• In Germany one third of travel agents fear bankruptcy. This was one of the results of a survey conducted by DIHK (German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce).
• American Express Global Business Travel (#3 on the Travel Weekly 2020 Power List of the largest travel agencies doing business in the United States) has acquired corporate and leisure business Ovation Travel Group (#15 on the Travel Weekly Power list) for an undisclosed sum. The deal includes all of Ovation’s brands, including UK-based Chartwell Travel, which will all be retained. Ovation, which formed in 1984 and is headquartered in the US, has 30 locations in the UK and US and operates in 100 countries.
• Hays Travel, which stepped in following the September 2019 collapse of Thomas Cook—at the time, it was the UK’s second-largest tour operator—and acquired much of what remained of the company, saving thousands of jobs in the process, has closed 89 stores in the wake of the imposition of the latest lockdown in the UK. Hays had deferred reviewing the performance of the former Cook shops it acquired in October 2019 to see if business returned in 2021.
• A new report issued by the American Hotel & Lodging Association says that just more than half of all hotel rooms in the USA will be empty this year In group’s annual State of the Hotel Industry forecast, AHLA said it expects nationwide hotel occupancy to average 52.4 percent for 2021. Although that figure is above 2020’s annual average occupancy level of 44 percent, it remains well below 2019’s average of 66 percent. As well, U.S. hotel room revenue for 2021 is predicted to remain 34 percent below 2019 levels, at around $110.5 billion.
• Norwegian Air, noted for its cheap flight business model, announced several weeks ago that it was ending all of its long-haul routes. It will now refocus its efforts between Nordic countries and short-haul European destinations. At one point, the airline—it was founded in a—a operated 52 routes between North America and Europe. From the New York area alone, the airline offered flights to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Oslo, Paris, Rome, and Stockholm. The carrier had plans to increase the number of cities it planned to serve in the U.S., but the global pandemic and the de facto shut down of long-haul service into and out of the USA put an end to those plans. Norwegian was founded in 1993 and began operating as a low-cost carrier with bigger Boeing 737 aircraft in 2002.
• And, yes, there is some good news out of the UK, despite an extension of a nationwide lockdown:
—Senior travel specialist Saga said last week that it expects to report a full year pre-tax profit despite the pandemic. In its quarterly trading update to the London Stock Exchange, Saga said its liquidity remains strong, with total available cash of £51million ($70 million) on December 31, 2020. The company announced last week that it would delay the restart of its travel programs until May 1st to allow more time for its customers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
—EasyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren has announced that bookings for this summer with its holidays arm were up 250 percent on last year, explaining that the airline industry is hoping for increased demand when lockdown restrictions are eased. “We know there is pent-up demand – we have seen that every time restrictions have been relaxed – and so we know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can,” he told the BBC, adding that EasyJet offers confidence for the post-pandemic travel market.
According to Lundgren, the vaccination program underway in the UK and Europe was “undoubtedly the key to unlocking travel again.” EasyJet was ready to ramp up its flying schedule as soon as customer confidence returned, he said. EasyJet is the eighth largest tour operator in the UK, based on the number ATOL licenses it has.
• WTM Latin America has postponed the event to August 3, 4 and 5, 2021. It had planned to stage it on June 24-25. 2021. It will take place at Expo Centre Norte, in São Paulo.
• Often an indicator of the pulse of the inbound tourism market for the USA, TUI, the largest tour operator in Europe has canceled Florida holidays till May. On its website, the tour operator said: “Customers are being contacted in departure date order to discuss their options, which include amending to another holiday with an incentive or cancelling and receiving a full refund.” It added, “We understand holidays to Florida are an exciting and special time for families, and whilst the situation is out of our control, we’d like to apologize for the disappointment this may cause … “We will continue to review our Florida program in line with updated travel advice.”