who had scheduled conventions in Indianapolis, as well as other entities, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is headquartered in the city.
Without declaring it as a politically driven campaign. Visit Indy began producing visual testimonials to the city by its residents, and selling t-shirts with the Visit Indy logo; they quickly sold out an inventory of more than 12,000 t-shirts at $10 apiece. (Within a week, an additional bill acting as an amendment intended to protect LGBTQ people was signed into law on April 2, 2015.)
“We urged our locals, our biggest fans, to talk about what they love about our city and how welcoming it is and the response was really through the roof right so getting through that that crisis was all about mobilizing our fans,” explained Robinson. “I think as DMOs, like our locals generally, feel very affectionate about the products that we represent restaurants attractions right they have an affinity for that and are eager to help us.”
Robinson added, “What that showed us is that people—our locals in particular—they’re eager to show how they can help. So, if as destinations we can be savvy about giving them a platform, a pulpit, to stand up on and declare what they love about our destinations, we have that content when it’s time to invite visitors back. It’s not we’re not telling people to come visit; we’re simply putting up great content from our locals who are talking about what they love. So, it’s safe content; it’s not marketing. People can sniff out advertising pretty quick, but this is user-generated content. It’s genuine and, yes, it’s something that I think we can feel safe pushing out at a time when we can’t spend media.”
(Note: Again, every other panelist, as well as those who wrote comments in the “Chat” section of the webinar, agreed with what Robinson said, or with the notion that now is a good opportunity to seed support for travel and tourism in their destinations.)
Virtual Tours Have Virtue: All the panelists were upbeat and positive in their regard for the way in which destination attractions and activities have filled a void for prospective visitors. Instead of actually visiting them, those interested can visit virtually: Cited as good examples of this practice were the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (see its penguins taking a tour of a closed, empty facility by clicking here); the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (https://www.childrensmuseum.org/); and, especially the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
As Robinson pointed out, since the museum began using its security guy, Seth, as a spokesman/guide for the attraction, “they went from 7,000 followers to over 250,000 followers on Twitter in like two weeks. simply by harnessing you know talent that was in-house.” (You can see the cowboy security guard here.)
What Does Zeek’s Crystal Ball Say? At one point, Josh Collins asked Zeek Coleman, “if you could look into your crystal ball Zeek, what do you think is going to happen to the way that destination marketers think about video content and virtual content and this kind of stuff as we move forward. Any thoughts or ideas?” In response, Coleman had this say:
“I think what we’re probably going to learn is that it’s going be really important to have things ready that can speak to people appropriately and then targeted—like very specifically, like immediately. When this happens, you won’t have everyone saying the same thing and so, as you re retool, as you as you get going, you’re going to have great content opportunities. If someone is ready when we hit go, I think we were all talking about who’s going be the first one to take the risk to go out and market it who is going to do the paid stuff first.
“You don’t have to book all the business on day one. You just need the people who are willing to travel and so, maybe, targeting people who are typing in searches for your destination or a nearby similar destination and just targeting those folks. Then you could even match in data with people who visited last year. Remember, this means that their devices came to your destination last year—all those sorts of things will help you to really speak to people who are already looking for you. For instance, one of the things we didn’t turn off was SEM. If people are searching things to do in Savannah, they’re the ones that are prompting.
“And so, it’s not really a hard sell by us; it’s just you’re looking for it. We want to be ahead of TripAdvisor. Just thinking about the different data pieces that you have to leverage all the video and all the different content things will be really important to speak more specifically, and compassionately to people where they are yeah that’s really good.”
Coleman also spoke to the need, when traveling returns, to be more sensitive to the wants and feelings of the travelers because, for nearly everyone, a return to traveling to, or visiting, someplace will be a new and different experience.
Jeff Robinson followed up with an answer to this question: “As you’re thinking email, and if you’ve got a great locals-based insider email program that you’ve done—I know you’ve presented on in the past at industry events and things like that—are you seeing even now ways that you can enhance that content moving forward with the things that we’re experiencing with content now … are you thinking about that at all?”
He continued: “Yes, and we have. We launched The Weekend 5; that is what we call it, The Weekend Five—Top Five Activities to do at Home This Weekend. This was easily five six years ago now and it’s huge locally. A lot of companies even will put it up on their bulletin boards right. In this way, the companies or their employees can all know what to do over the weekend. We’ve had to get really creative but obviously with (so many) events to go attend out in the city, we’ve had to retool that. This is where we can all leverage our partners. We also have a group that we call a tourism think-tank in the city. Once a month, we pull together a large group of people from all of our attractions—really, anyone involved in the tourism landscape to come together—and share ideas.
“Again, it helps us build connections with our partners right as DMOs. This is as important as ever. They’re able to share out all the things that they’re doing and then we just become amplifiers of their content during this. A lot of them are doing some pretty innovative programming in the face of all that’s been happening. It could be the symphony doing concerts with Zoom—right where you can tune in and see the different musicians at home all playing together.
“I think the big thing we have to do right now is be good listeners as DMO marketers—you know, talk to our partners and make sure we’re in tune with what they’re doing, and that we’re showing them all the love that we can right now, because they all need it.
When We Re-start: Who Comes First—Locals? A question posed by one of the attendees was this: Do you see recovery starting locally? How should we be thinking about audience when quarantines and travel restrictions and bans end?
Will Seccombe: “Absolutely start locally. I think when we start talking about opportunities the first group that we’re going to want to really engage should be our locals—our community. Build our communities. They are hurting, so I think there’s just a huge opportunity to do that. How do we get people back in the restaurants?
“I can just imagine that communities are going to do big events. They’ll say safe distancing and all that stuff, but bringing people out, I think, is really important. There’s a new Harris study that I am not sure if you all have seen but I definitely take a look at it. It was done March 28th to the 30th and it has some really interesting material. For instance, on going out to dinner, fifty percent of people want to go out to dinner immediately when this pandemic is done. About 40 percent want to do that within the first 30 days. It also says 60 percent are a little bit scared and that’s going to take them more than a month to get out. Seven percent said they’re going to go out immediately, and 80 percent expect to be in a hotel in the first 18 days. As for flying a plane, five percent said immediately; 15 percent said in the next 30 days. So, you can see that there’s a very clear pattern that we’re going to want to get out locally and experience and be free to enjoy our communities again.
“I think that’s a huge opportunity to help engage people to help. First, we have to get the restaurants open and make them more successful and then we’re going to want to have local events and local functions on local properties and get people starting to work there. As you can see, we’re going to have a really interesting opportunity as destination marketers to kind of help reactivate it again. We’re starting at zero and all of our businesses are small business or small shopping venues. I think be the messages will be hyper localized.”
Commenting on Seccombe’s remark, Josh Collins said, “I couldn’t agree more. I would say what we’re seeing on the consumer mindset side and, certainly what my company has observed and based on the intelligence we receive from CBRE and others and in the space, that the consumer mindset will shift and, in fact, already has shifted to be thinking about questions like cleanliness and coming out of quarantine.
Just like you would in every industry you’ve got your early adopters.”
“You’ve got your five percent that are gonna go to a hotel they’re gonna jump on an airplane. Right? But the majority, your mass market, your locals are gonna be itching to get out but they’re gonna ask, “Do I know this person? Do I know the owner of this restaurant? Can I trust that they have been cleaning this place? Or can I trust that this hotel lobby or this coffee bar or whatever it is doing those things around safety, cleanliness, transparency, and authenticity? A sudden, it takes on take a whole new context.”
A question from another attendee: How do we define the local audience? What are we talking about? We’re talking about fifty miles, a hundred miles and up to zip codes 200 miles. How would you approach that? And in an answer that Josh Collins called “pure gold,” Zeek Coleman had this to say:
“That’s a great question. One of the things everyone may not know is that you’re you have a little tracking device on you 24/7 and you don’t think about this, probably, but it sleeps in the same address every single night. You plug it in next to your bed or whatever, you pick it up, you lay it down and then it stays put for six hours or eight hours. or maybe for some of you ten hours. However you do it is tracked. And then when that device has been somewhere, that is also tracked and that is communicated to the weather app or whatever app you’re constantly letting ping your device for accurate information. And that is passed to the world and to marketers.
“And so, the question of how would you know who’s local and who’s not—it really depends. Does it even really matter, and would it matter, if someone is 25 miles away but they stay in your hotel; they stay overnight in a certain part of your town or district—it would be helpful to know who doesn’t stay in that district but has in the last year, and to retarget those very people you can upload it to Facebook.
“It would lower your prices and it would be cheaper, and when we’ve done that, we’ve seen kind of a mixed response. It’s kind of interesting—you have to be careful because some of those people, for example, if we target people who came here last year but do not live here now, some of those people moved. They used to live in your city and they moved, so you have to kind of tweak the data to get the right folks. It’s been phenomenal in the past, obviously, to the target those folks and see the positive response both when you’re retargeting past visitors and when you’re targeting look-alike audiences, but that’s a great way to segment it all up. Look at devices that slept somewhere other than your destination, but slept in your destination overnight recently. You know the timeframe, so here’s what a lot of us those of us who didn’t have our budgets our media budgets necessarily cut and are just holding it right now.
“I think as we look towards late in the summer when we do deploy these tactics, we might be expanding our drive market area knowing that, rather than sort of serving within our predetermined geographic area, we might just take that out further and use this occasion as an opportunity to maybe try some new markets that we hadn’t touched before and spread that money as wide as we can—instead of trying to be like Lombardi with frequency and maybe see if we can discover new opportunities so this (tactic) is perfect.”
Following a short series of remarks in which all panelists affirmed the need for, and importance of, maintaining communications channels with local tourism industry professionals, Will Seccombe closed out comments with this:
“I think the two things are going happen out of all this are: first, people are going to see and recognize how critically important tourism is to their economies again we’re coming off of you know 10 years of record growth and you know everybody’s expecting anticipating and then there was some pushback to overcrowding and things like that how quickly times change. I guarantee that we will be welcoming visitors every community around the country with open arms.
And second, the new normal will be very different. You will have the cleaning of things everywhere, more hand sanitizer everywhere, and we’re going to be seated further apart. Things like that are going to happen and become the new normal and I think with that that’s going to make us as humans more comfortable going out and about, as well as making us more comfortable when we travel. But I think that, at the end of the day, we’re going to see our communities embracing tourism more than ever before—because it’s not just the restaurants and the hotels is and all that the employees and shops that count; our governments depend on them for funding from the taxes that are levied on our activity. It’s been taken for granted for an awful long time. Not anymore.”
Airline Capacity Reduction is Dramatic during Pandemic
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the graph below shows the monthly changes in airline capacity for eight key overseas source markets for international inbound tourism to the U.S. Airline capacity reflects the planned total seat capacity airlines expect to offer in the upcoming months. Changes in seat capacity are subject to normal changes in supply and demand and country-to-country air agreements. Changes in airline capacity may reflect changes in any or all of the following elements: changes in traveler volume from the origin country; changes in travel volume from other foreign countries passing through the origin country airports; and changes in traveler volume of U.S. residents returning to the U.S. Airline capacity is a continuously moving target. Changes reflected below are one point in time and month for the current (March) month.
One can readily see that we seem to be in the trough months of the decline in capacity. There are some other, obvious points that one could make on the basis of the graph below, but those we leave to the reader.
NOTES: Airline capacity reflects the planned total seat capacity airlines expect to offer in the upcoming months for direct flights. Change in seat capacity is subject to normal changes in supply and demand and country-to-country air agreements. Forecasted months are below the horizontal bar that divides the
COVID-19 Pandemic and Brazil
Brazil’s first in-depth survey of both the travel trade and travelers—taking into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic—suggests that, once a market recovery begins to take effect, Brazilian travelers are likely to favor regional destinations before spreading out internationally. Travel suppliers, meanwhile, will have to tread gently in wooing customers, with brand loyalty playing an integral part in persuading consumers to travel again.
The above is a quick take on the first TRVL LAB—a new analytical project just launched by PANROTAS, the Brazilian travel trade publisher and event producer— and MAPIE, a leading hospitality and travel consulting firm which is based in Paraná, Curitaba, about 250 miles south of São Paulo.
The first TRVL LAB report was originally planned to launch March 17-18 at the PANROTAS Forum, which is a “must-attend” industry event held each year in São Paulo. But the Forum has been postponed until September 9-10. So, the TRVL LAB team went back into the field with the intention augmenting and updating their work in order to provide all interesting parties with their deep-dig research into the subject—conducted as the COVID-19 pandemic is taking place.
Researchers conducted two—one with 300 travelers and the other with 325 travel and tourism professionals. The results are open to all interested parties, said the report, “as we know that at this moment the analyzed and grounded information is very important in decision-making and planning for the future.”
Following are some of the key findings of the two surveys: (Note: We have rounded percentages to the nearest percentage point, and have occasionally change the language in some parts—it was a Google translation from Portuguese—for clarity.)
And when will we travel again? “What can be observed in concrete terms is that clients need to feel confident in controlling the disease before resuming their travels”, analyzes MAPIE director Carolina Sass de Haro. “This is also a delicate moment for brands, as consumers are attentive to the actions taken and the care shown by them in relation to customers and employees.”
The COVID-19 Impact—First Off:
—55 percent of travelers say they had planned and/or purchased trips that were impacted by the new coronavirus pandemic.
—45 percent are/were still waiting for the next developments to make a decision on what to do.
—When there is a decision, the preference is for the change to a future date to 31.82.
Who is most impacted by travel cancellations? In general, the entire tourism chain was impacted for changes or cancellations Service providers services most contacted by travelers were airlines (37.20%), followed by the media (24.91%) and by operators and travel agencies traditional travel (13.65%)
Importance of Brands: Most respondents fully agree with the statement that brands that encourage their customers to stay at home are responsible. In addition, 51 percent say they will stop buy from brands that have not treated customers/employees of adequately during the crisis.
What about international travel? International travel tends to remain affected after the resumption, since 61 percent affirming that they do not intend to return to international travel until that there is confidence in the control of the pandemic. This one number drops to 45 percent when it comes to national travel.
For most respondents, their travel budget was reduced in 2020. For 33 percent it remains the same and for 10 percent, nothing.
What about the travel trade? When it comes to companies, the vast majority are first dedicated to managing cancellations and markings (77 percent). Then, it was time to take care of team health and organize for the new conditions (35 percent), followed by cost and flow analysis of cash for the coming months (34 percent).
The vast majority of respondent companies still did not lay off. Only 3½ percent dismissed more than half 50 of their staff. In addition, 49 percent reduced their working hours and remuneration of their teams.
Almost four out of five (79 percent) of the companies have 100 percent of their team working in a home office. Three-fifths (60 percent) indicated that there are positive and negative points in this format, which will impact the business in the post-crisis.
About the relationship with brands: Most respondents fully agree with the statement that brands that
encourage their customers to stay at home are responsible. In addition:
—51 percent say that they will stop buying from brands which have not treated customers/employees during the crisis.
—42 percent read the comments of other customers on social networks to understand their perceptions.
—34 percent consider that brands are being human in the face of difficulties presented by the pandemic; and
—35 percent feel that the brands are concerned with their customers.
—Despite the difficult times, 36 percent keep an eye on promotions and opportunities.
—In contrast, 28 percent considered it inappropriate to receive promotions and commercial actions
in this period.
—Solidarity is also important in this period: 22 were encouraged to contribute in some way with the accompanying brands and 21 percent effectively contributed.
About the intention to travel:
—International travel tends to remain affected after the resumption, since 60 percent say that they do not intend to return to international travel until there is confidence in pandemic control. This number drops to 45 percent when it comes to national travel.
—32 percent are unable to decide at this time about future trips.
—23 percent say they have full confidence in Tourism service providers to return to
travel as soon as the isolation is over; 28 percent say they have partial confidence; and only 7 percent
they say they have no confidence at all.
—22 percent don’t mind traveling for work when the isolation is over. 21 percent totally disagree with this statement; 16 percent know they will have to travel for work when the isolation is over, but they wouldn’t like it.
—Family travel does not seem to be one of the first actions that will be popular when the isolation is over.
About the travel budget:
—For most respondents, their travel budget was reduced in 2020. For 33 percent, it remains the same and for 20 percent, it ceased to exist.
—For 45 percent, it was reduced.
—For 33 percent, remains the same.
—For 20 percent, it does not exist anymore.
— For 3 percent, it Increased.
Desired Destinations for Resumption
|Destination||Percentage Desiring It|
|Rio de Janeiro||9%|
|Another part of the United States||5%|
|Caribbean and / or Mexico||2%|
More on How the Trade Reacted:
—At first, the vast majority (77 percent) of companies were first dedicated to managing cancellations and markings.
—Then, it was time to take care of the health of the team and organize the new working conditions (35 percent),
—Followed by cost and cash flow analysis for the next months (34 percent).
It was time for the following:
—Manage cancellations and bookings, 77 percent.
—Caring for the health of the team, organizing home office, vacation and layoffs, 35 percent.
—Analyze costs, cash flow and take actions for the next months, 34 percent
—Repatriate passengers, 21 percent
—Trying to follow operations normally 12 percent.
—The vast majority of respondent companies had not yet made any layoffs.
—Only 3.48 percent dismissed more than 50 percent of the staff. In addition, 49 percent reduced the
working hours and the remuneration of their teams.
About home offices:
—79 percent of the companies have 100 percent of the team working in home office.
—60 percent say that there are positive and negative points in this format, which will impact the business in the post-crisis.
“It is a delicate and difficult time for everyone, and tourism has been hit hard. Now is the time to act, guarantee the sustainability of the business, the jobs of the employees and, above all, the health of all of us. TRVL LAB was born at a time of enormous challenges for the industry and we hope to help each of you with this information,” explained PANROTAS CEO, José Guilherme Alcorta.
Click here for the complete PANROTAS article on the survey.
Germany and the Egyptian Connection
Much attention was given last Wednesday to the announcement by TUI, Europe’s largest tour operator and travel group, that it had signed an agreement for a €1.8 billion ($1.97 billion) loan from the German government to help it navigate the near-term future as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the travel and tourism industry in Germany.
At the same time, however, there were two other developments in the industry—both of which indicate a strong interest in both TUI and FTI, another top German tour operator, by two Egyptian entities. In some respects, the developments suggest that well-known entrepreneurs in Egypt, a favorite destination of German holiday makers, are seeking to increase their stake in Germany, a favorite source market for the Egyptian tourism industry.
First was the revelation that Hamed El Chiaty, a wealthy tourism entrepreneur and long-time business partner of TUI, had increase his stake in the TUI Group to over five percent. It was only about a month before this that it was announced that El Chiaty had purchased a 3.4 percent stake in TUI.
For those in the USA—which is the top long-haul destination of TUI’s Germany business—who don’t know that much about El Chiaty, he is chairman of Travco Group International Holding, founded Travco Travel Company of Egypt in 1979 and it expanded it into the tourism conglomerate that it is today.
According to the company’s website, Travco’s brands include the following:
—Hotel companies with a portfolio of 50 hotels & resorts that are between owned and managed, and 20 Nile cruises.
—Travel companies including Egypt’s Number One inbound travel agency and the 21-time winner of the Ministry of Tourism’s Award of Excellence.
—Transportation companies featuring the largest tourist transportation fleet of more than 700 vehicles in the Middle East.
According to an article in Yahoo Finance that dealt with the first purchase, “El Chiaty is no stranger to TUI having at various times in the past held a small stake in the business. He has also worked closely with the company through Travco,” adding that El-Chiaty “is getting a big discount on his purchase. Since the start of the year, TUI’s share price has more than halved in value on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Second, billionaire Egyptian investor Samih Sawiris, made clear his intention to take over a majority interest in the FTI Group. Sawiris is already a shareholder of the Munich-based tourism group and was involved in the financing package which was finalized a little more than a week ago. As reported in the German travel trade publication fvw, “It was clear in the application for registration at the German federal antitrust authorities. According to that, the Luxemburg-based financial holding SOSTNT controlled by Sawiris seeks the ‘takeover of a majority stake’ and ‘sole control’ over Munich-based FTl Finanzholding.”
According to published accounts, Sawiris has had an investment in FTI since 2014. He comes from a multi-billion-dollar Egyptian entrepreneurial family. His Orascom Development Holding develops integrated holiday resorts such as El Gouna and Taba Heights in Egypt, Salalah in Oman or Andermatt in Switzerland. It also has residential properties in Egypt. Overall, the group manages 33 hotels with 7,205 rooms.
What all of this will do to the leadership of FTI—it is Germany’s third largest tour operator—is open to speculation. Prior to the acquisition, founder Dietmar Gunz was CEO of the FTI Group.
Vermont—Connect Travel’s Tour OperatorLand.com Partner of the Week
The state’s scenic roadways lead to delicious, local cuisine, breathtaking vistas, unique art spaces, and lots of history. Get away from the crowds, unplug, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you in the Green Mountain State. Some ideas for first-time visitors:
—Visit the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington for great shopping and dining.
—Take the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour and visit the Flavor Graveyard.
—Try a maple creemee, Vermont’s version of soft serve.
—Hike Mt. Philo for beautiful views of Lake Champlain.
—Visit one of our craft breweries, cideries, distilleries, or wineries; you’ll find that they’re all over the state.
The Vermont Country Store in Weston
A Vermont Mountain Landscape
For more information, visit: https://www.touroperatorland.com/index.php/destinations/vermont_department_of_tourism_and_marketing
Attitudes of the Under-40 Traveler during the Pandemic
Released after a couple of waves of interviews conducted in mid-March and subsequently released, a survey of the results of those interviews—conducted by Skyscanner* gives us a window into what travelers have been thinking during the effective shutdown of international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic now plaguing most parts of the world.
Survey responses showed, in effect, a mixture of concern, hope and wishful thinking. “We wanted to gain a deeper understanding of traveler thoughts and behavior during the COVID-19 outbreak, to grasp how sentiments, needs and attitudes around the world are shifting, as well as learn how to better support travelers during these unprecedented times,” explained a statement by Skycanner.
The company undertook in-depth interviews with 30 people aged under 40 across the UK, US, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Germany and the Netherlands, who—at that time—had either booked travel or were considering travel in the next two months. Skyscanner expects to continue the surveys in order to provide an up-to-date portrait of what travelers are thinking. Following is a summary of the survey’s key findings.
The impact of Covid-19 on Travel Plans
—At the time of the survey, travel wasn’t top of mind for every respondent, except for those who needed to travel to see partners / family, or those thinking about escaping cities to places they consider to be safer.
—All travelers expected (correctly) that trips booked for April / May to get cancelled. They were waiting for these to be ‘officially” cancelled as they hope for a refund.
—There was “wishful thinking” in the long-term, for trips scheduled from June / July, and especially for trips scheduled from September / October onwards.
—Generally, people were looking to China and South Korea – to countries where they believe they “have it under control” – so they feel like “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
—Participants in the U.S. seemed particularly anxious, worried and concerned about the virus, their safety and the possibility of getting sick. They expected domestic travel to be impossible in the near future.
Feelings about the Future
—The survey team observed quite different attitudes across different regions, probably due to (perceived) stages of the pandemic.
—In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) there seemed to be a general denial about restrictions lasting longer than 30 days – “the world has to get back to normal.”
—In the Asia Pacific (APAC), people were still very optimistic, and feel that the worst is over and don’t expect sanctions to last much longer (even though several countries are in the second phase of the pandemic).
—In the US, there was a lot of uncertainty and waiting, as people aren’t sure how long it’ll last (especially as most believe the situation will get much worse).
—Even though travelers would have liked to be hopeful about future trips, they’re not ready to plan or dream about them now. No-one is actively thinking about planning trips at this time.
Factors Impacting Decision-Making
—Primary traveler concerns were around whether they’re allowed to travel, and if they did, being able to return safely without getting stuck somewhere. There are also concerns around losing money.
—For this reason, they awaited guidance from their government and whether airlines are operating flights closer to the time.
—As all of the respondents are young (under 40), most weren’t concerned about catching the virus personally. Anxiety is more around societal changes and restrictions. In the US, however, more people were scared about their personal safety.
—In APAC, there’s a strong social pressure not to contribute to the pandemic by travelling.
—In EMEA, there’s less social pressure, although this was observed in our last round of interviews, mainly in the UK.
—While people would avoid going to places where there are lots of cases, the main factors impacting travel plans were sanctions and government policies, and of being worried about not getting home / the availability of flights.
Cancellation / Flexibility Policies
—All participants said these policies would encourage them to go ahead and book travel – as it takes the two key risk factors of a rapidly evolving situation and potential financial losses out of the equation.
—In the UK, there was relatively low awareness of these policies and people were surprised to hear that travel companies were being so flexible. In other markets, this was more expected.
Sources of Information
—In general, people increasingly rely on official and government sources.
—In the UK and Germany particularly, people are more critical, trust the government less, and tend to look for other “credible” media sources or ones that aren’t biased i.e. the BBC. They also try to look at various global news sources for balance.
—The survey team rarely spoke with a traveler who mentioned a non-internet news source (perhaps because of their age).
—YouTube was a recurring theme, and people liked its algorithm for suggesting similar news videos.
—In Singapore and South Korea, the government’s WhatsApp channel is the official trusted news source.
*Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, Skyscanner is owned by Trip.com Group, China’s largest travel agency
Hodge Podge: Appointments & Changes
Ernest Wooden Jr. (left) is stepping down from his post as president & CEO of Pres. and CEO of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board at the end of June, when his current contract with the organization ends. According to published reports, he recommended that Adam Burke (right), chief operating officer of Los Angeles Tourism, as his replacement, and the board of directors’ executive committee agreed. Before joining the organization at the beginning of 2013, Wooden had his own consulting firm. Previously, he served in senior management positions at Hilton Hotels.
Ron Erdmann, long-time official and analyst at the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO) before he retired from the agency a little more than two years ago, has been named senior research associate at CIC, a San Diego-based research firm responsible for conducting the Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) for the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, NTTO. Erdmann, who spent more than 30 years with the NTTO and its predecessor organizations, serving as deputy director for more than 20 years before retiring at the end of 2017, will be based in the Washington DC area.
Stephanie Pace Brown is leaving her post as president and CEO of Explore Asheville after nearly eight years on the job. Brown departs officially in June to move to another state to take a position in the private sector. Before her tenure at Asheville, she was president and CEO of the Alexandria (Va.) CVA for nearly five years. Prior to that, Brown was vice president for public affairs at Mount Vernon—George Washington’s estate.
SeaWorld Entertainment’s chief financial officer and treasurer, Marc Swanson, has taken over as interim CEO of the company following the resignation on April 4 of Sergio Rivera. He had held the position for just five months, citing conflict with the board of directors’ involvement in decision-making within the company. Rivera became the company’s third CEO to depart in just over two years. The company’s previous chief executive, Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha, left last September after citing similar issues. Swanson will remain in the position at least until the reopening of the SeaWorld parks, which have been closed since mid-March due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
Troy J. Sacco was recently appointed vice president of global sales at Fogo de Chão. He joined the company from Touchstone Golf, where he was vice president of sales & marketing. Previously, he was with Main Street Entertainment, and prior to that he had served as vice president of sales & marketing at the American Golf Corporation.
In Brazil, Guilherme dal Secco has been named general sales agent for Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty. He takes on the position after serving as commercial and marketing director for United Airlines. Dal Secco is based in São Paulo.
In France, Adeline Le Thanh has joined the Voyages Internationaux-Decoov tour operator teams as a sales representative. The operator promotes a variety of North American products. Le Thanh joins from Salaun Holidays, where she was a travel advisor.
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.