“Profound Consequences” if WeChat Banned
It is difficult to gauge just how significant the impact will be, as there is a putative way out of the situation, but for the moment, it appears possible that WeChat, the omnipresent and omni-functional app used by more than a billion Chinese and millions more in countries throughout the world, might be unavailable in the U.S. beginning in mid-September to those travel and tourism companies that rely on it for its marketing, promotional and sales programs.
There are still details to come, but the basic “who-what-when-where-and-why” of the situation is this: U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month signed an executive order that would ban the use of the app in the U.S. The ostensible reasons are/were that WeChat (Trump also issued a nearly identical executive order for TikTok,) censors some content on the app and that it has the capability to manipulate content in ways that could influence U.S. elections. The Trump Administration’s way out of the situation would be for a U.S. company to buy the app from its current owner, Tencent. This hardly seems likely, as Tencent, headquartered in Shenzhen, is a corporate conglomerate behemoth that is one of the world’s largest venture capital firms and investment corporations with nearly $1 trillion in assets and stakes in some 600 entities. Should there be an attempt to acquire WeChat, it is clear that Tencent would dictate the terms of such a transaction.
Impact on Tourism Industry: George Cao, co-founder and CEO, Dragon Trail Interactive, a global digital marketing firm that specializes in helping travel suppliers and national, regional and city DMOs and destinations promote and sell their tourism products, provided INBOUND this brief statement explaining the role that WeChat serves in promoting tourism from China, which is the world’s largest source market for overseas tourism:
“Overseas tourism brands, including DMOS, airlines, hotels, and museums, all use WeChat to provide useful information and marketing content, to attract Chinese travelers, help them plan their trips, and improve their experience once they’ve arrived. WeChat is also an irreplaceable platform for Chinese to communicate with friends and family while abroad, and to share their travel experiences. On the B2B side, it’s an essential communication tool for anyone doing business with the Chinese travel industry. To lose it would have profound consequences for any business or brand to be able to welcome and communicate with the largest outbound tourism market in the world.”
We received another take from Sally Davis Berry, who was instrumental in greatly increased Chinese visitation to the Corning Museum of Glass during her tenure at the attraction. Berry, who keeps busy as a tourism industry consultant and who has conducted numerous programs aimed at helping U.S. travel suppliers to better understand and use the WeChat application, told us: “Politics aside (if that is possible in 2020) the limitations of WeChat in the U.S. will make it even more difficult to capture that market post Pandemic. Many of us were using WeChat daily to stay in touch, build relationships and make the language barrier much easier to overcome.”
She added, “Tourism professionals with little to no marketing budgets could promote their business with key operators and influencers. Seeing how it made daily life easier in China gave me a glimpse into the future of mobile payments and online bookings. I will personally miss being able to stay in touch with friends if we lose the ability to use this ‘Superapp’.”
Where to Go from Here: The path ahead on this matter is not clear. There aren’t many other paths to a solution, because there is another important reality that makes WeChat both popular and unique in the USA: It provides tourism businesses in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world with a channel of contact and interaction unavailable to users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other popular channels because these sites are banned in China.
In sum: How this plays out is still TBD … unless it’s already been determined and we don’t know about it.
Will U.S. Reaction to Pandemic Affect 2021?
For more than four months tour operators representing all elements of the leisure/group travel sector—international tour operators, domestic tour operators, student and senior tour operators, as well as those who specialize in customized product—who have taken part in the Connect Travel “Staying Connected” series of virtual roundtables have acknowledged that 2020 is, essentially, a lost year for the travel and tourism industry.
So, as buyers and sellers of the U.S. product are already working on the 2021 travel season (and, in some cases, beyond that), the question is begged: How will changes that address the health and safety concerns, and which have been brought about by the coronavirus global pandemic, configure themselves into U.S. travel products? And will such actions be a permanent or temporary part of the way in which the industry markets, sells and services these products.
Here to Stay—Same-State Stays, Road Trips and Greater Flexibility: Although global surveys of traveler intentions and responses associated with pandemic-related changes and attitudes, there have been a sprinkling of consumer surveys that provide the greater travel industry some key insights as to what travelers are doing, and what they want.
“Summer travel inarguably looks different this summer,” reported Expedia® in its recently released 2020 Summer Travel Report. The report, which sheds light on the emerging priorities and behaviors of Americans looking to vacationing, includes the following highlights from the survey.
—85 percent of survey respondents said that they were planning or likely to go on a road trip this summer, driven primarily by the need for a change of scenery (43 percent) and the desire to enjoy the outdoors (36 percent).
—As travelers venture away from home and destinations open back up to tourism, health and safety takes priority over price when trip-planning. More than seven out of ten (72 percent of) survey respondents said they’re opting for a road trip this summer because it feels safer than flying
—Seventy-two percent of people listed health and safety and avoiding crowds (68 percent) as top concerns over budget (60 percent).
—With so much uncertainty impacting vacation plans this year, many travelers were opting for plans that could be easily adjusted, canceled or rescheduled. Expedia data showed that 97 percent of hotel stays booked in June were refundable rates, a 20 percent increase from the year prior.
—Traveling within the U.S. is always a popular option for Americans, but international travel restrictions coupled with health and safety uncertainty has led to a 10 percent increase in domestic summer travel searches, according to Expedia.com data.
—Nearly 85 percent of hotel searches on the site in June were for accommodations located within the U.S. Furthermore, about a quarter of June bookings were for same-state stays, a slight increase from last year.
—Last-minute getaways were also on the rise, with more travelers booking trips 0-7 days out this summer than in previous years.
“While the desire to get away is still going strong for many of us, how and where we’re choosing to go this summer looks different,” said Nisreene Atassi, director public relations and social for Expedia.com. “Beaches and national parks remain popular, but more Americans are choosing destinations that are closer to home and drivable, versus going somewhere more exotic. Interestingly, we’ve seen that travelers are making these plans at the last minute. Things are so unpredictable right now with COVID-19, so it’s possible that travelers feel more comfortable making travel plans for the near future vs. planning too far ahead.”
Note: The Expedia survey leveraged search and demand data and a national poll of 1,000+ Americans.
S. Korea, Will You Still Visit Tomorrow?
Latest market profile—before COVID-19—shows a Glidepath that Still Has Promise: With the devastation of the overseas tourism market for the United States now in a state of Limbo, we at INBOUND wondered if the full-year 2019 data, along with the last long-term forecast of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) had much validity or use.
The blunt answer is “Yes,” because the full year data for 2019 are all we’ve got. The 2020 data, once completely tallied, will be almost meaningless because they will serious skewed by the fact that this is a lost year. And the full-year data for 2021 (as filtered and fleshed out with an analysis of the Survey of International Air Travel to the United States) won’t be ready until the spring of 2022.
So, what follows are some of the key component parts of NTTO’s Market Profile of South Korea—one of a series that we have assembled since the completion several months ago of the NTTO profile series for all major U.S. source markets.
There are some subtle differences in the way South Koreans, now a Top 5 overseas source market for tourism to the USA, are planning the travel, what their purpose for traveling is, and what they do when they do visit.
South Koreans, it seems, are ready to pick up where they left off prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic bringing global travel and tourism to a near halt. Ever since the nation was approved as a member of the Visa Waiver Program at the end of 2008 (2009 was sluggish, because the world was still in the throes of a global financial crisis), South Korea has experienced steady growth.
What problems the country is experiencing are internal, or involve its relationship to North Korea and China, and don’t seem to affect its ability insofar as travel to the U.S. is concerned. As for the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, only a few nations have responded as effectively as South Korea. With a population of more than 52 million people it has, at the time this was prepared, experience a little more than 300 deaths attributable to the virus. This means that South Koreans, are and will be ready to resume their overseas travels.
So, while we all wait for the pandemic to pass, it might be worth your while to review the following numbers on South Korea.
Note: Only country and world region destinations having a sample size consistently of 100 or more are displayed. (Ergo, no Las Vegas, which had totals for just two years of the above table.) Visitation incidence was rounded to two decimal places in NTTO source files beginning in 2014 to reduce artificial ‘jumpiness’ in the data caused by rounding to only one decimal places, especially for destinations having incidence of less than two percentage points. Due to quarterly data weighting by country and port of entry, some unreported destinations may have a higher proportion of total than those reported.
Notes on some of the changes above:
—Shifts in purposes of trip by Korea travelers to the U.S. since 2015 show that vacation/holiday is the top purpose of trip. It has moved up and down slightly over the years peaking in 2018 and then dropping slightly in 2019. Visiting friends and relatives has dropped each year since 2015. Convention travel had dropped three straight years before rebounding in 2019. Education increases then declines every other year whereas business travel peaked in 2017 and then has dropped sharply the last two years.
—Koreans rely upon personal recommendations for their top information source used when planning a trip and saw its peak use between 2015 and 2019 in 2019. Travel agency use has increased the last four years and the use of airlines as an information source also peaked in 2019.
—Koreans leisure activity participation is dominated by sightseeing and shopping. Water sports has posted gains for the last three straight years. Fine dining and visiting National Parks/Monuments peaked in 2016 and has since dropped slightly each year since. Most of the other activities are up and down over the years, but you can see the downward trend in most of the activities since 2015.
General Notes on NTTO material: Only country and world region destinations having a sample size consistently of 100 or more are displayed. Visitation incidence was rounded to two decimal places in NTTO source files beginning in 2014 to reduce artificial ‘jumpiness’ in the data caused by rounding to only one decimal places, especially for destinations having incidence of less than two percentage points. Due to quarterly data weighting by country and port of entry, some unreported destinations may have a higher proportion of total than those reported.
For additional information, visit https://travel.trade.gov/
UH OH–UK Tourism’s Time of Woe is Here
Until just about the end of July, Britons had, for most of 2020, remained stubbornly resistant to the notion that they would have to sacrifice their holidays, even as wholesalers of travel product—domestic, short-haul international to continental Europe and long-haul overseas, especially to Florida—knew very well that the global pandemic wrought by the coronavirus was destroying or upsetting travel-related purchases, income, jobs and businesses.
And then reality set in with a “thud!” last week when the numbers from government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), that the British economy has fallen into a technical recession (two consecutive quarters of economic contraction)—its first since the 2008-2009 Great Recession. In fact, ONS reported, between April and June, when a national lockdown was implemented, economic output contracted by 24 percent. This followed a two percent contraction in the first quarter of 2020.
To make matters worse, not only has the UK’s economy shrunk by one-fifth, it ranks number one among the nations of Europe in the number of coronavirus deaths. Overall, the UK follows the United States, Brazil and Mexico.
Because the pandemic was—and is–particularly hard on travel, the recession has been and will be disproportionately on travel-related activities and businesses.
The week before the ONS data were made public, the World Travel and Tourism issued a report indicating that some three million British travel and tourism jobs were on verge of disappearing due to coronavirus.
Shortly thereafter, it was reported that the number of travel and tourism start-ups in “significant financial distress” jumped 21 percent to almost 4,000 in the previous three months as the UK felt the impact of coronavirus, putting 15,000 SME (small and medium-size enterprises) jobs in jeopardy.
Just prior to the two-week period that brought the above news, there were two surveys with results that seemed to suggest that the number of beleaguered and/or dissatisfied Brits had increased and they were not as keen on traveling as they were several months ago.
—For instance, the poll results in a paper put out by the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations at Cardiff University suggested that nearly half (47 percent) of all people will never take flights as often as before. Only 8.3 percent of survey respondents planned to fly more often and 45 percent intended to go back to their pre-lockdown frequency. (These findings were based on two surveys which questioned a total of 1,800 people in late May and early June.)
—Previous findings by the Centre issued last September—some six months prior to the coronavirus-related pandemic—found that two-thirds of people (67 percent) felt that air travel should be limited in order to address climate change.
—About one third of people planned to work from home more often, having gotten acclimated to not commuting in the previous five months.
—Just 8.3 percent planned to fly more often and 45 percent intended to go back to their pre-lockdown frequency.
Results from another poll of 2,000 people, conducted for Visa, told us that Brits had their suspicions about flying and/or going on holiday because they were concerned that they might not get a refund for cancellations. It is an issue that has been covered intensely by the UK travel trade news media. Highlights from the poll results include the following:
—One in three (34 percent) of people said say they are worried about a travel booking being refunded due to a local lockdown or a possible “second peak” of the coronavirus.
—22 percent said they have had more difficulties trying to get money back on cancelled holidays and events.
—Overall, more than two fifths (43 percent) have been deterred from requesting a refund for an item, service or event at all. They pointed to confusion about the returns process: 15 percent, lack of time for the process; 10 percent; the return window, 10 percent, as well as no access to a printer for return labels 8 percent as key “pain points.”
—Ten per cent were unable to contact the company to pursue a refund.
—The refund wait time has also increased notably during lockdown, with 12 percent of respondents saying that it took more than a month to get their money back; this compares to 7 percent who got a refund beforehand.
—Senior citizens (those 55 and older are experiencing the longest waiting period for refunds, with 5 percent waiting over a month before the pandemic, compared to 17% who have experienced this wait time since.
Commenting on the poll, Visa UK and Ireland managing director Jeni Mundy said, “It’s concerning to see that people are worried about securing refunds should they need to, and that in some cases this is even preventing them from making purchases.”
“It’s important that people understand the many options open to them to get their money back should something go wrong,” Mundy added, saying “A good place to start is to get familiar with a seller’s cancellation, refund and exchange policy before you buy – this can often be easily found on their website.”
She passed along a list of Visa’s “UnRefundables” or its top ten items being returned:
RTO Summit South is On!
WHY ATTEND: More receptive tour operators have opened headquarters or tour operations in Florida in order to take advantage of its great weather, reasonably priced office space and the travelers who visit the area’s theme parks each year. Florida now is home to over 120 receptive companies most of which service Latin American markets, Europe and increasingly, Asia and the Middle East.
BENEFITS FOR SELLERS:
Develop new international business. Instead of taking one-to-two weeks to coordinate appointments on their own, sellers meet 14-18 RTOs in pre-qualified appointments in just one day.
Best buyer-seller ratio in the industry. We limit the number of sellers so that attendees can maximize the number of buyers they meet.
Uncluttered selling environment. We purposely market to sellers outside of Los Angeles, New York and Orlando as operators already have access to those organizations anytime. This prevents our attendees from feeling like the trailing spouse at a high school reunion.
Personalized Service. Our unique ratio allows us to provide valuable advance intelligence about each buyer’s interests and, where possible, our staff offers informal introductions on-site.
Timely Presentation Topics. Presentation sessions will not only provide information from leading RTO’s as to their advance bookings, but also peer into the future with a look at trends and what’s new and how to market destinations and products to the international market online.
BENEFITS FOR BUYERS:
New Connections. With up to 35 new and existing suppliers and DMOs without having to travel.
Flexibility. Ability to rotate staff from multiple departments to meet suppliers.
New Ideas. Each seller is asked to bring three new product ideas to their appointments.
Efficient Updates. Gather fresh information from 30-40 suppliers and destinations in one place.
Less In-Office Disruption. Instead of having 30 sellers disrupting your office environment, you can meet them under one roof
Help Find New Business. All operators receive Free inclusion in the ReceptiveFinder on www.touroperatorland.com, the only search engine in the world that allows users to search for receptive operators by language spoken in their office. ($1000 value)
REGISTER HERE: https://www.rtosummit.com/south/register/
Safety Top Concern of Japanese Operators
Several hundred U.S. travel suppliers and DMO representatives gathered recently via Zoom to take part in Connect Travel’s “Connect with” series of virtual roundtables, learning that, for Japanese travelers—now and when international travel re-starts—that passenger safety “will be priority number one.”
Featured in the discussion were: Romeo Dublin, inbound sales department, Nippon Travel Agency America, Inc. (he is leaving his post at the end of August to return to Japan from Southern California); Shunji Uchida, inbound sales department, Nippon Travel Agency America, Inc., who is replacing Dublin; and Toshi Koseki, general manager, TTA, INC. Moderating the session was Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager of Connect Travel Events.
What emerged as the Top Takeaways from roundtable included the following:
—For Japanese travelers to the U.S., as well as the operators who sell the USA, “safety will be priority number one.” This point was made on a number of occasions.
—Right now, travel activity is at a standstill. Recovery, when it occurs, will resume in the second quarter of 2021.
—First to resume will be domestic travel within Japan, to sporting events and festivals. Etc. International activity will follow, with FITs leading the way; groups will follow.
—In the interim, should keep operators informed with new product information and updates on travel conditions and safety rules and regulations. When contacting an operator, “think visually,” and “think digitally.” Send updates online.
—DMOs especially should develop “how to sell” webinars that focus on selling a destination’s attractions and experiences.
—When revising or creating itineraries for operators to consider, hold off on those which include more free time. While FITs might like such flexibility in their itineraries, groups prefer wire-to-wire activity.
Romeo Dublin: “Student groups are very sensitive about this virus. We did have a lot of group activity up until the end of this year, December. But most of them have cancelled. So, you can imagine how much business we’ve lost; I mean, everybody lost a lot of business.”
Toshi Koseki: “Our colleagues had not been working, so when they started working—that was in June—we started to pick up some uh quotation Inquiries, but the earliest one is, like, February next year. So, there is nothing for this year. That’s the current situation. It’s very difficult but that’s the reality.”
Shunji Uchida: “When I came to here to America, I saw that many people were not wearing the mask. Among typical Japanese in Japan … everyone is wearing the mask. I was really wondering the why people are not wearing them. Yes, it’s really difficult for everyone to be wearing the mask—I know. But in this kind of situation, I think the Japanese do not feel not comfortable to come.”
Romeo Dublin: “Safety is number one no matter what. Safety and the support at where and wherever we’re going to be traveling to is very, very important. JATA (Japan Association of Travel Agents) just had a meeting uh last week and they were talking about it. I mean, they really stressed that safety has to come first before anything.”
Toshi Koseki: “(For Japanese) The priority will be the how safe they feel. So, if there’s a fascinating destination but it’s not safe, people will not go there.”
To view the complete roundtable session, click here.
German Market Notes
July Agency Sales not as Dismal as June’s: The total invoiced sales of the travel agencies recorded in the TATS Travel Agency Mirror* in July 2020 are minus 82.8 percent compared to the same month last year.
—Billed tourism turnover (or sales) shows a minus number of 75.5 percent in July.
—Air traffic revenue was down 94.6 percent for the month.
—Other sales are minus 73.4 percent.
—The number of tickets was minus 88.5 percent. Sales from the tourism sub-division cruises were minus 76.4 percent in July.
—Viewed cumulatively, the total invoiced travel agency turnover in the months from January to July is minus 69.3 percent.
—Tourism recorded a minus of 64.9 percent.
— Air traffic recorded a minus of 75.1 percent.
—The cruises segment recorded a drop of 55.4 percent.
—Other sales show a minus of 58.1 percent and the number of tickets a minus of 71.4 percent.
—Incoming orders for tourism are minus 117.8 percent compared to the month.
—The tourism order backlog by travel date up to October 2020 is minus 55.8%.
*The ta.ts—or TATS (Travel Agency Technologies and Services) travel agency mirror is widely regarded as a reliable barometer of the tourism industry’s financial health, providing, as it does, up-to-date data on Germany’s travel agency transactions every month.
To see the complete charts for the above numbers, visit https://www.ta-ts.de/reisebuerospiegel/
• World’s Largest Tour Operator Hanging on by Fingernails
Perhaps the single best reading of the tourism industry in Europe and the Americas was revealed last week came when the Hanover, Germany-based TUI, the largest package tour operator in Europe and the world, announced that its turnover in the second quarter of 2020 had fallen by 98 percent vs. the same period last year. Although the news was not entirely a surprise, the sheer magnitude of the numbers involved illustrated just how severely the coronavirus pandemic had damaged the travel and tourism industry:
—TUI Group revenue evaporated 98 percent to €75 million ($88.7 million) the second quarter of the year, as it reported previously unimaginable Q2 losses of €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion.
—The quarterly result brought TUI’s nine-month loss to €2 billion ($2.37 billion), an increase of €1.8 billion ($2.1 billion) over the same period last year.
—Bookings for summer 2020 are down 81% with average prices tumbling 10%.
—TUI reported that it has sold just 16 percent of its original 2020 capacity, and 57 percent of its adjusted capacity.
—By this time last year it had sold 88 percent of its summer 2019 holidays.
—In a move aimed at cutting costs, TUI said it will look to make ‘permanent and group-wide’ savings of 30 percent.
And to top off all of the reports, the operator reached an agreement with the German government for an extra 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in aid that could give the government a stake of as much as 9 percent in the tour operator.
• JTB Corporation announced the official integration of Kuoni Global Travel Services and Tumlare Destination Management as a single entity. It is now one brand: Kuoni Tumlare, nearly three years after a joint venture, although both had been trading under their own brands. A company statement said that the integration will enable “a simplified client journey and streamlined processes for increased customer focus and speed of response” Kuoni Tumlare said, adding that it combines “Kuoni’s Swiss heritage, Tumlare’s Scandinavian roots and JTB’s deep history in Japan.” It was some three years ago, in 2017, the JTB Group acquired all shares of Kuoni Travel Investment (Kuoni Global Travel Services) for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 1906, Kuoni had been a major player in the European market for many years. In the past several years, it has strategically been unloading portions of the company: Two years ago, the owner of German operator DER Touristik acquired Kuoni Group’s tour operating businesses.
• Brisbane, Australia-based Flight Centre Travel Group has acquired a business travel management startup—WhereTo—at about the same time it has been laying off hundreds of workers and closing travel agency locations. WhereTo, which is based in San Francisco, uses AI to recommend trip options for business travelers that add in criteria such as traffic conditions, personal preferences and available travel deals. It works with large and small businesses. “We are delighted to come together with WhereTo during this unprecedented time to make a significant advancement in our technology capability, which will allow us to emerge from the crisis in an incredibly powerful way,” said Charlene Leiss, president of Flight Centre Travel Group Americas. Flight Centre said WhereTo will be integrated into products and services in the Corporate Traveler and FCM Travel Solutions brands.
• Overseas Leisure Group is a luxury B2B business operator, has introduced Discover America, a luxury Recreational Vehicle (RV) excursion program, as well as a Responsible Traveler Challenge that encourages travelers to get tested for COVID-19 during the 72 hours before departure. The company offers a $250 credit on each booking if all adults in the party have negative test results. In addition, Overseas is partnering with a company called EntrSafe on a COVID-19 electronic screening app. “We believe that travelers, advisors and operators like us must play a role in keeping destinations safe,” Felix Brambilla, the company’s CEO, told Travel Age West. “The challenge is to provide in-depth reassurance on safety without removing the magic of travel.” Headquartered in Miami, Overseas Leisure Group has 43 offices in 34 countries.
• FTI Group has eliminated jobs and shut down its specialist businesses. The third-largest tour operator in Germany (behind TUI and DER Touristik), FTI is reducing staff costs by 20 percent, reports the German travel trade publication fvw. In addition to cutting jobs in all areas of its operation, the Munich-based operator is closing down the following: LAL Sprachreisen, a language vacation specialist; FTI Cruises; the Fly.de flight sales online operations; and its Touristic 24 call center. year. Since April, the company has been majority-owned by Egyptian hotelier Samih Sawiris, with founder and CEO Dietmar Gunz retaining a minority stake. (For more on Samih Sawiris and Hamed El Chiaty, a wealthy tourism entrepreneur and long-time business partner of TUI, see the article here from an INBOUND article last
HODGE PODGE—Appointments & Changes
Marcel Mayer has been named the new CEO of specialist tour operator Berge & Meer, which was a part of TUI until last year. Mayer’s predecessor in the post, Thomas Klein, has left the company. Mayer joined Berge & Meer just last December as chief product innovation officers. Prior to that he had operated his own consulting firm. Previously, he had served with Tour Vital and TUI.
Bloomin’ Brands Inc. has promoted Sheilina Henry to group vice president, diversity & inclusion. In this newly created position, Henry will lead the company’s efforts toward furthering equality and inclusion in the areas of leadership, talent, training, and education. Henry has over 20 years of experience in restaurant operations, training, and project management. She joined Bloomin’ Brands in 2012 as an Outback Steakhouse Joint Venture Partner. She was promoted to vice president, training and development in 2016 and regional vice president in 2019. Well-known in the tourism industry, Bloomin’ Brands is one of the largest casual dining restaurant companies in the world with a portfolio Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.
Corporate Travel Management (CTM) North America has established a new position in its senior leadership structure, and has appointed Mary Ellen (George) Hess as executive vice president, sales and marketing. The new position was created to bolster the organization’s strong and experienced executive team and position the company for increased top line growth post-COVID-19. Hess joins CTM from Tramada Systems, where she was head of North America for the Australia-based company. Previously, she was senior vice president of global sales, North America, for American Express Global Business Travel. In her new role, Hess will work closely with CTM North America CEO Maureen Brady to drive business growth.
Michael Wale has been named president & CEO of the Abercrombie & Kent Group, effective October 1, 2020. He joins the luxury travel operator from Kerzner International, the owner of Atlantis and One & Only Resorts, where he was CEO. Before joining Kerzner, his career spanned almost 40 years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, culminating as President for Europe, Africa & Middle East, directly overseeing the operations of 250 hotels and resorts, for its ten brands, in 60 countries.
Nicola Harper has left her position as head of sales for Beds with Ease. In doing so, she said that she wanted to thank managing director Phil Turner for his support, and her friends and partners in the trade. She had been with the company for nearly two years. Previously, she was trade partnerships manager with the now-defunct Thomas Cook. She also served as national account manager for Attraction World for four-and-a-half years.
It’s been a busy summer at the UK tour operator Inspire My Holiday as the company has recently taken on Lockie Kerr (above, left), former Back-Roads touring sales manager; Tom Dale (center) former head of purchasing for dnata purchasing; and Andy Freeth, former chief of If Only. Kerr was UK and Europe sales manager for Back-Roads Touring, serving the company for four-and-a-half years. Previously, he was with Topdeck, a leading youth touring specialist. Dale worked for dnata for more than three-and-a-half years and previously worked for Best At Travel and Trailfinders. Before his tenure at If Only for nearly two-and-a-half years, Freeth was managing director of Travel 2 and Gold Medal.
Michael Heckman has been appointed as acting president and CEO of the Houston First Corporation, which operates the city’s George R. Brown Convention Center and serves as its DMO. Heckman takes over for Brenda Bazan, who announced last month that she was retiring. Bazan had led Houston First since its creation in 2011. Previously, Heckman had served the agency as senior vice president of partnerships and event development. He also served its predecessor organization, the Greater Houston CVB for five years.
Also at the Houston First Corporation, Angela Wise has been named chief destination officer. She joins the organization from the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, where she was vice president of brand marketing for four years. Previously, she served for five years as vice president of brand marketing for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Brad Bennetts is leaving his post as senior sales operations manager at Kuoni. His departure is part of the travel firm’s strategic review and staff consultation triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, Kuoni said. He joined the company in April 2016 as as national sales manager. Chief executive Derek Jones said “We’d like to thank Brad for all of his hard work and support over the past four years and wish him every success for the future.” Kuoni said sales director Helen Roberts is to take a “hands-on role with trade relations” and work closely with Amy Roullier and the sales and training team “as Kuoni evolves its business in partnership with agents.”
Posted Industry Jobs
From SearchWide Global:
—The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau is searching for a new president and CEO. For details, visit here.
—The Virginia Tourism Corporation (it is the state’s DMO) has an opening for a director of research and market intelligence. Click here for more information.
—The Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority is looking for a new chief executive officer. Click here for more information.
—In the Charlotte/Concord area of North Carolina, Great Wolf Resorts as an opening for a director of sales and catering. For details, click here.
—Explore Ashville Convention and Visitors Bureau is searching for a president and CEO. Click here for more details.
—In Florida, the Naples.Marco Island.Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking for a deputy director. For more information, visit here.
—The Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking for a new president. Click here for more information.
—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 Spartanburg (S.C.) Convention & Visitors Bureau is seeking a chief tourism development officer. Visit 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.