Necessity—the mother of invention for the Travel Trade: In reviewing the daily and weekly news, of late, that cover new developments among international tour operators, USA-based receptive tour operators and, in general, the distribution system that promotes and sells the Visit USA travel experience abroad, one suspects that the industry has always had at its core some really inventive and resourceful people who are constantly devising new ways for travelers to enjoy the experience. And for travel sellers who market the experience. For the most part, these innovators keep their ideas to themselves, maybe discussing them with some like-minded professionals elsewhere in the travel and tourism industry until … it’s necessary to try something different.
Such is the case as the industry tries to reckon with the shadow of the coronavirus-driven global pandemic. Local, regional and international in nature, there follows a sampler of what is going on in the industry of late.
• UK-based senior traveler specialists Saga Holidays has introduced a “Stay & Discover” range within its 2021 program, allowing customers to tour an area form a single hotel base. A total of 42 new holidays have been added for 2021, with the operator producing its first brochures since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Stay and Discover” features the Saga Reassurance Promise, which includes travel insurance with coronavirus cover and extra cancellation rights, no amendment fees and a £99 ($126) deposit. The operator has also reintroduced its Price Promise to guarantee best prices for early bookers. Chris Simmonds, managing director of Saga Holidays said: “We’re really excited to finally launch our new 2021 holiday brochures and the wealth of new holidays including Stay & Discover which offer guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the destinations while enjoying the comfort of the hotel as a single base.”
• In Germany, in a development that seems to have surprised the traditional distribution system and the way it conducts business, “more and more travel agencies want to introduce a fee for additional services,” reports the German travel trade publication Touristik Aktuell. The coronavirus crisis and its dramatic consequences for the entire travel industry have increased the willingness of many travel agency owners to introduce a flat-rate service. More than half of the participants surveyed in a recent webinar indicated that they wanted to charge a flat rate in the future. Almost 60 travel experts took part in the survey. The webinar was led by Wibke Rissling-Erdbrügge from the training institute WRE Training.
• Hoteliers and operators are adapting to increasing number of travelers traveling to “close-in” destinations. The recent edition of Duetto’s Pulse Report, which tracks key hotel business metrics from Aug. 24-Sept. 6, showed significant increases in performance for the hotel markets of North America, bolstered by the Labor Day holiday weekend. Reported businesswire.com, “This is the first true boost to hotel performance since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and is a breath of fresh air for what have been highly restricted markets, which will continue to wax and wane in the months ahead.”
“Our data shows us, from hotels across the nation, people are willing to spend longer hours in the car than ever before to arrive at a destination of leisure,” said David Woolenberg, CEO of Duetto. Overall trends in North American hotel bookings over Labor Day, in comparison with the prior 14 weeks, showed the following:
—Traditional drive-to markets saw positive increases in new bookings as well as an increase in demand, which indicates our drive radius has increased in search of leisure. For example, Colorado saw a 432 percent increase; Tennessee (excluding Nashville) a 439 percent increase; Louisiana a 590 percent increase; Nevada a 272 percent increase; California increased 283 percent; and Florida increased 189 percent.
—Remote and rural locations are often being favored over urban destinations. (Colorado, Tennessee, Nevada)
—Travelers are willing to drive further distances in lieu of air travel. (Louisiana, California)
—New York City saw its largest uptick in net new bookings, up 318, over the prior 14 weeks. Although well below 2019 numbers, these numbers show a positive response to some restrictions lifting and lowered COVID rates.
Said businesswire, “Remote and rural locations fared very well over the Labor Day weekend, some with bookings rivaling or surpassing 2019. One innovative hotel brand and Duetto customer specializing in luxury airstream experiences, AutoCamp, saw bookings up 37 percent from Labor Day 2019 at its Yosemite property
• The global tour operator Intrepid Travel, which specializes in small group adventure travel, says it has seen unprecedented demand for family tours over the last several months, prompting the company to create new retreat-style tours geared towards the demographic, with safety and quality as top priorities. Intrepid has found that a quarter of the top 25 itineraries booked by its customers globally over the past three months have been family-themed tours, compared to just 12 percent during the same period last year, indicating a desire for families to go abroad in 2021 after months spent distancing. Currently, the top family trips booked globally are all based in Africa and Asia, including the South Africa Family Safari with Teenagers and a family tour of Vietnam, while North American families are also interested in adventures in the Middle East, particularly Jordan and Egypt. The four new Family Retreats, based in Morocco, Turkey and England, will have groups immerse themselves in one location in handpicked accommodation with nearby experiences.
“After months spent indoors away from friends and classmates, we’ve seen families are eager to get out and explore the world once it is safe to do so, and have a desire to reconnect with both nature and like-minded people,” said Dyan Mackie, Intrepid’s family product manager.
• The Toronto-headquartered global tour operator G Adventures is branching out from global tour products to day tours, giving people the opportunity to get a taste of small group travel while remaining close to home. Its new “One Day in Boston: Sunrise to Sunset” local experience has been designed to offer a small, physically-distanced group of 16 people a day out in Boston. The day tour includes an early morning outdoor yoga session in the Common, a guided walk along the Black Heritage Trail, a bike tour into Cambridge, a three-hour food and history lesson through Chinatown and ends with a sunset sail on a classic schooner.
The city tours may be rolled out to other cities depending on demand. As reported by TravelMarketReport.com, Steve Lima, director of marketing for the U.S., says the small group operator wants to give people the opportunity to find adventure in their own backyard. The One Day in Boston: Sunrise to Sunset tour is priced from $259 per person for a full-day guided day tour, starting at 7:30am. It runs on Saturday Sept. 26 and Saturday Oct. 3, 2020. The tour is commissionable for travel advisors. Meanwhile, as the coronavirus-driven pandemic continues to create global uncertainty, G Adventures has suspended tours through Oct. 31, 2020, as well as the November and December departures of its G Expedition ship, with the exception of a small selection of tours departing in Europe in September and October where travel is possible between certain countries.