Shortly after the publication of our last issue of INBOUND, readers had a chance to take part in the latest Connect Travel virtual roundtable series, “Connect with … “ to see and hear a top-flight colloquy by tour operator panelists who discussed the current state of the overseas market from the UK and Ireland.
Comprising the roundtable were Liz Wright, product manager, TourAmerica; Alain Kasteleyn, director and product manager, Discover North America; and Stam Tzafos, product manager USA & Europe, THG Holidays.
Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, general manager, Connect Travel Events, served as moderator for the roundtable discussion.
Key Takeaways: The following emerged as the key takeaways established by panelists and those watched and listen to the webinar.
—Travelers from the UK and Ireland “are ready to go” and visit the United States—once travel bans and other restrictions on travel between the two countries and the USA are removed.
—Safety and Flexibility are key, as operators tell us that their customers want to be sure that every aspect of a trip, from ground transfer transportation to attractions, restaurants and hotels are clean and safe. At the same time, operators would like travel suppliers to be flexible on rates and times.
—Most customers are willing to re-book or postpone a 2020 holiday rather than cancelling and demanding a refund.
—Virtual trade shows “are a good idea,” and all three operators were planning on attending one in the foreseeable future.
—Attractions, hotels, DMOs and other parts of the travel experience should get together and put their money into co-op arrangements in order to better market their product once travel volume returns to pre-pandemic levels. And as for channels, social media marketing is now preferred.
—Because hoteliers and the airlines can’t commit to doing so, it is not possible for operators to guarantee that the cost of a holiday will be fixed and guaranteed from one year to the next.
—To help offset low margins they get for their products, operators like and look forward to incentives, such as “buy-one-get-one-free” for tours and attractions; vouchers for breakfasts now that hotels don’t offer full, free breakfasts; and room and airline-seat upgrades.
Selected Quotations from the Panel:
Stam Tzafos: “The demand is there. We started promoting winter, November onwards. We didn’t want to advertise July or August—last minute holidays—because of the uncertainty. We wanted to have a little bit of leeway. So, we started from November.”
Alain Kasteleyn: “I’m sure that when the border opens, people will all be there booking their holiday—short-haul or longer holiday. They will all be there.”
Liz Wright: “(The preference) is mostly for the same destinations. Easter is hugely popular for us … and then, June.”
Shari Bailey: “We’ve heard that a lot—condos and cabins, villas, private homes, more self-catering units … have become popular.”