Latest NTTO Tables Bleed Red All Over
Good New/Bad News: The good news is that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel & Tourism Office has been turning over its counts of visitor arrivals from key overseas markets so quickly that some data are now posted just weeks after the month previous—as in the case of numbers for the month of March and the First Quarter of 2020.
The bad news is, well, bad news. And it’s all bad news. In the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic that is freezing much international travel in place—almost all international air carriers have reduced capacity on key routes by 90-95 percent since the beginning of March—so that the year-over-year change is awash in red ink.
Most dramatic, as well as the largest year-on-year decline in passenger traffic to the United States, is the total from China for March—down more than 94 percent. One need not engage in analytics here. You need only to look at the NTTO numbers for March and the first quarter of the year; they speak for themselves.
A New Normal in Destination Marketing
Connect Travel’s Virtual Roundtable Webinar Series focuses on “RESET: Parsing the New Normal in Destination Marketing.”
Brighter Days Ahead
Several hundred travel and tourism industry professionals—most of them from DMOs—had a back-and-forth dialogue during the third of the series of virtual roundtables organized by Connect Travel, with the major takeaways from the session as follows:
—Brighter days are ahead. Stay focused and don’t get stuck in the present. —Don’t expect an overnight recovery; think “gradual.” —Target locals as a first and most important visitor market. —Be Bold. Now is the time to open it up, play loose and “Let ‘er Rip” —There’s never been a greater time for DMO leaders to jump to position themselves as leaders on behalf of the income and the economic impact that tourism creates for a community. Work, work, work with Economic Development Councils, Chambers and Business Improvement Districts.
Josh Collins, moderator, director destination activations and marketing, Streetsense
Leroy Bridges, vice president, digital & communications, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater
Tedd Evers, founder & CEO, TripTuner
Andi Thoreson, director of marketing, Visit Fargo-Moorhead
Becca Smith, senior director of marketing & events at Connect Tra
Domestic Tour Operators
So, what are you doing now to deal with the New Normal?
Andi Thoreson: “For us it’s really just been the new normal—rolling with the punches to a certain extent—and keeping up with and talking a lot with partners … shifting into this new world that is virtual and digital. We’re also getting into those phases of what does moving forward look like; that’s what today is all about.”
Leroy Bridges: “We’ve been fortunate so far St. Pete/Clearwater and one of the things we’re looking at and we’ve done is launched a Brighter Days Ahead—a kind of bridge marketing campaign for our partners, an unbranded effort so that anybody within the destination can get behind. This has been one of the big things early on for us … to help give an umbrella platform for all of our partners our 24 municipalities, all of our hoteliers, attractions and whatnot, to get behind it and pushing the positive message that there are brighter days ahead and, obviously, tying in to our beautiful sunshiny destination.”
Tedd Evers: (In 2001, Evers had an office “that was right near the World Trade Center”). “I remember 9/11 very, very clearly—hat happened there and what we had to do to bounce back. There obviously a lot of things that are different. And then I chose to serve my own company at the tail end of the last financial recession, so I’m kind of kind of tired of these scenarios … We’ve had to take this kind of lean approach. In the day-to-day it’s not that much of an adjustment, but we’re having to employ some of those things that we didn’t think we would be doing nine years into a business. But there’s a lot of energy and creativity and in this business. I love being in this business and I have no doubt that we’re all going to pull together.”
About Visit the Brighter Days Ahead Campaign
Leroy Bridges: “Pretty quickly everybody said we’ve got to create some type of video, and we all did that landscape video with the with the narrative; we wanted to take that a step farther and, with that video we launched a toolkit that included downloadable assets—that destination video was in there— but also email signatures and digital assets for email campaigns or for their websites … again, unbranded. We didn’t put the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater logo on everything because we’ve got 24 municipalities. The city of Gulfport (Florida), for instance; that’s not in our name, it doesn’t want our logo on their branded material. So, we were really stripping our brand from it, but building a platform that they can really get behind. We’ve seen some great responses, with some hotels even putting it on their marquee—you know, Brighter Days Ahead—we are working on a webinar. I know webinars have become all the rage and here we sit on one.
‘But I think what we’re really trying to do is bring forward creative ideas for our partners to be able to leverage that platform—understanding that a lot of staffs have been furloughed and they may not have a ton of resources right now. But here are some very easy things you can do with this campaign, especially a simple hashtag on your social media posts. But I think that’s often one of the biggest challenges for our partners: What do you say in these moments? What do you do? These are difficult questions to answer, and we’ve tried to answer them with Brighter Days Ahead. Stay positive. it’s not a sales message. And to be able to feature that sunshine—a common thread at the heartbeat of our destination.”
Josh Collins: “Have you gotten any kind of feedback from your part nerves that’s unexpected for you as the DMO?”
Leroy Bridges: “Nothing unexpected yet, but I do think and, I know, it feels like we’ve been in this for a long time. I think we’re still very early. We’ve got still the rest of April and everybody wants to keep talking about a date, but this platform—I think we see it as our marketing once we start to ramp that up. it’s much easier to go back in the market with paid channels. We’re not doing that now right. We’re paused and we’re using this across our own channels, but as we start to reintroduce paid marketing, maybe that’s our national NPR buy, maybe that’s some in-state stuff. We have elements and assets that we will be firing back up over the next month to eight weeks and this gives us a nice toe-in-the water before we ramp back up to full full-fledged sales mode. So, I think it’s a little early still, too, but I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to hear more and more from our partners and perhaps be surprised at some of the creative ways they’re leveraging.”
“A day feels like a week and a week feels like a month.”
Josh Collins: “It’s great that you have created that and positioned it in a way with options to even be longer term. I think that is so key because we don’t know it feels like this being normal has been—you know, a day feels a week and a week feels like amonth already. It really is it does have that sense to us.”
Leroy Bridges: “We know the battle is stay on top of mind. Right? We all know that, midst this very difficult time, we don’t want to be necessarily forgotten trying to drive awareness and … using a positive message to be able to do that, you’re able to be productive but also cautious and cognizant of everything that’s happening around this.”
Josh Collins: “Andi, I love that your DMO has created this kind of idea around the hometown tourists—similarly looking to engage your locals and not just help them in the short term, but empower them to become your best messengers looking forward to talk to us a little bit about that yeah.”
Andi Thoreson: “Well, it was actually a campaign from five years ago where it was aimed at encouraging locals to get out and discover their own city. Locals have always and always will be your best advocate, so ensuring that they know what it is that’s there and available to them, as it has been, pushes in the past. So, now I’m taking what we’ve already had in place and looking—we know that once it’s okay to get out and start traveling that’s going to really start on a local front. So, having something in place for them to latch on to, and giving them some guidance and getting out into the community, definitely helps.
“Restaurants are going to change, I’m sure, the way that they operate when it first starts be okay to go back to zoos or museums. it’s going to be considerably different, so we’re working with them quite a bit, too, as we can, to understand what that will look like so we can have that prepared and have something for people to latch on to safely get back out and be those initial tourists for us is definitely something that we’re trying to work out right now and get in place for planning ahead.”
Josh Collins: “Have you guys come up with any kind of anticipated timeline for how you all might roll that out?”
Andi Thoreson: “I think it could play in a lot with what we’re doing right now because we’re already asking our locals to essentially be our visitors to take the place of that money that’s going into takeout delivery restaurants—donating and getting out and doing the museum visits, virtually, the downloading or going onto our classes through our art museums and things like that. As such, a lot of what we would be rolling out is already in place and what we’re already relying on and asking them to do. I think in terms of timeline … putting that in place to have around what we’re doing virtually already so that when it transitions to the okay-go-out-and-actually-visit-these-place. It’s already kind of packaged in that hometown tourists that messaging around it and kind of go from there; it’s still fairly in those beginning thoughts. We’ve been really reactionary still, so now it’s getting to that phase of we don’t know exactly what that budget will look like. There’s still so many unknowns, so trying to be as prepared for it as possible and at least have those ideas in place.
Josh Collins: “Before we started today Tedd, you were talking about how we foster local demand. How do we think about loyalty? What should we be actually thinking and doing for those on the call.”
Tedd Evers: “In the category of what I would like to see come out of this when we have a chance to reset and to do things differently: we’re so focused on trying to bring that demand from the outside in, I think, to do this from a practical terms, the more likely demand we’re going to get in the short term is going to be local you know. Earlier, we talked about being hyper-local, but also just in terms of taking care of our local partners. Right? The restaurants, the venues, the activity providers, et cetera.
“How can we generate that local demand in the short term and maybe in terms of incentives? Maybe there are some ways that you could create something like a pass or a coupon or something that could engender a future loyalty or a future visit—much in the way that your local health facility or gym or something like that tries to get you to buy, say, with gift certificates for future visits or something like that.
“You tie that into some of your local partners, not only in the short term but in the in the longer term, letting them be your voice. We always talk about authenticity, etcetera, but there’s an opportunity in which, instead of having influencers coming into your destination as arbiters of taste and trotting all over your destination in your venues and everything, you could take someone and have them be a local ambassador; use them to be the voices. You come out of this telling their story and the process connects them in the longer term even, because this is going to be a process.”
Now is The Time. Let ‘er Rip
Josh Collins: “It’s incredibly difficult to know what to do and there is some trepidation around—I don’t want to say the wrong thing, Right?—So, how do we how do we steward that well with our partners? How do we do that collectively.”
Leroy Bridges: “I’ll be honest. We’ve really opened up our social channels and, I think, for a long time we’ve viewed them as being very tight. They’re very curated and that’s great because that’s what we’re here for … we’re able to really customize content and bring exactly what we want.
“We’ve opened it up we’re playing loose. We’re highlighting local artists who are doing their own lives with watch parties on Facebook. About leveraging locals to tell that story? if you’re not doing that as a DMO or you have never done it, now is the time. We’re trying and it’s tough. I get it. Staffs have been cut. Budgets have been cut. And it takes time to coordinate those efforts, but I know that there are restaurant tours, there are attractions, there are local influencers or artists trying to drive their own buzz right now. And you can help shine a spotlight on them by doing a watch party or giving them a call and going live together. Help them write a script, maybe, or walk them through it.
“You can also do Facebook lives with tape recorded video, which is a nice little hack. You still get that drive, the attention to that Facebook live, but you have a little bit more control over the content. If you’re a little bit nervous about that the local artist maybe drop in an f-bomb or something, I think, let it rip. Now is the time to test and try that stuff on social if you haven’t. And don’t try not to be as nervous as I know I can just speak from my own channels. it can be tough, sometimes, to loosen the reins and now is the time to do that.”
Easing Traveler Anxiety
Becca Smith: “What steps will destinations and tourism-related businesses need to take to address traveler anxieties and ensure traveler safety since we’re all worried about that?’
Andi Thoreson: “First off, those conversations need to be taking place with your partners: understanding what their comfort is and understanding how that how they’re preparing to be better able to put that messaging in place. It makes no sense to drive out your own messaging. Bring people in and have it be kind of a complete disaster when they start going to these places. That’s just going to increase the anxiety, so I think there should be some rolling in and understanding the different steps that that attractions and restaurants have taken—and including that in some form or in some way shape or form into your messaging—because there is going to be a lot of anxiety when people start getting out and about into the community and looking at what it is that those partners need from you in terms of whether that’s helpful with guidance and understanding what they should be doing or helping to craft what their messaging looks like. A lot of our partners right now are so on top of their game and have switched their platforms so quickly that I’m not terribly worried about them in that respect but I think that it’s going to become a little bit clearer, as things continue, to progress to understand what that’s going to look like. It’s such a tough question to answer right now.”
Tedd Evers: “I mean, I was actually thinking about that earlier—you know 9/11 we had you know the shoe bomber and everything so almost everybody has to take out the shoes and we’d go through the security process and psychologically we maybe feel safe, and that’s kind of addressed that and in this situation. I don’t think there’s one thing that could be done to kind of be a visible symbol. I mean you’re not going to have like a little Dyson-like hand washer you know as soon as you enter somewhere. But I people are going to want to know what’s your status. And if you have the antibodies. People are going to be taking more precautions but I think something that was mentioned in a previous webinar is that it’s a good time to really get to know your customers better—the ones that are going to be those kind of early adopter types that will visit first, and maybe they will be less likely to stay, unfortunately, at a larger hotel. Maybe they want to go to an alternative accommodation. There’s a couple of different places they could go so that they can kind of disinfect themselves because they’ll only trust it themselves, rather than the opportunity that the chain or larger hotels have to create some sort of a certification program on that. But all those hygiene things—the cleanliness and all of those things—are going to have to be touched upon in a very credible real matter.”
Josh Collins: “I know through some of what we have seen at Streetsense—we’ve got this destination accelerator—that we us to work with destinations, to think things through so that on the restaurant sign, the partner side, we’re seeing things like preparing our partners to think about how do you apply distance, how do you apply a contactless service and these type of things. Do you use single-use menus? Do you use or do you shift now to a digital-based menu. There are lots of different applications into thinking through that. You go through that consumer experience and have to take into consideration the ideas that are certainly becoming more prevalent around safety and cleanliness. What risk is it that that the consumers will feel right with. That’s certainly from those that might not know your brand. They might not know it, and might not be familiar with your destination. This shift toward a hyperlocal thinking about our hometown tours, thinking about those that we can activate quickly they might be familiar with.”
‘Never been a better to time to work with your local partners.’
Question from attendee: “What about educating locals about all the things for which there’s never been a greater time for DMOs to position themselves as leaders?”
Josh Collins: “There’s never been a greater time for DMO leaders to jump at this opportunity to position themselves as leaders on behalf of the income and the economic impact that tourism creates for these bedroom communities. There’s no doubt about that. You can do that through hosting webinars for yourself. Think about who are the partners that you can partner with whether it’s local media, city officials, whoever, and began doing that—even locally for yourself just to generate some of these distribution channels, these conversation channels, and cultivate that kind of local base network.”
Leroy Bridges: “We’ve long debated that in what that “M” in “DMO” means. This is an opportunity to really set forth the management definition of that and help. I think that, as we move from this this lockdown phase to reopen, to vaccine, there’s a large period of time in there that we have to help partners understand what that could look like. Obviously, they’re going to be the ones implementing, but we have to help manage what those expectations could be.
“That’s what we’re going to need to be thinking about and Josh, I think you touch on some creative examples, but we you’re right—we need to lead by example here as a DMO to help our industry come out of this not just thinking how can we cram as many people in here as possible to pay our bills … but let’s do this responsibly so that we can stay open a little bit longer and avoid being right back in the same spot in a month or two, or whomever you know, however long.”
Josh Collins: “Absolutely. The other challenge obviously –this is another good question brought in from the chat box—is about funding. So many destinations are clearly tied to a lodging tax model. Some other destinations benefit from a tax—whether it’s a restaurant tax, a use tax or other things like that. But clearly, this is also presenting us with the opportunity to rethink that in any creative ways. Has anybody here heard of any kind of creative ways being brought to the table?”
Andi Thoreson: “We haven’t figured out any creative ways yet. We are a DMO that is funded through the lodging tax as well, so the next year is looking like we’re going to have to get more creative with more than likely smaller staffs and much more intentional in terms of what else can a source be for us in terms of revenue; that’s something that we really haven’t addressed. It’s still just kind of reacting and figuring out. It’s still so early as to what would next steps are for us and in that respect but I mean marketers are a creative people so if you know it’ll be it’ll be a challenge. But we’re good at that when it comes to figuring out and being able to answer those questions, and being smarter with the very limited dollars and for the staff that we have available.”
Tedd Evers: “I speak from a DMO perspective, from a strategic perspective. Speaking about this hyperlocal take-care-of-the-local-businesses part of that is, I think, there’s an opportunity to reduce the tension between visitor/local and we incorporate locals by supporting these local businesses, by getting them involved in this whole kind of broader recovery effort, I think that, generally, they would probably be more likely to help—whether it’s part of their overall taxes that they pay locally. If they see overall benefits to the community, and I think there’s a chance and an opportunity to establish some of those bonds where you can perhaps, obviously, not make it all up in one fell swoop but at least test that as potential area … “
|“We’ve got a lot of smaller DMOs around the country. Band together. Create efficiencies. Get with your EDC. Find your Chamber and cut down on those duplicative efforts.” – Leroy Bridges|
Josh Collins: “Another great question. I’d love to get your perspective on this: How do you see DMOs now working across industry lines. I know so many DMOs have great mainstream organizations or they’ve got local Business Improvement Districts or Chambers, EDC’s (economic development councils)—whatever it is; they may be called something differently in every destination. This is why we created the Accelerator Street at Streetsense. It is to help foster really good healthy and sustainable integration for all these. But what do you guys see, or what are you hearing, or even experiencing in your own backyard right now—crossing those lines, etcetera, or whatever.”
Leroy Bridges: “it’s challenging, I’ll tell you. We’ve got 13 chambers locally. We’ve got 24 municipalities. We’ve got a complex region, even once you move out of Pinellas County/ St. Pete/ Clearwater into Tampa and Tampa Bay. So, I think I think what these opportunities do, there’s no doubt, is allows you to at least knock down some of those walls. You have to jump on calls and I’ll be honest: I’m having calls with our EDC for the first time in in my years about at our organization. We call have a call with county communications—again, that relationship hasn’t even really been there at the county level you know because we’re kind of off doing our thing.
“So, at least locally, I think, the hope is, personally, that those types of relationships and that type of the ability to work together and be more regional—may be the hope is that they can continue after this, not just leaned on it in this moment. I think we are a larger DMO, or fortunate with our visitation and resources but if you’re smaller … we’ve got a lot of smaller DMOs around the country. Band together. Create efficiencies. Get with your EDC. Find your chamber and cut down on those duplicative efforts. I understand now that, more than ever, everybody wants to show their value because it’s a difficult time. But expecting a partner to pay, maybe two or three different chamber dues and then, you’re paying your membership fee with the DMO … I mean those are high expectations during a very difficult financial time.”
Andi Thoreson: “As a smaller DMO, we’ve all been working at that the last couple of years already—establishing that working relationship with our EDC, our downtown community partnerships, and our local Chamber, as well. This is, maybe, a silver lining of everything. Those organizations have done a fantastic job here banding together and trying to avoid those duplicate efforts—making sure we understand: here’s what our strength is right now, this is what we can bring to the table, and really understanding that and putting it on a very united front. There’s been some, and are, works of some really great things that have come out of that. And in joining forces, rather than each person fighting for his or her own place at the proverbial table, it’s been it’s been a really good working relationship for a smaller DMO.”
Josh Collins: “I’ll highlight one that I know that is doing that very well—Greenbrier County in West Virginia. They’ve created a whole new tourism partnership, basically, with the Airport Authority, Greenbrier Resort, Greenbriar Sporting Club, the CVB and local officials. I know, because we’ve been working with them. For them many of the conversations have been the first that they’ve had—like you are talking about, Leroy. If you’re on the call, you find yourself in a very similar situation where you’ve not necessarily had those kind of relationships or ongoing meetings.
“So, start them. I mean literally start them now. Invite all those people to the table. Have a have a virtual Zoom meeting and create a regular cadence to at least be in front of one another and think about how you can partner together because you’re going need each other. The vibrancy of your destination certainly does is not a siloed thing. The consumer comes, the traveler comes, then they love what they experience, whatever they want to get and go naturally tell other people about it. But it takes everybody working together to create that for sure.”
Tedd Evers: “Take the opportunity to establish some relationships and have those conversations, and look at things from a visitor’s perspective. So, you talked about more regionalism. Everyone’s so kind of focused on differentiating themselves and putting themselves forward—what’s the best thing about their particular destination that’s absolutely necessary, et cetera. But I do think that, on a macro level looking at things … okay the tourist is coming into this particular region. What makes sense for them on the map below, and on a micro level, when you’re talking about preparing one little thing that people could do, is just make sure you could enter the doors without touching anything. Or just look and that’s where a DMO naturally thinks from the traveler’s perspective.
“Go through your destination and say ‘Okay what could I do if I was super parent and I didn’t want them to touch something? How would I, how could I get by?’ And a commenter had brought a kind of mobile payments and you’re kind of hesitant to touch that screen now. If you have a contact list, you have Apple pay or card or something like that … you know how do you roll that out a little bit more so you can anticipate those concerns upfront and prepare for that.”
Josh Collins: “I think Ted, that you just you just hit the nail on the head. it’s by serving for the voice of the tourists. We put ourselves in that seat of understanding that you know the visitor economy so well, understanding the visitor experience so well, that’s one great way we can come alongside our partners.”
Leroy Bridges: “Yes, I put a lot of personal pressure on myself and carry this forward as a DMO like that’s where we need to step in and make sure that we’re helping educate our attractions, our partners. The silver lining thing Andi mentioned shows that that there’s an opportunity with relationships, but also to look at your business operations—not just what items aren’t selling on the menu, but how can we reconstruct this entire consumer experience. One of my biggest fears locally is that a lot of the places have been terribly creative, amazingly creative, with “to go” foodservice options and curbside pickup and finding ways to really get it done.”
“When these restrictions are relaxed, don’t throw that stuff out the window. Let’s not take steps backwards. I don’t know maybe I feel too passionately about it. But we have to step in and really make sure that we’re encouraging these restaurant tours and other partners that this isn’t just a light switch that we flip off-and-on. There’s going to be phasing. Don’t just try to get back to normal or get back to what you knew, which is comfort, comforting … and I get it. We’ve got bills to pay, but we really, really have to caution them to lean into the things you’ve done to get by in this moment and rethink that customer journey.”
On Staying Relevant and Unique
Josh Collins: “We’ve received another good question: How do we as DMOs not overwhelm the distribution channels with everyone doing the same to stay relevant?”
Tedd Evers: “I think it’s not going to be like an off-and-on switch. You’re right. People are going to be flooding in and then media costs are going to be a lot higher and you’re just going to be kind of waiting. I thought there’s some sort of opportunity here, and that is to kind of start now with these micro contacts or these micro relationships and establishing them now, and having a conversation that’s relevant and respectful now—so that you’re not kind of all rushing in. I think that’s where you can kind of help differentiate yourself and the way to do that is not through kind of like more mass campaigns, but kind of like honing back. Like those people who have visited before and finding out who are your most loyal repeat visitors are or who are the ones that are most adventurous and who will come back. Really prepare little, small kind of micro campaigns or communication strategies around that so that you were not all rushing in.”
Leroy Bridges: “All of our customers are unique to us. To a certain degree my visitor is not necessarily who Andi is targeting all of the time. And certainly, seasonality plays a great part in to that. I think it’ starts with research. Right now, a shout out to all the data partners—Adara and Arrivalist. They’re doing a lot of great work and making a lot of data available to everybody. I think one of the challenges at the DMO level is that we have very little specific data for St. Pete/Clearwater right now. And we have to wait six weeks to get the bed tax and STR is only so good it’s hard to really understand what our customer, the St. Pete/Clearwater visitor is thinking about.
“So, we’re commissioning some research. I get it that not everybody has those dollars to do that, but to really try to understand our in-state visitor and then some key feeder markets, what are they thinking about us, what are they thinking about travel, and what are they thinking about potential restrictions or items in place to help mitigate whether that be a mask or test or whatever that might be so, I think it starts with research and then from there, whatever that data tells us, leaning into knowing who our previous customers were.”
Go for the free stuff.
Leroy Bridges: “I’ve mentioned it and I think—again, depending on budget—you can lean into third parties, third party vendors, to help you understand and target your past visitors. And then smaller budgets—and not to jump in on Andi—every DMO should have some own data. That is, we should all have email lists and that’s a very free beginning in my opinion.”
Andi Thoreson: “it’s definitely honing in on that ‘free.’ Keyword ‘free.’ For the time being and hoping that, as things let up and we move into 2021-2022, that comes back and we can start really investing in those awesome data research companies. in the meantime, for smaller DMOs, it is looking at what you already have in place, really diving into those analytics—Who is it that is visiting your site? What is it that they’re looking at? And then, our partners have very useful data. I think that moving forward … rather than trying desperately to throw out as much free messaging as possible and hoping something sticks, is approaching it as strategically as possible, so working with some of our larger attractions to compile our data with theirs, see what that tells us, and get very specific with our messaging.
“But I can’t say, for a smaller DMO, I’m not sure when we’ll be able to pick back up with paid campaigns and large pushes like that. So, the more collaborative we can have with partners and the more creative we are—and we’re marketers, we’re good at—it’s just getting those conversations going and using what we have.”
Josh Collins: “I love the idea of data co-op with your partners. I mean if there’s ever a better time to do that … I think we oftentimes find hurdles right on either side of ways to not make that work … our hotels need visitors and you have, potentially, platforms that they can help leverage and combine that data. Obviously, you’ve got to watch out for some of the privacy issues and things like that, but that’s a great idea.”
Andi Thoreson: “Also, when you start reaching into your drive markets look towards those who are the DMOs and who are those people in those drive markets? There have been some really fun creative campaigns in the past with those DMOs working together being really playful and what that message is, but identify those people have the communications of what they’re seeing in their market and understand if there’s any cross promotion or teamwork that can be done from a drive market standpoint.”
Josh Collins: “That’s a really good point, I think—in determining your previous visitors and how you can go about using that. I think that speaks back to the data co-op. Certainly leveraging all of those tools that you have access to. You brought up email; every destination or attraction should have access to their own first party data, which is those that have given you permission by signing up on or through your database.
“If you collect that database, think about running very easy kinds of surveys to them, and sit in and ask it to create a feedback loop through there: Have you visited and, if you have, what was your favorite thing? And there you go. It’s is a very easy and free way to segment that and begin a campaign to activate them for you in any kind of recovery.”
Tedd Evers: “it’s an opportunity to really to try to create the first-party data that doesn’t really exist now. And that can involve looking at your local partners. If you’re talking about bringing local or drive markets involved, talk to some of the restaurants. Talk to them about what they see they come into town. Is it just weekends? Or, what are some of the things from the anomalies that might stand out there—just to kind of bring some or get an idea of it, but that’s actual visits. That’s first party data rather than surveys, because with surveys in some cases, things can change are changing daily now … and based on what happens that could determine someone’s feedback. So, unless that survey’s very recent, or it’s uncovering things that are going to survive all the vicissitudes that are going on right now, it gets very, very difficult.”
How do we how do we, as a destination, respond to over-tourism?
Josh Collins: “Two questions we wanted to cover are: How do we how do we, as a destination, respond to over-tourism; and what have you guys seen and what are you what are you doing right now?”
Leroy Bridges: “it’s a great question. I know that I recently saw a quick piece telling us that the St. Pete mayor was getting pushed to shut down Central Avenue in downtown and turn into a pedestrian area. And his very astute comeback was ‘I am not trying to create more gathering areas during this event right now. It’s something we’re definitely going to look into down the road, but you bring up a very interesting challenge to destinations not being able to have it both ways. We can’t complain about not having people and that we can’t also complain about over-tourism. It’s a challenging dynamic and I think everything that we need to do it should be done responsibly but we don’t have a ton of ton of examples locally.”
Andi Thoreson: “Over tourism is not a problem that we’ve dealt with a lot (laughter). I can’t really speak to that in answering the questions you asked. As for what we’re doing right now to help—and this kind of goes back to working with your chambers and your EDC—is like the healthcare workers we’re talking with a lot of hospitals right now who have all of this information and who have requests coming to them such as ‘I want to donate, what can I do, I want to buy pizza for the workers,’ which is kind of a big no-no right now—you can’t have food coming in and out of the hospital with deliveries. So, it’s working with those different entities and setting up how can we put together a means for people to do this that also supports other segments of the community, like the restaurant industry. It gives people a way to donate, to help, and it brings all of these different entities together. We’ve done a lot of different initiatives like that that.
“I am interested in, curious, to see if, moving forward, since I’ve noticed that within a lot of these research studies they cover travel sentiment—that is, what’s the travel sentiment looking like. People are still excited to go to beaches and the big resorts but, number two is that people are considering more of those rural destinations—smaller areas that are wide open with fresh air, and we have a lot of that—so we’re definitely going to try to relay some of that messaging around what is there in North Dakota/Minnesota and, specifically, in Fargo-Moorhead and which are in both of those states … as to what there is to experience on those fronts. Again, I can’t really speak to over-tourism, but looking at what that research is telling us, that, for moving ahead, is definitely something that we’re going to work into our overall messaging and which hasn’t been a big thing that we’ve done in the past.”
Tedd Evers: “Having lived a couple of years in Barcelona, which is kind of like the epicenter of over- tourism, I do think that there’s an opportunity now to help prepare for that. You may not have that issue now, but it also can help—even on a micro level—if, say, it’s a very popular attraction or a museum or something like that, how do you, maybe, time the visits or just kind of staggered entries. For some of the museums, you have to assign it for the more popular ones—a certain time to go in. These are, in the end, mathematical problems that can be solved. it’s just like we just haven’t done it.
“Why not space things out? it’ll be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone. Could that be extrapolated to like the beach and, in terms of involving the locals, could there be locals’ hours or a local section of the beach versus others. There are a lot of different, creative ways to solving that tension between locals and visitors—as well as mitigating the impact that that visitation has on over-tourism. There was someone in my local community that was advocating for shutting down the Main Street so that people could have more distance to walk and it was kind of 50/50. People like ‘No, I’m driving” because everyone feels safe in their cars now. So that’s another consideration. But what a beautiful experience to have some of these kind of closed-off walkways that are possible now. if you ever wanted to, or thinking about doing something in this area, now is the time to strike with such a plan.
Josh Collins: “Tedd, your point is right. Now is a perfect opportunity to invite more people, more voices, to the table and create a more sustainable plan for what we would do in the future. Because some stakeholders may in fact say, ‘You know what, you’re saying we want X number of visitors, but we don’t think that’s sustainable because of what it does to the local economy or what it does to the visitor experience or etcetera.” It’s really, really important to foster those dialogues right now and then create a strategy to communicate that outward. That’s one way that we can perhaps win people over to our side—not is it not that it’s about sides even but it’s one way to perhaps engage those that haven’t been fans of tourism in a new way.”
Leroy Bridges: ‘I think, though, and I’ll be honest, all of that sounds really needed. But the dollar. the dollar, is hard to ignore. And I think that, for us at least, I can I can speak about our local situation. You build. You build aggressive marketing plans. You grow a destination but, yet, you’re not really talking about transportation solutions. You’re not talking about overall initiatives that can help the whole region. But it’s going to be hard. You’re going to be hard-pressed to try limit people’s expectations to get back to where we were six weeks ago from a production-visitation-economic-impact-dollars perspective.
‘And I get it. it takes difficult conversations, and certainly ambitious plans, to get there. But just that’s going to be really difficult to do. And I personally think that’s responsible and smart and taking advantage of this this really, terrible situation we’ve been put in. But realities have been built around that success, and it’s going to be really challenging to break those realities that everybody desperately wants back.’
Andi Thoreson: ‘The other side of the table on that—where it’s being in a destination where your locals don’t really think of you as being as a tourist destination—that’s been a problem for us, now that all of those dollars are missing, of what the visitor actually does bring in. I think that it’s a really good time to be able to touch on this. Actually, the impact that visitors have is how important it is to our community … that it’s a great time to be able to help people understand or prove that value, if you will, from a destination that’s not a big tourist destination.’
Josh Collins: ‘That’s really important I think because, certainly, every destination right now is feeling the impact the lack of the visitor dollar. So, specifically, the visitor economy is suffering tremendously inside of our destinations, and we’re able to see some grassroots efforts—for instance, the Great American Takeout—that we can use to infuse some vibrancy from locals. But you can start to really see what’s missing in the visitor economy side of that, so, and that’s the zero to what you’re saying … what we’ve been expecting and what we have experienced before and think about as normal, I think you know we keep saying this. Will Secombe (president of Connect Travel) has certainly said this so eloquently but need to be able to put that aside because we are entering into a “new normal” and so we really do need to think about how do we engage moving forward as best we can.’
Final Question—Attracting Visitors Inside the 40-Mile Radius
Josh Collins: ‘One attendee says, historically, that he’s had trouble attracting people from 40 miles away—or he’s had more trouble attracting people from 40 miles away than from 400 miles. What does he do in the post-COVID marketplace?’
Leroy Bridges: ‘I think we need to be leaning on that data and research to help us answer that question. Don’t just rely on that historical gut feeling or whatnot. For us and for every destination, it’s different. Tampa Bay has always been our bread and butter, and Orlando is huge for us. And in-state is massive for our destination. So, I’m not quite sure that’s the case for others. Locally, certainly it’s easier to get somebody to stay longer and spend more if they’re farther away. So, that’s something that we’re weighing as we come out of this shutdown into remarketing. We can’t just necessarily completely get away from, potentially, those fly markets or redefining what you view as a drive market.
Use that data to help you define drive market. It might not be the market you think is a drive market, but use the data to tell you that, because people are all the sentiment and research that we’re seeing says that people are going to be driving.’
Domestic Tour Operators Share Thoughts
As a part of Connect Travel’s ongoing “Connect with” series, two of the most widely known names and brands in the U.S. domestic tour operator business—Bob Cline, president of U.S. Tours; and Tim Patrick, director of product development of Mayflower Cruises & Tours—highlighted last week’s “Connect with Domestic Tour Operators Virtual Roundtable” to discuss the latest in the current climate for business as we all cope with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Sponsored by TourOperatorLand and moderated by Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager, Connect Travel Events, the session attracted more than 350 participants, as the three panelists discussed a series of issues and commented on numerous questions posted during the event.
When all was over, five key takeaways emerged:
1. Cautious Optimism: Operators feel travel will open in late summer and fall of 2020 with July – December domestic programs still on the books. However, it should be noted any 2020 bookings are fully changeable and refundable with travel closer to home.
2. Positive Outlook: 2021 looks positive and operators are actually contracting products and creating programs for 2021 & 2022.
3. Partnership: Co-op marketing, social media, unique or exclusive offerings, and promotional opportunities are just some of the ways to partner. Create offerings based on the customer at hand; one size does not fit all.
4. Pricing Matters: Roll over rates provide shorter cancellation policies, allow relaxed comp ratios, enticements and values-adds for booking now; everything helps now and into 2021. It may take time to sell new tours, so holding true to quoted pricing is key.
5. Connect and Communicate: Tour operators want to hear from you. Make sure they have updated contacts in your area and share any authentic messaging you are using to make visitors feel safe and welcome.
Following are excerpts from the webinar’s give-and-take.
Shari Bailey: “I think every webinar I’ve sat on has said that domestic is going come back first so everyone’s on pins and needles trying to figure out when that is and what they can do to help you come out of this.”
How’s it Going?
Not All is Drear and Dross. Bob Cline is known for his droll wit. And while he doesn’t look for opportunities to display it, he doesn’t turn them down either. As he did here …
|Shari Bailey: How’s everything going for you right now Bob? Bob Cline: Personally or financially? (laughter) Shari Bailey: Personally, you look great right now. Bob Cline: Well, I’m gaining weight and I own a business that doesn’t have any customers. (laughter) It’s a good day.|
Tim Patrick: “I’m not really a work-from-home person. I really like being in the office where everything is busy … but, you know, we’re doing we’re doing well. We pretty much are not operating anything through June right now. We had some March departures and then that pretty much stopped. We haven’t done any cancellations past June. We’re still optimistic. We’re taking it one day at a time and just waiting to see what happens.”
Shari Bailey: “There are many challenges right now. Is there a way to pinpoint what some of the biggest challenges have been?”
Tim Patrick: “I think that, from a sales standpoint, we’re still trying to, we’re very active in, staying in touch with our customers. People that were on departures that we had who were possibly going to go in April or May—we’re pushing them to the fall. We’re trying to keep them engaged in and wanting to travel and to trying to stay optimistic.
“I’m pricing into 2022 right now and our goal is, once we kind of get back to whatever the next normal is going to be, to kind of hit the ground running. We have all of our 2021 product out there and some 2022 products so that people can get back into it.”
Shari Bailey: “You say 2021 and 2022. I think everyone’s kind of understanding the point that that 2020 is what we can salvage from it. We would all like to reschedule things instead of cancelling, so we’re kind of pushing that down the road. you mentioned product for 2021 and 2022. Irene from Flight Centre (Irene M. Vecchi, global chains leader-global procurement network, Flight Centre Travel Group) has said the same thing–that they’re contracting 2021 and 2022 as well.”
New Product Notes
Shari Bailey: “Bob what are what are you looking out for product into next year?”
Bob Cline: “We’re opening up a couple of new things. In cooperation with Leisure Group Travel magazine. We’re introducing Bounce Back tours. These exist for the first 60 days after the quarantines are lifted. We have destinations where hotels are willing to take half price to get somebody in the room. Theater is doing the same thing. We’re managing at cost, while Leisure Group Travel does the marketing.”
“So, we’re playing with that in the short term. We’ve taken two of our event tours and we’ve made ABA (American Bus Association) an offer to join with us on these and turn them into “Tourism Recovery Parties.” Or, we have “Rocking the Boardwalk in Virginia Beach, and New Year’s Eve in Myrtle Beach. Both will have 14 or 15 buses all by themselves—that’s what we typically get. We’ve got room for another 20 or 30 buses, though. The facilities are large enough, so we’d love to see this as the place where the industry comes together, and people can take some great photos, and dance in the moonlight and celebrate the end of the virus.
“Also, today, we are introducing “Tour Tennessee.” Last year we opened “Tour Smokies”—a receptive operation in Pigeon Forge. It was very successful in the first year, so we’re expanding it to the entire state.
“All of this is kind of a current focus for the fall in the winter and early 2021. We do have Bank groups that are buying in 2022—different things. Right now, we’re just trying to still pick up the pieces for this year and early in the next year.”
Shari Bailey: “I know that everyone who has tuned into this is going to be asking what else are you doing when you consider something else. How do we get involved? So, I would prepare yourself for those questions.
“One of the things that we’ve learned from other types of instances that we’ve gone through on a smaller scale, in which enticements generally help people come out of this, is the hotel discount. You mentioned that hotels are willing to take half price on the rooms to get someone in there now. Are there other enticements that suppliers should be looking at that are going to help you at the end of this year, or moving into 2021, when those sales start picking up?”
Bob Cline: “Yes. What destinations want enticements? That’s a difficult thing to pin down. The whole concept with the Bounce Back tour is: A dollar spent in tourism recirculates seven times. A social posting made by somebody in tourism and recirculate hundreds of times. So, we just need to get people on the road. And you get people talking about travel and sharing their experiences. If we can do that in the short term, it’ll benefit all of us in the long term because they’re getting the social media are talking about travel.”
Shari Bailey: What works for Mayflower or helps Mayflower, or has in the past, with some type of enticement or value add?
Maintaining Group Rates
Tim Patrick: “We haven’t written 2020 off by any means. We fully intend to operate programs this year the load factors may be a lot lighter and if they are, so for running coaches with the with the you know dozen to twenty people instead of forty or fifty people, you know we’d like to be able to call upon our suppliers to make sure that they’re still honoring group rates if we fall below the number or maybe even help us out on the bottom line you know if we’re going take the hit on all the fixed costs of putting a tour manager out and a motor coach on the road, that we kind of work together.
“And that has happened in the past that I’ve been through. you know something similar back in on 9/11, when the bottom fell out of international travel and everyone moved to domestic travel and it was a tough go, but we got through that. We’ll get through this.”
Shari Bailey: “From the Flight Centre side, Irene Vecchi, as I mentioned, said she was scheduling those or contracting those 2021 and 2022, and one feature that she was looking for was rollover rates into 2021 that would keep things easy—and help them as a company—and she asked for everyone to look at their cancellation rates and/or their translation cancellation timing, and if that could be within a 24-hour period, then a longer period that that would help her as well.
“One thing I found interesting is that she still has some bookings coming in for 2020, but everything right now is that booking now has to be completely refundable and completely changeable. She wants to entice people to book now and so she’d like to talk with people about free nights: Book three to get one free. Everything that we’ve done and seen in the past, but to have it specifically for somebody that would book right now and get something on the books—if that’s something that has worked for both you, Tim, and for Bob in the past?”
Bob Cline: “I think Tim’s right on. Suppliers need to give us those comps. We might only have eight or nine rooms but we’ve brought you somebody. We’ve got people traveling. We’ve got to rebuild the whole industry. Paying for that comp room with half the bus—it’s hard for us. Paying for the bus itself is hard. So, whatever incentives you can give us, they’re going to be needed.”
Tim Patrick. “Right. One of the one of the concerns that I have with my job is, basically, to price 12 to 18 months into the future and so I do a lot of estimating on cost because, I understand the suppliers may not necessarily be able to commit to rates and such but I’m just worried about coming into 2022 and the 30 dollars that I had budgeted for that dinner has now it becomes 38 or 40 dollars. I’m concerned about where these rates are going to be two years from now. If everyone’s we’re all back at work and we’ve got suppliers that are trying to make up for everything that’s lost in one year. Is that a concern? Do you think so Bob?”
Bob Cline: “Yes, but I don’t know how to gauge it. Any advice? I’m willing to take it”.
Tim Patrick: “Well, my rule of thumb is 3 percent. For hoteliers, isn’t there a percentage out there that the amount—there’s a percentage of your overhead … your sales, that goes back into your business to maintain your property. Usually that kind of percentage is a number that I generally go with in terms of seeing increases over from one year to the next, and some hotels don’t raise their rates for three years; and then they’ll do a five percent increase. And others will gradually go two percent a year or three percent a year and that’s kind of what I work with, based on the history of that hotel that I’ve been working with.” (One person attending the webinar indicated that her property tries to do one-to-three percent, year-over-year.)
Shari Baily: “And I think that in this time, and what we’ve learned from past events and everything we’re doing now in communication, and being open-minded on how we move together in the future, is what’s going to help us.”
Tim Patrick: “Another thing, too, is that a lot of times so the people that are attending this—if their hotel, or if they’re working for an attraction or restaurant, I know that a lot of the times you’re not the decision-maker. But we need you guys to be able to go to that–you know, for lack of a better word the “bean counter”—who says “No, no we’re wasting our resources”- and be able to say what we’ve been through. We can’t afford to raise the rates this much. We need to be a little more moderate, or maybe hold it for a year. And if we hold it for a year, maybe we’ll get more business.”
Bob Cline: “If you do if you do quote rates for 2022 and it takes just three or four months to get the customer to commit to it, you need to if you have to note on what that quote was. We still need to be able to deliver it. The bank customers, especially—it takes several months to get them to confirm.”
Shari Bailey: “One of the questions we received asked is “What are you hearing from your customers?” Tim, you mentioned that you’re not writing off 20/20 yet, and still have some things in the pipeline and from clients that you’re talking to—there’s no magic crystal ball but when do you think that they might be willing to travel again?”
Of Groups and FITs
Tim Patrick: “We kind of deal with two different animals. We deal with a group leader who makes the decision for the group, and then we have our FIT people who just call in. What I’ve seen with the group leaders is that the groups are pushing more to the following year. So, if we cancelled a March departure for them for this year, they’ve rebooked it for March of 2021. With the FIT people, we just tried to push them to the fall, so they want to go to the National Parks in May… well we’ve got a September departure. Push them because those are the ones easy, who we’re moving, whereas with the groups, it could be groups of 30 or 40 and we may not have the inventory for the fall to move them. So, we’re encouraging them to jump a year and a lot of them are doing that.”
Shari Bailey: “That’s good that they’re rescheduling. Bob, what have you heard from your clients?”
Bob Cline: “We don’t have the FIT business. So, we’re all groups. But we do have the two types of customers. The bus companies? They’re not even thinking about creating anything for the rest of this year. They hope they’ll have something in the fall, but they’re not planning, they’re not marketing. They’re sitting back shell shocked. The bankers? they don’t have 200 buses sitting outside in the yard. They don’t have that same ‘glazy-eyed’ look. They’re planning in the future.”
Different Arrival and Departure Dates?
Shari Bailey: “In order to keep the rates lower, even flat, would you guys be willing to look at different patterns, different days of the week, different arrivals and departures and—I think this goes back to communication—a and talking with your supplier partners—to get that best rate and to move a pattern that works?”
Bob Cline: “Just tell us what dates you need. If we’re coming in on a weekend, we’ll need the weekend business. Tell us. Most of my customers will move for a dollar.”
Shari Bailey: “What about you, Tim. Is that something you might be able to do?”
Tim Patrick: “It’s definitely something we have done in the past. It’s a little bit more difficult to break patterns because if there’s 30 components on the tour, now I’ve got to go back to all the remaining 29 to accommodate the 30th. So, it depends. I’m definitely open to the idea, and we have done it in the past, but it’s just it might be a little easier said than done.”
Shari Bailey: “For 2020, we know we’re just hoping we get something out of it, but moving into 2021 and even into 2022. Do you see, with what is happening now, changing travel patterns? In the future, with both of you building programs around an event or a festival or a time of year … Do you see that changing? Do you see having to move it a little bit in the future?”
Tim Patrick: “I don’t know. Bob, you do a lot of festivals and such I can’t see Rose Parade changing. Or the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. I could say the Fiesta in San Antonio, but they’ve moved from April. They’ve re-booked from April to November, so we reworked it for November. I don’t know if they would keep that. I know they’re trying to salvage that business.”
Bob Cline: “I don’t know how to call these trends. Fiesta that’s a one-time event. Kentucky and the Labor Day. That’s a one-time event so maybe let’s look at it this way.”
Shari Bailey: “Do you see your programs changing? They are so varied. You have two-and-three-day events. Do you see changing the way the way you operate? For instance, we’ve had questions about the cleanliness of buses, about temperature and temperature change, about health checks. Do you see any of that changing the way you have to operate?”
Bob Cline: “I think we’re going to see people concerned about sanitary buses … for the next two or three months, and then I think they’re going to get over it. And things will get headed back towards normal. The destinations we’re going to and the types of trips were selling—we’re always looking for new experiences. The new experience on a trip is important and that will help us sell a destination in the future. Many of our events will stay the same as they are because it’s just something that works.”
The Importance of DMOs
Tim Patrick: “I’ll tell you one thing that’s worked really well for me for 2022 is that there are still a lot of DMOs that are active out there. It’s been hard to track people down right now, because people have been furloughed and there’s different layers of staff that have been either laid off or furloughed or whatever but, for the most part, the DMOS that I have talked to—I just rely more on them now than ever because there’s a lot of smaller attractions and stuff. I just can’t get to them. There’s nobody who answers their phones, and I understand that it’s a difficult situation. If you’re a small museum and you don’t have the money to keep the doors open, you’re not going to keep the staff, so I appreciate the DMOs out there that are going the extra mile to help.”
Shari Bailey: “What can DMOS do to help bring your clients to their destinations. What would be most helpful and cuts right to that point that you were making, Tim, that sometimes you have a hard time getting in touch with people: you don’t know who’s at the hotel or who’s that who’s at a museum. I think every DMO is sitting up straighter right now with every DMO saying, ‘We know. We know. Contact us!’ How do they get that information to you? How would you like to receive it? Are you willing to do a virtual fam tour or do you just want a one-on-one conversation?”
Tim Patrick: “What’s best for me? It’s starting with an email. E-mail is really the way to get started just because I’m not sitting at my desk. I’m sitting at my dining room table. Although if you call me, my everything gets forwarded to my mobile phone. But it’s just easier, with the amount of files that I’m working on right now, and the number of different directions I’m going, it’s probably easier to start with an email, and then I can we can figure out a time to talk. Phone calling right now is, I know, what you guys want to do, but it’s just that, for me, it’s difficult to take calls unless I’ve got the time and I kind of structure my day very in order for me to get the work done that I need to get done.
“I really have to structure my day. I have specific times when I read emails. I’ve got specific times when I work on tour planning and when I listen to voicemail. I find that’s the easiest way to manage my time is with an email. Send me an email by 8 o’clock in the morning. By 10 o’clock in the morning, I may have already read my morning email, so I’m not going to look again until noon. Don’t think I’m ignoring you. It’s just that’s have a block of time when I read e-mails.
“As we’re talking about clients and where they want to go, and we think travel is going to happen, do you see a shift, or have they talked to you about a shift—that rural destinations might be more interesting to them than the large destinations. And if there’s any unease, do you think people may want to stay closer to home when they start traveling again.”
Bob Cline: “I think they’re going to stay closer to home, and I think it shows just how silly the American consumer is. With this virus around, America has more of it than anybody else, and we don’t want to go anyplace else because it’s not as safe as it is here at home. How does that work?
Tim Patrick: “With the talk of Georgia saying that they’re going to open their state and get back to normal and so forth. As stuff starts to happen like that, I don’t know how this is all going to unfold. Is it going to be once they’re here … but if we’re on a bus, what happens if we have to go through a state that’s not open to get to a state that is open. This is the type of thing that I start thinking about when I start thinking about how we’re going to get through this—you know, how are we going to shift this New England program in the fall when I’ve got to go through three states that aren’t open?”
Shari: “I knew things were going to open and we were going to try to get back to normal, and in pieces, but I didn’t even think about that, Tim. If anyone listening to the call has ideas I’m sure that as a group we would all love to think through that one together so please put it in the Q and A or give us a call.”
Tim Patrick: “A question I have for some of the DMOs is: How are you guys doing with these areas that have really kind of been hit hard? Are you guys formulating a game plan to get through, like, New York City. It has been really tough, and you see it a lot in the in the in the news. How are you, how are they, going to bounce back? When did they turn the switch on? What do they do to promote? How are we going to, are we going to do that? How are we going to get past that, because people are still going to want to go to New York City. I’m just using New York as an example. I’m not picking on them. There have been other cities and other areas.”
A Bus Half Full?
Shari Bailey: “I think everyone’s thinking the same thing: How do we get our arms around that and, at the same time, and promote a safe message out to everyone, so it’s not just the cleanliness of the buses or social distances. Those are some of the questions we’re seeing here today. Bob, you mentioned that you know if you have a bus that’s half full, if you have 15 or 20 people, is that also take into effect that you might have to social distance on a bus, but you’re still having to use a 50-person motorcoach and you’ve got to pay for that … and I think everyone’s trying to wrap their head around, if it is cleanliness, if it helps, is that social distancing, and how did they help you through that. And if it’s a rural destination or big destination? So, what do you think Bob?”
Bob Cline: “I heard an airline executive quoted as saying that they’re practicing social distancing because they’re not filling the center seat, but the truth of the matter is that they can’t sell the center seats. So, it’s easy enough to do social distancing. But on a bus, on a plane, the air circulates and you’re in a confined area, and social distancing just isn’t possible when you’re with a group. We’re going to have to build up our immunities, cure the disease, get inoculations or something in order to avoid this fear. I don’t what the answer is, but people want to travel in groups. They want to go to theaters and shows. You can’t just sell every other seat.”
Smaller Groups on Buses
Shari Bailey: “Do you think there will be a realignment in group size. Clearly, we are all thinking that maybe we will have to do things a little bit differently. Right now, there’ll be a realignment in group size just because we’re trying to get the people to travel, but what about in 2021 or 2122?”
Tim Patrick: “I think that’s a very valid direction that we could go, and if there’s any motor coach operators out there … you see, the challenge with that is that it costs just as much money for a motorcoach company to put a 52-passenger coach on the road as it does to put a 40 passenger coach on the road. Maybe it’s a little bit less gas but it’s still the same amount of overhead for the cost of the vehicle, the maintenance, the driver, licenses and fees and everything else. So now I’m taking the cost of 50 seats and prorating it over the cost of 30 seats and it just raises the price. That’s a challenge. Smaller buses would be great, but is that really going to decrease the overhead? It’s not like you save a hundred thousand dollars by taking 20 seats out of a bus. However, that is a valid thing. I mean, I can see smaller group sizes for sure.”
Bob Cline: “But if somebody can sell 50 seats on a bus, they’re going to take the money right there.”
Shari Bailey: “There are questions being raised and conversations taking place in municipalities and cities about certifying hotels or certifying attractions and restaurants for meeting health and safety standards. Do you foresee that becoming a normal part of your SOP—your standard operating procedure. I think everyone’s reaching at straws right now in order to figure out what’s going to provide that safety, that end-client a feeling of safety and security. Do you think that’ll move the needle?”
Bob Cline: “We already have health inspections in every town. They shut down restaurants that are unsanitary. We’ve got the best standards for restaurants and hotels in the world … and the most diseases.”
How Suppliers Can Help with Marketing
Shari Bailey: Let’s switch to let’s switch to marketing … and doing some partnering together. We know we have 2020 programs that we want to run. We know you’re contracting for 2021 and 2022. How can how can your attractions, your hotels that you work with your destination? How can we work with you to get that message up? And is it that social message that you talked about that can hit and move forward? What is that joint marketing assistance that we can work on to make sure your programs run this year?”
Bob Cline: “Probably the best example of assistance I can give you is Virginia Beach. We’ve been doing an event there for seven or eight years. They will have 20 or 30 volunteers to come out and walk people off the bus into venues and help seat them. They’ll provide some co-op funding throughout the year. They’ll carry our event in their portfolio when you go to marketplace appointments. Working with someone who’s trying to sell you is to your benefit and nobody does it better than my buddy Jim (Jim Coggins, tourism sales manager at the Virginia Beach CVB) and Virginia Beach.”
Shari Bailey: “Grant money’s not out of the question. Everyone is reviewing their budgets right now. Everyone is looking at it, and how they can help both large and small destinations, so we want to keep that in mind not everybody has the money that that others do but certainly want to help.
“Switching to the cruise sector for a minute—both of you work a lot with the cruise market. Have you seen any changes, with everything we’ve seen about cruises right now, have you seen any changes in forward bookings when it comes to some of your cruise movements?”
Tim Patrick: “We do still have some … our Caribbean and Alaska summer programs are gone, but we do have a Caribbean program in the fall, and we have some Caribbean activity in the in the winter of 2021 Those bookings? People are still on them; they’re still intending to go. They’re on Carnival.”
Bob Cline: “We (U.S. Tours) still have a fair amount of business on the American Queen and on the Empress—on the American Rivers. I think that is going to be a strong seller for us next year, as people try and stay domestic—sensing that being on the Mississippi River or the Missouri River is a little safer than being on the Nile.”
Shari Bailey: “Got it—more of the river cruises instead of ocean liners. I read a really interesting article indicating that cruise forward bookings in 2021 were actually positive … not huge increases, but they did have an increase in bookings for 2021. I just wanted to see if you, as tour operators, were seeing the same thing in your booking.”
Bob Cline: “We have some, but I’ve not measured if we have some group business doing the international cruises, the Caribbean, in 2021.”
Shari Bailey: “Earlier, we talked about how everyone wants to know how they can help you, how they can help you in the fall, and how they can help you next year. What are some of the best things that they can do? We talked about coop marketing and helping sell your programs. But what are other things that that they might be able to do to assist you?”
Bob Cline: “I think those of you that are posting anything political or negative on social oughta quit it. Put up a music video on your destination—a historical video. Be optimistic. Show the good side of travel and forget about saying how bad the country is, how bad your candidate is.”
It’s all about the Pricing
Tim Patrick: “On a personal level I agree 100 percent with that. I it’s just so depressing to read such negativity. On a on a business level you … I imagine some of you are like me at home. You’re working away, and you stop and take a break and scratch the cat, or go get a cup of water, or whatever. If you’re working on itineraries, send them to me. I welcome them—any new ideas, anything that I can work on.
“The big thing is the pricing. If I’m going into a new area with the new itinerary, and I may not have any concept at all of what the pricing is going to be, and I may not be able to get to those secondary suppliers that you’ve included in order to determine some sort of pricing … if you can even throw a ballpark prices on there, I’m not going to hold your feet to the fire two years from now and say ‘You told me it was gonna be 10 bucks and now 11, I’m not going to do that. Just throw numbers out there; it’s a great way to help me keep the ball rolling and, you know, it’ll entice me to get some groups into your area and you will have a new runaway smash tour.”
Shari Bailey: “Before we continue, Vicki Osman (senior director, meetings, events technology & education at the American Bus Association) from ABA has posted that they are gathering information on openings and closings, and they’re posting it to their Tourism Strong page for operators, as well as other suppliers, to access. So, as you gather that information on DMOs, hotels, attractions, transportation companies, send it along to Vicki at [email protected].“
About Incentives and Enticements
Shari Bailey: “When we talk about incentives or enticements, we focus a lot on the hotel and free rooms and comp policies. I think the comp policy also applies to attractions, but what are value adds from attractions that have worked from you before? The same type of comp policy but meal vouchers? Or special VIP events? Or tours?”
Tim Patrick: “We’ve got attractions that like to comp the coach for us to just try it. So if we’re in the area and we’ve got an afternoon—I’m not saying they have to comp every coach in the series, but at least throwing it out at us—we bring a group there and we can register the feedback and, maybe, the following year we include that attraction because we’ve got more feedback than just me coming in and visiting. We’re a very numbers-driven company, so we look at every component, we turn it into a number, and that’s how we evaluate what we’re going to keep and what we’re you going substitute. Something like that works, and has worked in the past.”
Bob Cline: “Added benefits help. It gets their attention. Or a meet and greet–something different and unusual. At Pigeon Forge, we did some things this past year with several of the suppliers. It was a service they gave us that our competitors couldn’t get. The tour would pull over at a picnic table and bring out a guitar player. Most of the other people went down this really steep mountain road. It was kind of scary. Our customers, in their 60s and 70s, don’t really like being scared in their 60s and 70s, so we ended up selling ‘Chicken and Pickin,’ and it was better. So, look at our customers, look at your product and what can you give us that might be special? Mayflower can say, ‘Hey we’re the only people in the country doing this with that theater,’ and that gets our attention. We like to be able to say that.”
Shari Bailey: “Do you see any of your itinerary shifting to more outdoors? We’ve talked about theatres, we talked about some of the attractions that are outdoors. Do you see a shift in that?”
Tim Patrick: “I think so.”
Bob Cline: “Yeah. Customers are younger and more active generally.”
Shari Bailey: So, you see that the age of your client is changing. You’re seeing them a little younger?
Bob Cline: “I’m not so sure they’re younger, but a different generation. They’re in their 60s and 70s, but they’re boomers instead of seniors and that’s a different mindset yeah.”
Tim Patrick: “I agree. That whole soft adventure road is something that we do try to incorporate in our program–anything that’s intermodal. If we can get them out of that bus and get them into something else that gets them using a conveyance as a mode of transportation, not necessarily just for sightseeing but to actually get them from point A to point B is, I think, it’s a great added bonus.”
In Person vs. Virtual
Shari Bailey: “We’ve talked about shows. We’ve talked about all of the events that we generally go to you to have these conversations and, looking ahead to tradeshow season, there are conversations about changing things to virtual—using a virtual appointment system. Would you find that useful? Would you attend something like that?”
Bob Cline: “How do I sell a tour by doing it virtually—from a computer?”
Tim Patrick: “It would be a real struggle. I really enjoy the interaction, being able to see everybody in one spot and being able to spend time with people and meeting new attractions, meeting new people. I just enjoy that atmosphere. I think it would be a very difficult change.”
Bob Cline: “I don’t think with a virtual marketplace you can keep my attention for more than thirty minutes.”
Shari Bailey: “I understand what you’re talking about. This is a very personal industry, which is why I found the question so absolutely interesting—to see if that’s something that we might be moving into and how we felt about it.”
Tim Patrick: “I’m gonna throw this out there. In my own personal opinion, I would rather go to a show for week. Spend a week out of the office and get everything done—rather than go to two different events, one being four one being five, or something like that. There I said it. No matter however those guys work it out work … but you know just go do one show, get it all done and meet everybody.”
Shari Bailey: “So, what keeps you guys up at night right now?”
Bob Cline: “The nightmare during the day. (Laughter) It just bounces back.”
Tim Patrick: “For me, it’s the division of the ideologies and politics in this country. That’s what really … you would think stuff like this would bring us together but, man … it’s just disappointing.”
Shari Bailey: “I think everyone here would agree with that, and I would I would counter that with the optimistic view–that it has brought our industry together. And the more than 300-plus people on this call want to know how they can help.”
Tim Patrick: “Our industry is going to get through this we will bounce back. It’s just a matter of how we’re going to get there. Right? I pray every night that the people that are making the decisions make the right decisions agree. So, stay positive. Well get through this. We’ve been through adversities before. There are going to be some casualties. There’s no way around that. But I look forward to getting back out to a how, or doing a research trip, and getting back out there.”
Bob Cline: “It’s coming back. Business is coming back. It always does. I did a speech the other day … four score and seven viruses ago—and it’s been just about that with me. I’ve seen several viruses, and although I wasn’t here for the recession, we seem to overcome all of these things. We can overcame 9/11. People are gonna be afraid for a little bit, then they’ll come back. In the meantime, be cheerful. Cheerful people travel a lot easier than people who are ticked off.”
For the complete recording of the webinar, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7G0eAFijOw&feature=youtu.be
Airline Industry’s Near-Term Future
“It’s Hard to Get Your Arms around Just How Bad This is Going to be”
After nearly two decades of recovery and relatively untrammeled growth, the airline industry was crushed into a period of near-total inactivity last month by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To answer the questions “Where are we now?” and “Where do we go from here?” Connect Travel recently hosted a webinar, “Connect with Air Service Development Industry Experts” aimed at answering the questions.
Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager, Connect Travel Events, moderated the session, joined by a panel of experts with a total of more than 110 years in airline and airport operations, analysis and marketing. The panel included:
Kevin Healy, president and CEO, Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, LLC;
Laura L. Jackson, vice president air service development, Denver International Airport;
Vicki Jaramillo, senior director marketing & air service development, Orlando International Airport; and
Kazue Ishiwata, Senior Manager Air Service Development, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The group discussed a potpourri of related subjects, with the following standing out as the Top 5 Takeaways:
1. Come Together to Increase Consumer Confidence:
Every sector of the industry will need to work together to drive messaging on safety and cleanliness. Confidence levels in communities and regions will help stimulate demand.
2. Expect Change: New guidelines will emerge, whether they be social distancing, health screenings, wait times or fees.
3. Fleet and Crew Management is Key: No one carrier (low cost vs. legacy) is in a better place to recover. Airlines that best manage their crew and fleet will be more successful. Current focus will be reviewing their fleet internally to decide what planes will be used moving forward.
4. Domestic to Recover First: Reassurances of safety, distance to home or simply economic ability are just some of the reasons domestic leisure travel is positioned to recover first.
5. Connect and Communicate: Communicating with your airports, partners, colleagues and competitors has never been more crucial. Develop messaging to make visitors feel safe and welcome, and partner with your local, regional and state tourism offices to distribute.
How has your capacity changed? Would you believe it’s down 95 percent?
Vicki Jaramillo: “In the case of Orlando International Airport, our numbers—because this would have been around post-Spring Break as well as Easter—were down about 95 percent as far as passenger traffic. We did have pre-coded 150 destinations that we had served between domestic and international now; we’re down to 50 so. The internationals are pretty much gone for the most part; we still have service to 50 domestic destinations.”
Laura L. Jackson: “I think what we’re seeing in Denver—Vicki talked about demand being down 95 percent. We’re seeing the same, but in terms of supply the airlines aren’t really keeping up in terms of what they’re filing in the schedules. So, for April year-over-year, Denver is only down 43 percent in capacity, but we know that’s not really the case; we’re seeing hundreds of ‘day-of’ canceled flights because the schedules just haven’t been able to keep up with the rapidly changing situation. Airlines, you know, understand a little bit more about where demand is—which is extremely low—that that supply will catch up with the demand that we’re seeing.”
Kazue Ishiwata: “The actual data from March 2020 showed 56 percent fewer passengers than a year before. The first week of March was close to normal. I was still going to the office at the time and every day as I left the office and went through the terminal, it just looked quieter and quieter. Right now, when I talk with the airlines, they only have single-digit load factors.
“For international, normally we have something 29 international destinations at our airport that we serve. Miraculously, still have a few flights remaining—mostly to serve the repatriation of passengers. (As of April 16) Tokyo and Seoul serviced by Delta are still there and Japan Airlines’ last flight was yesterday. The British Airways London flight was last week and that was that final one and we don’t know when they will come back. We think ninety to ninety five percent are gone right now.”
Kevin Healy: “When you measure it in terms of seats, it’s down about 90 percent. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon. For domestic, it is kind of hard to tell and … capacity has been pulled about sixty percent. ‘Day of’ or ‘day before’ cancellations aren’t reflected in advanced schedules and you’re operating at a level significantly below that, and I think carriers are looking for what is the level that you can get to and how do you how do you move forward from there. The reality is with this sort of situation and these levels, reductions are extraordinarily difficult to deal with because your systems just aren’t designed to do it.”
The Panel (Clockwise from lower left): Kevin Healy; Shari Bailey; Vicki Jaramillo; Kazue Ishiwata; and Laura Jackson.
What steps have to be taken for flights to resume?
Kevin Healy: “You have to take into account what’s going to happen with crews, and how long can an airplane sit before it triggers different sorts maintenance requirements and, particularly from a crew perspective, the extent that you can keep pilots, mechanics and others qualified; they have to do a certain amount of service over a designated period and, if they don’t, then they have to go through a complete recurrent training to bring them back. That’s the hardest part—making decisions on a fleet level and then putting that into a schedule that’s executable and being able to rotate aircraft crews and others to keep everyone essentially qualified to operate the airlines and do their role in the airlines.
“Bringing it back is tricky now, in that you’re not really looking at it from a planning perspective of adding one flight, but how to rebuild the airline as a whole. So, adding one flight isn’t all that complex when you know all the systems are designed for incremental change. But this is essentially starting over. It’s almost a blank slate in determining what the size of your airline is going to be. You know what your business model is and how that’s going to change region-by-region and where you’re going to focus. But being a planner, I tend to start with the fleet and I think those are the biggest questions that carriers are facing right now and the decisions that have to be made.
“I think these are the kind of questions that carriers are dealing with now. Each carrier will look at it differently. Part of it will be to the extent that you may have been in a fleet renewal process anyway as you’re looking at shrinking the airline. Some of the older aircraft may be retired and never returned to service. The other extreme is the A380. It’s not that old but, as everyone knows, they are designed for very high-density long-haul markets. That (demand) doesn’t exist now, and in the foreseeable future—so that that’s an aircraft that would be way too big.
“Look at a Delta; it’s got some very old aircraft and they use them, in particular ways that it if, you take the MD80 out, there’s not an immediate substitution that can fly the same missions with that number of seats. So, there are a lot of decisions to be made for each carrier. The question is: What is it that you want to do? You can’t look at a single aircraft type for age necessarily, and say those are the ones that you get rid of. You tend to look at the oldest, least efficient and then determine what’s the cost of taking them off the books. And as soon as you do that there’s a whole bunch of other things that would happen to labor agreements and other sorts of things that you have to manage through, which are normally thinks that you do quickly.”
The CARES Act and its Meaning to Airlines and Airports
Kevin Healy: “The Cares Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) covers almost the entire economy but from an airline perspective and then –I will defer to the airports for the airport portion– $25 billion is twenty five billion is primarily designed to keep crews employed and it’s allocated based on a ratio of payrolls for carriers based on last year. in some ways a carrier that was growing rapidly is not going to get as much as they might have otherwise received.
“The big issues really were the impact from the grant, what portion of that is repayable and the equity impact that airlines would face if they accept those terms. Most will and I guess they’ll worry about the dilution later. But the government will be one of the larger shareholders in all the large carriers—all the majors anyway. The service agreement, or minimum service requirement part of the Act is essentially to ensure that there’s some level of you know access to the overall network across the country and I actually commend DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) on doing a good job setting a minimum that was reasonable and can largely be met.
“My initial thought was given to the extent of this crisis a solution similar to what was done following PATCO. (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, which went out of business following a strike in 1981, which prompted the firing of most its members. Healy was actually not in the industry then.} But the carriers essentially got together with DOT and FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration) to determine who should fly and where in order to get as large of the network coverage as possible and I think DOT at least gave them enough flexibility to be able to do that and it won’t add an extra burden so it. It is a good quick solution and I think pretty well handled.”
Shari Bailey: “in my mind that means that they’ll be ready to go when a flight starts there won’t be that that build-up as long as that build-ups do.”
Vicki Jaramillo: “Well, the airport is going to be a little bit different I mean in the sense that part of (CARES funding) goes for debt service—as far as helping the airports. After 9/11 the airports did not have any sort of assistance and the airports spoke up this time because, obviously, the airlines are impacted but if airlines are impacted, airports are impacted and all your concessionaires. So, it was a good thing that that that the airports were included this time in this particular CARES act.”
And when will they start flying again? August and September for Domestic, Later for International
Shari Bailey: “When do you think we might see some demand coming back? Some are saying July or August. From what I’ve heard that you’ll see demand kind of creep back up in July and August for domestic and international—that’s going to take a little bit longer. Have you talked to the airlines? What are they saying?”
Vicki Jaramillo: “I would say, since we (Orlando) are primarily leisure—we do have, obviously convention traffic—but let’s take the big one which is the tourism demand for the airlines, which will grow once the attractions in the tourism infrastructure can demonstrate that they are safe. And so, just like the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) was created after 9/11, there’s this layer of security now. How we will be safe to go to a theme park, safe to go out to restaurants. That’s what we’re all kind of working on because, as airports, we’re going to be doing something very similar. But people are not going to fly to our airports if they don’t have that confidence level in what your community, what your region, is doing to make sure that the visitors, the passengers, feel safe about coming to your destination.
“So, you we have been in contact with all of our carriers—domestic and international—and
they’re all waiting. Universal said it will not open not before May 31st, and we’re still waiting to see
when Disney says they’re going to reopen. And that will kind of be an effect that, once they open, others will follow. But there’s nothing, really, right now that we can do to drive that demand until our communities figure out how we’re going to make everyone feel safe and healthy.”
It Will Take Years for Capacity to Get Back to What it Was
Kazue Ishiwata: “I agree that they think the important part of all of this is that passengers and us
included must feel comfortable to travel again. I think basically 9/11, as Vicki said, created a whole new system in our industry—TSA and everything that didn’t exist before. I think we should have a new
safety protocol and that it should be for everybody, not just destinations or airports and airlines. There has to be a sense of structure and security before people start flying and airlines only respond to that demand. Airlines are not going to just start flying and hope that people will come back. That would make them lose money. I think the flights will start coming back, but when do we come back to pre-COVID-19? it’s going to be a very, very long time and, specifically, for international, I think that the entry protocol needs to be stricter at for people to feel comfortable.”
“I looked at our past traffic numbers and this is total traffic, not just international. The year 2000 was
one of the peak years—I’ve been around a long and I remember the year 2000. We were flying
high and it actually took LAX 13 years to come back to the year 2000 level in terms of number of passengers. For other West Coast airports, it was this: for San Francisco it was 11; Portland was 12 years; and Vancouver was nine years. Seattle had just started to build up its tech industry and it only took us four years.
“Go back to the way it was? It’s similar to financial crisis of 2007-2008. It basically took us between three to five years to go back to where it was, so it’s going to be a slow buildup back to where we were, but I think that, before that, we must work together to come up with some measures to make passengers feel safe because I’m a passenger myself and I’m not ready to travel.”
Laura Jackson: The other issue, of in addition to safety and security is the economic ability for people to travel. That’s very unknown right now. We all have seen the unemployment numbers coming out every Thursday. More than twenty-two million people have filed for unemployment. We don’t know how permanent all of those filings are, but if people and businesses don’t have the economic means to travel like they did before, that’s also going to be a big impact.
Getting to Clean and Safe
Shari Bailey: “We talked safety and feeling comfortable, and cleanliness. I think they all kind of go hand in hand when we’re talking about a global pandemic. Right now, the airlines are touting cleaner than ever before … and no air filters and closing off the middle seat. Are those things that are going to continue and will become normal?”
Kevin Healy: “It’s natural to compare it to 9/11 and then in other ways it’s different. I think the economic impact is far beyond 9/11 in that the challenge of 9/11 was the safety component and that was solved relatively quickly by putting locks on cockpit doors, changing protocols and other sorts of things like that. And it was somewhat isolated. Then we evolved into the TSA having oversight and then actual responsibility for screening and such. The air filters and air filtration and other cleaning are actually things that existed in advance of COVID-19, and so I don’t know that you’re going to see significant changes in in the protocols there, but you probably talk more about changing—cleaning airplanes and filtration systems—than anyone really ever wanted to know about.
“To unleash demand … really what you’re likely to see is, as testing becomes widespread and you have an understanding of who may have immunity, so it would be both testing for the virus actively and then blood tests that would give let you know whether or not you have the antibodies and other sort of things like that.
“I’ve seen a couple of different proposals or processes that are developing that could essentially identify and very easily be tied into other kind of screening protocols that we already have which would validate that either crew or passengers, or eventually, an ability to say that the people want you know that you’re going to interact with at an airport, at a theme park, at a hotel or restaurant—that has some process in place that gives you an assurance.
Start Selling the Middle Seats Again?
‘The Singapore government, for example, is doing something called SG Clean that has a whole protocol in order to get that stamp of approval. The chief concern is that you can’t really wait until all that is in place before you begin and return to normal and I think that’s going to be the balance of how quickly and whether or not that becomes a requirement to expand travel … start selling the middle seats other sort of things like that because the economics is: you can’t make money and not sell center seats.
“it is tricky and I think confidence is the issue—both confidence from travelers, which generally comes back faster for leisure than for business. You know that one of the first things that you cut when you cut your budgets, is travel. It takes a hit and then isn’t restored until you get around to another budget session—but also confidence for airline planners that go to ‘Where is the demand?’
“As many of the ones that we talked to told us a you can put the service back but you’re not sure that there’s going to be demand there and you when they’re talking about advance bookings today, the good looking advance booking is that they’re not cancelling down. So, It has nothing to do with new bookings because there really aren’t any. It’s when you know how many people are sticking in and thinking well maybe I will try to fly … and in the summer.”
Time for Some “Serious, Serious Cleaning”
Vicki Jaramillo: “I want to just bring up a point that I think both with Seattle and Denver as well as other airports across the world since it’s slowed down to a trickle: we should be taking advantage of the downtime to really do some serious, serious cleaning. We’re clean anyway, but now we’re the most we’ve ever been. We’re sparkling clean, so know that that we take that very seriously. Internally, we are looking at different symptoms not just symptom systems as far as how do we how do we approach this now because, after 9/11, a lot of the airports had to retrofit their security areas and concessions. A lot of that was before a passenger went through security. So, a lot of things had changed as new airports were designed. We’ve looked at: how do you space out your ticket counters, and how do you space out the different lines in order to be able to have this social distancing or to make people feel comfortable.
“You only have so much real estate and you’ve got to decide how best to do it. So, we’re looking at all the different processes and how we can improve it make it safer.”
Thermal Screenings and What Else?
Shari Bailey: “is anybody talking about temperature tax if you’re going to go through security and there are going to be temperature or thermal screenings?”
Kevin Healy: “It’s certainly something that is being discussed. For instance, one company has come up with a way of integrating into an app a third-party test to be able to demonstrate that you either have the (COVID 19) antibodies or have been tested. Just think about an ability to say with confidence that this person is safe. This ability could be integrated with other components of security checkpoint protocol, which means that a passenger doesn’t have to have a temperature check or other sort of thing like that—similar to a TSA Pre or Global Entry type of arrangement so that a pre-vetted traveler could be integrated in into current processes. The good news is a lot of the touch points aren’t necessary anymore.
“When you think about mobile boarding passes and other sort of things where you don’t have to exchange material … there’s less face-to-face interaction in the processes today, but there’s still the question of ‘How do you deal with lines?’ It would be a nice to resolve that problem in the near term, but I would expect that there will be different ways that you modify the processes and, as testing and verification gets out there, you could utilize the passenger profiles with other sort of things, as people would likely say ‘Well, I don’t I don’t want to share too much information.’ Things such as Real ID are beginning to embed data into your identification, so we’re already kind of moving in that direction. How far this goes remains to be seen.
“My chief concern is: You have to be able to do things incrementally, and not wait until you have a perfect system in place or you’ll never get off the ground. We’ve had a lot of questions on who pays for the improvements.”
Shari Bailey: “Obviously, there’s costs associated with them. And we’ve received a lot of questions about that. Who pays for that? Is it the airlines is? it the airports? Is it fees for passengers? And if the middle seat isn’t booked right away, there are going to be fewer people on flights—and the higher the ticket price and …“
Vicki Jaramillo: “Sometimes, what you get from Washington are unfunded mandates where they want you to do things, but there’s no funding for it. Following 9/11, the airports had to work on that and they eventually got some reimbursement. But if the Department of Homeland Security comes down and says ‘All right, this is what airports need to be doing,’ it will probably somehow come to the airports to fund that which relates to the airport.”
Kazue Ishiwata: “With 9/11, we built with our cost checkpoints and things like that. Of course, whether that gets staffed or not, it’s not under our control but we have to count the cost … whatever the cost, it will be passed on to consumers eventually.”
Shari Bailey: “Is there a type of carrier that comes out of this better than others? Is it a low-cost carrier. Is it a legacy carrier?”
Laura Jackson: “I really don’t think we know at this point. I don’t think that demand can simply be stimulated by low fares. I don’t think that’s going to drive demand again—because of all the issues we just talked about. Some of the low-cost carriers have very dense configurations on their aircraft and that’s going to be a concern for passengers as they go back to flying again. Do they want more room on airplanes and bigger room in their seats?
“All of the carrier types have been hit equally. they’ve all seen their demand drop by 95 percent. But they’ve all catered toward different types of passengers and so it really does depend on which types of passengers come back first, and that also depends on the market. There were about 60 percent leisure; 30 percent business; and 10 percent VFR. Which types of carriers cater to that demand? We’ve also got a lot of small businesses. More than 90 percent of our businesses are small businesses, so are they hit harder than, say, larger corporations that might have more funding to keep them afloat? I don’t know the answer.”
Vicki Jaramillo: “it’s pretty much the same for Orlando. They’ve got to feel confidence in your destination whether they’re coming for leisure or for business or for a convention. We’ve taken the steps necessary to make them feel as healthy and safe as possible. It goes back to the testing. What is it? Is it the temperature readings? That doesn’t tell it all, because they could be asymptomatic. So, there will be the technology experts that are going to be looking at all of this.”
Kevin Healy:” Comparing the situation, again, to 9/11—going into 9/11 carriers were not in as good shape as they were coming into this crisis. But this crisis is bigger. However, coming out of it, there was a similar sort of focus. You knew you’re going to cut capacity and the number ended up being about 80 percent of pre-9/11 capacity. And as everyone has noted, it took more than a dozen years to get back to pre/911 levels on the whole. The the carriers who will do the best are those who can keep their cost as much in line with capacity reductions as possible and, at the time, that meant post 9/11 could you get your cost down by 20 percent in order to match capacity and, therefore, keep your cost per ASN chasm or costs in line with a capacity level that you’re putting out there. This is much harder, in that you’re looking at fifty to sixty percent cuts in in capacity and your unit costs are going to go up. How do you adjust and which carriers are going to be able to keep their relative cost position in line the best. It’s hard to be able to point at one type versus another
“Post- 9/11, the network carriers tended to focus more on an international which, you know, has good times at times and bad at others. The other thing to keep in mind is that, following 9/11, you saw a significant restructuring financially in consolidation through bankruptcy processes and mergers and other sorts of things. It certainly is possible that you’ll see additional consolidation in the industry and some potential restructurings again through the bankruptcy process.”
What does all this mean to our frequent flier miles?
Kevin Healy: I’ll tell you one thing: you can be sure of is that frequent flyer programs will stay. They’re incredibly, incredibly effective. In just my own experience at US Air (Healy was director of pricing at US Airways for more than a decade), when we had gone through a series of completely unrelated incidents and accidents and there was … that had a bigger impact on demand, the argument was well how do we get people back and whether or not we should offer discounts and such? At the time, I said, ‘Well let’s just do double miles’ because you’re going to offer a 25 percent discount because someone’s in fear of their life. At that point no one had ever done it. I remember the finance folks saying that it was going to grow our liability, and I said, ‘Well, that’d be a good problem to have because otherwise we’re going out of business.’
“We had tried sending pilots out to give confidence speeches and such. and when we did double miles, business travel returned overnight. And that was early before you even really monetized the program. They’re incredibly effective, and good revenue streams, so that’s not likely to change at all. in fact, you’ll rely more on the frequent traveler programs as a guide going forward. And although there are those programs of global alliances, so they’re not going away.”
Vicki Jaramillo: “You will notice that the three major carriers have already extended and their existing status for their travelers through 2021. I think I saw they want to keep things; they want to keep those travelers when travel does return.”
Kazue Ishiwata: “I think that, for the airlines, the mileage program is a call center of its own, and it’s very profitable and critical partnership and everything; so that will stay. Of course, some of the smaller elements might change but as Vicki says, that the fact that they’re extending the status means that it has an impact on marketing.”
Kevin Healy: “it’s an interesting aside on the frequent traveler programs is one of the conditions of the the CARES Act for its loans—not the grant—is they do require some degree of collateral but the Treasury Department is getting rather creative and saying that you can use your FT program as collateral, which sort of defies conventional accounting standards, but it does at least recognize their value.”
Shari Bailey: “I think everybody’s happy to hear that. We are obviously an industry that is in this together. We’re all going to recovery together. How can we help? I know that all of the airports have worked with their local regional and state offices and marketing prior to this. One kind of joint marketing messaging is it that all of our attendees whether they’re attractions or hotels or DMOs, ask: How can we help you?”
Kevin Healy: “I think confidence is the word. Yes, confidence. There’s no normal guide to say ‘Well, yeah, there’s demonstrated demand, then these flights should come back faster than others.’ Or ‘Let’s concentrate on a certain part of an airline’s network.” I think that communities now know, as far as travel is concerned, we’re going to need to work together to give confidence—both to potential consumers and carriers who are planning. So, if an airline is looking at deciding what level of capacity to restore in a market, having the confidence that they’re there is an integrated plan with the airport and the destination marketing groups and the chambers and others that is going to give consumers the confidence to create demand. That will be vitally important in the decision-making process both.”
Vicki Jaramillo: “Talking from the Orlando side, we work with both Visit Orlando and Experience Kissimmee DMOs. For us, once the theme parks reopen, they have advertising plans to basically get out there and blanket. We do know, and I would imagine the same for the other airports here, is that the drive demand or the drive market is going to come back first before the international market, but we they will continue to be out there to kind of position the destination. We continue to have calls with them every week or every other week because, part of it is that we need to be able to know what is opening and what is going on in the community in order to share that with the airline planners. I know it’s been something that we’ve heard over and over everywhere around the world and that is that we’re in this together and we are, and so we have to make sure that our partners are in this with us as far as our community DMOs as well as on the airline planning side.”
Laura Jackson: “in some respects, were starting from completely zero in terms of data and trends, and so we have to build that together with our partners. We have very good partners in visit Denver and the Colorado tourism office and across the state of Colorado. We’re leveraging resources that we individually have at this time to study these new trends and communicating with each other is really important. So, those relationships that we’ve forged over the past few years where we’ve been celebrating inaugural flights—well we’ll just be working a little bit differently together now.”
Kazue Ishiwata: “I agree, and I think that, in our case, we are actually starting conversations with business travel managers—just so we hear from them about what they look for in terms of a sense of security and comfort that they would like to see at the airport … or airlines or re-entry from other countries where they’d be temperature-checked which, by the way, I’ve gone through more than once when I travel to Hong Kong. It’s not invasive. it’s just being told to hold your head and that’s all it takes. So, it’s not that difficult to do. Anyway, I think that the key is it’s very painful now, but traffic will come back at some point and it’s very important for us to hear from everybody in the travel industry about what it takes to make the comeback more palatable to all of the passengers.
“And from our own standpoint of what it will take to make everyone feel more comfortable to travel again—these are what we can do. We are talking about having some online meetings to discuss ideas about what we could do. Our airport has over 200 and hand sanitizer stations now. These are small things, but every place you go you can clean your hands basically.”
Shari Bailey: We’ve heard these conversations with tour operators, conversations with other marketers, and we all know that we need to work together locally, regionally, through our state and globally to make sure that that we’re all moving the recovery as quickly as we possibly can.
Final Thought: What keeps you up at night?
Kevin Healy: “It’s hard to get your arms around just how bad this is going to be. When you think about the Cares Act and the relief bill and what’s that’s doing in the small business loans and other sort of things that are short-term measures to keep unemployment down with the hopes that this can turn quicker. The hardest thing to forecast right now is when the recovery might come—not just
when the recovery begins but what is that curve going look like. And how quickly can you get back to something that is moving towards normal. a slow recovery will have its own impact that you know will take years to come back from.”
Vickie Jaramillo: “it’s just that fear of the unknown, of how long this is going to take how long is it going to last and what will be the new normal because there will be a new normal. We just don’t know what that is and how will all of our responsibilities of what we do change to the new reality of what this world is about.”
Kazue Ishiwata: “We’ve been working on projections of what the year in 2020 would look like and we have a worst-case scenario to something less or worst-case scenario unfortunately the worst case scenario kept changing for the worse. So, the unknown is really the toughest part of it all. Are we actually are looking at potential W curve? We are definitely not expecting a V curve return. Tthat’s just not realistic. We hope it’s not ill and stayed bad. I would think it would come back a little bit but we are actually thinking that, perhaps, there will be another return of more infections when the winter comes back in this part of the hemisphere and in October and November we may hear more cases somewhere else and then people will stop traveling again. That’s the kind of things that we worry about. It’s unknown. But what we thought we knew as the worst-case scenario became worse. it’s very discouraging but I still believe that we will eventually come back … “
Laura Jackson: “I think when I go to bed at night and I think that that was the worst day. This is the worst it can be. The next day you wake up and there’s even more bad news. Yesterday marked the lowest number of people we had through our checkpoints ever, and I thought maybe we had already passed that lowest point. But no, yesterday was even lower. it’s just very challenging and I think it’s the unknown—so much unknown and uncertainty. It’s difficult, but we have all of our friends throughout the industry that we’ve worked with over many years at airports, at airlines, at DMOS. I think we’re all really committed to working together.”
Shari Bailey: “We’ve said it many times—that we’re all in this together and recovery is going to come through us working together and so, I would urge anyone on the call to work regionally, work locally. Contact your local CVBs, your regional and state offices and also contact your airports. They are working hard to get services started again. Let’s move this forward.”
IPW Staying with Vegas in 2021
After having to scratch this year because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Las Vegas gets to host IPW 2021: The U.S. Travel Association has announced that its IPW, the “main event” for the international inbound tourism industry in the United States, will next be held in Las Vegas May 10-14, 2021. This year’s IPW, scheduled to convene in Las Vegas on May 30, was forced to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The previously scheduled 2021 host city, Chicago, agreed to step aside for next year and will assume the host mantle in 2025.
“This is incredibly welcome good news amid the serious challenges facing the travel industry, the country and the world,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Cancelling this year’s IPW was a difficult though clearly necessary call, and our future host cities came together to achieve a win-win outcome for the future of the event.”
Dow continued: “As we look to recover from this health emergency and the resulting economic crisis, it is fitting that we will be able to hold IPW in Las Vegas, a city that epitomizes the economic power of travel and tourism. We are deeply grateful to Chicago, which had one of the most successful IPWs in recent memory as a first-time host in 2014, for their flexibility, generosity and collaborative spirit.”
Other future host sites—Orlando in 2022, San Antonio in 2023, and Los Angeles in 2024—remain unchanged.
Where IPW is in 2021, Where it Will be after that and Where It’s Been Before
2021—Las Vegas, May 10-14
U.S. Hotel Construction Hit All-Time High Last Month
Will Supply-Demand Dynamic Now Tilt toward Buyers and Operators? The U.S. hotel industry recorded 214,704 rooms under construction in March 2020, the highest end-of-month total ever reported by STR, the Hendersonville, Tenn.-based hotel industry research firm. The industry’s previous construction peak occurred in December 2007 with 211,694 hotel rooms in construction. That level was slightly surpassed in February 2020 at 211,859 rooms in the final phase of the development pipeline.
“The number of rooms in construction will likely remain high, just as it did during the pre-recession peak,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights. “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is no longer operating in a record-setting demand environment, so there isn’t the same rush to open hotels and tap into that business. In addition to a lack of guests awaiting new hotels, there are also limitations around building materials and potential labor limitations from social distancing. With all of that considered, projects are likely to remain under construction for a longer period.”
Also during March 2020, nine projects from the final planning of the pipeline moved to deferred status, as did 21 projects from the planning phase. Additionally, one project in final planning and seven projects in planning were abandoned.
Noted Freitag,“It’s worth remembering—in 2008, the projects that were in the ground continued to get built, while the projects that were in the planning or final planning stages were most likely shelved. We expect the current pipeline to follow a similar pattern and will continue the monitor the number of projects that are halted in the coming months.”
Four major markets reported more than 6,000 rooms under construction between new builds and expansion projects. New York led with 14,051 rooms, which represented 11.0% of the market’s existing supply, followed by Las Vegas (9,082 rooms, 5.5% of existing supply).
Survey Reveals Muted Optimism for Near-Term Future
Although expressions such as “remission,” “re-activation” and “return to normalcy” are nowhere top-of-mind in the parlance of the global travel and tourism industry, there are markers, here and there, that suggest a stubborn degree of confidence for the not-too-distant future.
A case in point was the release, last Wednesday, of the results of the fourth weekly survey by Skyscanner, which indicated that more and more people are seeing the global situation as it pertains to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic as one that’s “getting better,” reported Travel Agent Central.
In fact, the percentage of people who thought the situation was getting better had increased, from 9 percent in the first Skyscanner survey, an increase of 26 percent over the previous week.
For the survey, Skyscanner polled more than 5,000 travelers from 17 countries. The percentage of people who thought that the global situation for international travel was getting worse had declined—from 74 percent in the first week’s survey results to 45 percent last week. The percentage of people who believed the situation had remained the same has increased from 10 to 19 percent; while those who respondents who said they “don’t know” remained the same, at 10 percent.
There’s more confidence in domestic travel. The percentage of travelers who feel the domestic situation is getting better has increased from 8 to 35 percent. In fact, four of the top five searches from April 4 – 12 in the U.S. were domestic (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Honolulu), while London was the only international destination.
However, both global and domestic travel risk perception, while declining slowly, remains high. But the risk of domestic travel is perceived to be lower than global travel. The optimism for traveling later this year remains stable, but was higher for domestic travel than it is for global travel.
In the United States, 74 percent of travelers indicated that they are confident that it will be safe to travel internationally again in six months. For other destinations (this included Brazil, Australia, Japan and South Korea.) have much less confidence, with percentages that ranged from 38 to 56 percent. For German and Dutch travelers, confidence levels were similar to those of American travelers.
Regarding domestic travel, destinations across the board with more confident, with 61 to 91 percent of travelers being confident that it’ll be safe to travel domestically again in six months.
Click here for more details on the survey.
Some Germans Still Want to Travel
Perhaps all that need be said about the condition of the German market, which is the largest overseas source market for inbound tourism to the USA in continental Europe, came this sentence in a brief article last Friday from Reuters: “German business morale crashed in April in its most dramatic fall on record, hitting the lowest reading since reunification as the coronavirus pandemic sends Europe’s largest economy into a deep recession.”
Bits and pieces of information emerge from the blanket coverage given the situation by the German travel trade press and German business news services that seem to try hard to find hope in the possibility that some kind of return to business as usual in several months, but the date seems to keep moving back as those major tour operators still active are already into selling their 2021 programs.
The ultimate signal that all was not well came on the evening of March 14 when TUI, the largest travel company in Europe, announced that it was suspending travel and tour activities indefinitely. Since then:
—TUI said it wouldn’t be offering holidays departing before May 14, 2020, but one suspects that this deadline could be pushed back.
—DER Touristik announced a week ago (April 22) that it was cancelling bookings for all of its six brands for departures up to May 15. Also, its different brands were already moving some parts of the winter program 2020/21 and its summer program for 2021.
—FTI had also cancelled all trips up to and including May 3rd.
—The Austrian tour operator ASI Reisen suspended all trips until May 17th.
Even so, more than a Quarter of Germans Still Want to Travel: At the same time in the news cycle, the Web 24 News cited a survey of Germans which reported the following:
—More than a third (35 percent) have put off their holiday this year, with 14 percent of those surveyed having already cancelled their vacation, and 21 percent having postponed planned bookings
—However, 28 percent still wanted to keep their travel plans.
—Another 31 percent did not plan to travel, or generally did not do so, the survey said.
—About 6 percent said they did not know, or said that they would always travel spontaneously.
Yes. Brits Will Always Want to Holiday
While surveys of real-time intention to travel are hard to come by, there is enough activity among British travelers to suggest that they are always thinking about travel, so it doesn’t matter when you poll them about their travel plans. As recently as early February, ABTA was releasing survey results showing that six million Brits had booked a winter holiday (most of them to warm-weather destinations, with Florida a favorite long-hall destination).
Now, after the dunning reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in during the second half of March, bringing with it a halt to almost all long-haul traffic, Brits might not be traveling. But they’re still thinking of traveling.
Last week, analysts at Sojern, the travel website/high-tech search engine revealed that travel searches for trips from the UK to Spain with a departure date in January 2021 are up year-over-year by 1,626 per cent. However, searches for trips to Germany, however, are below average for the same month, based on data from March 30.
In assaying the situation, a Sojern statement put it this way: “While actual travel bookings are a stronger sign of consumer confidence, many consumers will search out of general interest, to check for availability and pricing and travel inspiration for their favorite destinations.”
It added, “The departure date of January 2021 is extremely far out and we usually only see a small percentage of early searches looking at regional travel this far in advance.”
‘We are, however, seeing an increase in early searches due to the current situation,” the statement continued. “Therefore, these numbers, although significant in terms of increases, are very early signs of travel intent.”
In the UK, much of the high-intensity coverage of the travel and tourism industry in the British trade press has focused on bread-and-butter issues related to the very survival of parts of the industry. There has been a vigorous debate on the matter of vouchers: tour operators and travel agents prefer vouchers to customers and clients upon the cancellation of a trip. Understandably, the customers want cash back.
In the midst of all of this, there are small items that, like the Sojern study, suggest that Brits still want to holiday.
For instance, Kuoni‘s total revenue for the third week of April was almost level with the same time last year, which, the operator said, was a positive sign that people were starting to plan their 2021 holidays while they’re in lockdown.
However, Kuoni admitted that new booking revenue is down vs. last year and the majority of holidays booked for 2021 are existing customers re-arranging cancelled trips. But the company pointed out, week-on-week there had been a “significant uplift” in enquiries, brochure requests and phone calls
Good news for DMOs and suppliers in California, Kuoni CEO Derek Jones said that, among the bookings confirmed during week question were safaris in Kenya combined with beach extensions; fly-drives to California; Bali beach stays; and tailor-made trips to Australia.)
Then, there is this from TTG’s Travel Age Travel Agent Tracker: Customer Enquiries Are on The Rise.
The number of agents receiving customer enquiries grew for the week ending April 17th. However, those managing to secure sales dipped slightly. More from the Tracker:
—In a study of 358 travel consultants across the UK and Ireland, questioned on 17 April, 53 percent of the 314 that answered ‘Have you had any customer enquiries for new holidays this week?’ said they had experienced an enquiries boost–up 11 percent from the previous week.
—However, the number of agents who secured a sale dropped by 3 percent, from 32 percent the previous week to 29 percent this time around, although 20 percent of overall respondents said their sales had grown week-on-week, with 62% telling the Agent Tracker their bookings tally had remained unchanged.
—Europe was the most popular destination for enquiries (39 percent of respondents reported interest from clients this past week), with North America the second most popular (22 percent), while Central America, including the Caribbean, came in at 17 percent and Asia 9 percent.
—Asked which type of holidays customers were most interested in, beach breaks was top–coming in at 34 percent of respondents, followed by cruise at 16 percent.
—Of the 259 agents that answered “Which destinations have customers actually booked?”, 31 percent of respondents made a booking for Europe this past week, North America was the second most sold region at 16 percent, followed by Central America including the Caribbean the next most booked destination at 12 percent.
—Summer 2021 was the most popular time for bookings, at 46 percent, with autumn/winter 2020 next at 36 percent, while spring 2021 at 34 percent came in a close third.
This add: Over 50s specialist Saga Holidays has cancelled all departures up to June 1st. Clients due to travel up to the end of June can postpone their trips and transfer to another holiday from September 2020 to December 2021 without incurring any cancellation fees or penalties.
And any item about the UK these days wouldn’t be complete without some trash talking from the eminently quotable Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryan Air, who dismissed the suggestion of blocking a space in between seats on airplanes as “idiotic.”
Actually, in context, it was thus: He told the Financial Times: “We can’t make money on 66 percent load factors. Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway.”
HODGE PODGE: Appointments & Changes
Karolyn Kirchgesler, CEO of Team San Jose, sent a video to employees and partners on April 19 informing them that she has been fighting small intestine cancer since last October and has decided to forego additional treatment. Kirchgesler has been CEO since 2013. Previously, she was president and CEO of the Saint Paul RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority for nearly nine years. Prior to that she was executive director of the Greater New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Stephen Yalof has joined Tanger Outlets as president and chief operating officer. Most recently, Yalof served as CEO of Simon Premium Outlets. Prior to this, he was senior vice president, real estate, for Ralph Lauren. Yalof succeeds Steven B. Tanger as CEO. Tanger will remain on the board of directors serve as executive chair.
The Advantage Travel Partnership has appointed Paul Hardwick as non-executive director. Hardwick joins the company from Fred Olsen Travel, where he was head of commercial. He was previously a travel agent for seven years, before starting his own independent travel agency from home in 2004. Having expanded the business, in 2008 he sold it to Fred Olsen Travel and remained on the board, where he is credited with doubling the size of its retail business. Hardwick now oversees the commercials for the whole company, including 60+ franchisees and online businesses, whilst still running the day-to-day operation of the retail shops.
The Washington Tourism Alliance has announced the appointment of David Blandford as its interim executive director, effective May 4. Blandford has work for Visit Seattle for 16 years. He has served as senior vice president, public affairs for the past three. The Alliance is a 501[c]6 organization established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission of developing and sustaining Washington State destination tourism marketing. It was formed in 2011 after the folding of the Washington State Tourism Office. Blandford replaces Mike Moe, who had served the organization for more than eight years, the last three as managing director.
The UK tour operator Cosmos has promoted Janet Parton to the role of sales and marketing director. Parton, sales director for Cosmos and Avalon Waterways since 2017, will take responsibility of the marketing function in addition to her current role overseeing the trade sales team. The expansion of her role follows the departure earlier this month of Claire Hazle from her position as marketing director. Parton has more than 20 years’ experience working in the travel industry, including tenures in senior sales positions at Carnival UK and MSC Cruises.
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.
—Discover Lancaster is searching for a new president and EO. Click here for more details.
—The Monterey County CVB is searching for a new president and CEO. Click here for more details.
—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
—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.