Destination America Snares ATI’s Bendelow, Restructures—Signals Shift in What the Business is About
With the recent hiring of Graham Bendelow (left), the long-time vice president of contracting for AmericanTours International (ATI), one of the largest receptive tour operators in the United States, Destination America—it is the tour operation for the Americas of The Travel Corporation (TTC)—indicates that the receptive tour operator (RTO) business is making a major shift in direction.
“Destination America is showing us, by the hiring of Bendelow, that contracting is not all about just securing hotel rooms,” said Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, and a recognized authority on the RTO segment of the tour and travel industry, adding “it shows a shift into an experiential stage, as travel consumers are seeking new and unusual products that allow them to see and sense the people and flavors of a destination. They want up-close interaction with local people—something that just doesn’t happen in an escorted group tour on a bus.”
“Hotels have totally commoditized the process of a room purchase. They’re now moving on to the next step by giving guests access to attractions through automated ticket sales for tours and entertainment products, explained Steinman. “This development is good news, really, for smaller destinations. The owners and operators of their smaller, independent hotels will have an opportunity to be ambassadors for their destination. Chain hotels, driven and directed by revenue managers who likely never see a hotel guest in person, don’t have the capacity, direction or reason to do this.”
Steinman said that it will be interesting to see how Destination America moves forward now that it has embraced their shift in policy which, along with the hiring of Bendelow, has resulted in a restructuring of Destination America’s executive team: TTC has split one of its previous executive positions into two in hiring Bendelow. Christopher Ghaye (right), who had been president, now serves as chief product development officer.
The expansion of forces is part of “a significant transformation of the company,” said Richard Launder, who is both president and CEO of Destination America, and director of The Travel Corporation USA (the American branch of the U.K.-based travel conglomerate). Both Bendelow and Ghaye report to Lauder.
Ghaye has been with TTC for 15 years, in charge of both developing new product and contracting with suppliers. With the joining of Bendelow, Lauder said, Ghaye will be freed up to focus entirely on product development, while Bendelow will take care of contracting.
As Lauder put it: “Though Ghaye used to handle both functions for Destination America, the two jobs require very different kinds of skills. “Product development is not just creating itineraries. It’s about finding special and unique experiences, going out and finding things. It requires a very curious mind.”
“In today’s experience-oriented tour market, product development specialists are challenged to go far beyond the requirements of earlier times. “It’s far more immersive now. With the increased desire in clients to interact with locals, product development includes finding interesting people and situations to share with travelers.”
With Shift in the Way Tour & Travel Industry Does Business, NAJ Launches New Initiatives for 2019-2024 Travel Era
Citing a paradigm shift in the way the tour and travel industry shapes and sells its product, the NAJ Group, publisher of the INBOUND Report, has announced a series of new initiatives and services designed to help its destination, attraction and tour operator partners develop new business.
“During my annual ‘listening tour’ with operators last year, I detected a subtle but clear shift in the way international travel to North America is being sold by the trade,” said Jake Steinman, CEO of the NAJ Group. “Structured group tours that are sold off-the-shelf through tour operators are slowly but inexorably giving way to product that is being tailor-made, customized and individualized.”
“This new product is already being offered as ‘Group Tours for Independent Travelers’ by several forward thinking international and domestic tour operators,” added Steinman. “It means the value proposition that operators offer will eventually change from an all-inclusive approach to one comprised of air, hotel, ground transportation and WiFi with options comprised of existing attractions and ‘like-a-local’ experiences.”
As a result, he explained, NAJ’s RTO Summit attendees, as well as its TourOperatorLand.com tracking portal partners, “will find ten new features and services we are developing that will hopefully keep us and our partners ahead of the curve and relevant over the next five-year cycle.”
NAJ RTO Summit Events
1.NEW! “Automated Follow up” functionality has been added to our appointment software that sends an e-mail one week and six months following a show containing a landing page with specific photos and messages from each of the suppliers/DMOs they met with. Why this is important: Only 20 percent of attendees have the time to follow up with operators.
2.NEW! Receptive Group Therapy Consultations Sessions. During the first afternoon of each RTO Summit, attendees will have an opportunity to meet up to six-eight additional receptive operators. Why this is important: The consulting and guidance the first day will make face-to-face appointments more relevant and effective.
- REVISED: A Presentation Deck to Help DMOs Convince Revenue Managers to Work with RTOs. The NAJ team will supplement its “Educating the Independent Hotel Revenue Manager” slide presentation with video testimonials from other hotel revenue managers. Why is this important? It should help explain the benefits of the RTO distribution channel in a way that is more relatable to hotel general managers and revenue managers.
- NEW! Presentation of the “Tour and Travel Person of the Year,” where we will honor a different tour and travel executive for excellence in tourism development. This year’s award will be presented during the RTO Summit luncheon at the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey hotel. Why this is important: While other shows confer awards for marketing and research, there are no accolades in the field of tour and travel development.
- NEW! TourOperatorLand.com Redesign providing additional free tools that enable operators to create tailor-made tours and sales collateral. Why this is important: Makes it easier for travel planners to service bespoke clients’ requests and needs.
6.NEW! AI Videos that provide “Ideas for First Time Visitors” and “Ideas for Repeat Visitors.” 45-60 second videos available to select TOL Partners (See example for the state of Kentucky. And St. Louis. Why this is important: It’s a simple and highly visual way to help operators sell to repeat visitors looking for something new.
- NEW! Tour Operator Tech Summit and Demo Lab. A full day event featuring the latest in booking technology and marketing tools for domestic and international tour operators. It will be held in conjunction with RTO Summit East April 24, 2019 at the Park Central Hotel New York City. (See agenda here) https://www.rtosummit.com/tour-operator-tech-summit-and-demo-day-plan/ Why this is important: Small and mid-size operators need new technology that will help them keep up with times.
- NEW! Send business to your most qualified Receptive Operators. For the first time, destination and attraction partners on TourOperatorLand will have a choice of two ways they can refer business to their most qualified receptive operators. 1. Select up to five receptives that will be profiled and linked from their TourOperatorLand.com portal. OR 2. TourOperatorLand will send an e-mail to operators in their top overseas markets that will include a link to the five receptives of their choosing. Why this is important: It not only directs inquiries to the receptives most capable of selling your product, but also offers the receptive unexpected promotional support.
- NEW! “Hidden Gems” campaign to highlight second tier destination. An extensive e-mail and social media marketing campaign promoting a different “Hidden Gem” destination’s portal on TourOperatorLand twice each week. Why this is important: Operators are looking for new ways to and reasons for travelers to visit North American destinations.
- 10. NEW! Innovative Tour Operator of the Year Award presented by TourOperatorLand and ABA at the 2019 ABA Marketplace. Why this is important. Domestic operators need more innovation to prosper over the next five years.
For more information or questions, please contact [email protected]
Disruptive Drunks a Daily Occurrence in UK Airports, Airlines
Despite the best attempts of the tour and travel industry to contain them and/or reduce their numbers, the number of disruptive boozy British passengers on board flights and in airports has not let up.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released a report showing that more than 326 incidents of disruptive passenger behavior were reported in the first 10 months of the year. This translates to 1.07 incidents a day.
The majority of these were alcohol-related and frequently involved abusive and sometimes violent behavior. The 10-month number is similar to full-year figures for 2016 and 2017, when more than 400 incidents were reported. These figures have risen dramatically since 2013 when only 98 incidents were reported.
Airlines UK, the trade organization for UK registered airlines, has called for the “active involvement of government” to help solve the problem.
A Home Office review is currently looking at regulating sales of alcohol at international airports.
Some airlines cracked down on badly behaved passengers in a bid to stem the number of incidents. It has repeatedly called for limits on the amount of alcohol passengers can drink before boarding a flight.
Commenting on the report, Richard Stephenson, director of communications for CAA, said: “Everyone wants their holiday flights to be enjoyable and trouble-free this Christmas. Drunken and abusive behavior on an airplane is totally unacceptable. Not only does it upset everyone else, but it can also jeopardize flight safety.
He added, “Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent – passengers need to know they will face the legal consequences of disorderly behavior.”
Those found guilty can be jailed for up to five years for endangering the safety of an aircraft and can face fines and compensation costs.
Industry figures and others have called for such measures as a ban on the sale of alcohol at airports before 10 a.m. or a 24-hour ban on the sale of alcohol on airport premises, but none have been implemented. And judging by the tenor of reader comments on posted articles about the issue, there seems to be little public support for such across-the-board bans on alcohol.
When Ctrip Hosts Its Inaugural “Ctrip Day,” the Travel Industry Should Take Notice
In what can probably be described as the first truly global tour and travel industry conference on the travel distribution and best practices related to it, Ctrip, the huge global travel company founded and based in China, recently held its first ever Ctrip Day, inviting government officials, industry partners and other key stakeholders, to an event showcasing what the mega-brand and its partners from across travel industry sectors chain are doing in travel—many of which related directly to China’s outbound travel activity.
Throughout the day, executives from Ctrip’s major business units shared their vision for how the Ctrip platform can add value to supply chain partners’ businesses in areas such as flights, accommodation, package tours, corporate travel and more. We’ve highlighted some of the touch points of the conference, which follow.
—Ctrip helps partners through providing highly targeted traffic for business expansion; software tools for business management; big data for increased transparency and optimization.* For example, Ctrip’s smart suggestion technology optimizes transfer ticket options for flight ticket suppliers and the company’s financing services provide support for the renovation of small and medium sized hotels.
—During the transition from PC to mobile, the 18-year old company has, based on its research, maintained call centers, because of what it believes is “the irreplaceable nature of human interaction in tackling complicated travel problems.” Nearly 50 percent of Ctrip’s staff are employed in customer service.
—In addition to nine call centers in China, Ctrip has also set up three overseas call centers in Edinburgh, Seoul and Tokyo. These services work in tandem with Ctrip’s AI-enabled chatbots, which automate the process of solving the simpler problems raised by users, with around 75 percent of post transaction issues now resolved through technology. The combination of these two approaches gives Ctrip the ability to provide 24/7 efficient and differentiated service to more than 300 million users.
—Ctrip has also extended its services from online to offline, ensuring that all travelers “hear, see and feel” the quality of the company’s customer service. It now has more than 7,000 offline franchised travel agency stores which help customers with booking inquiries.
—New travel services now in place include fast-lanes at airports, virtual travel managers, full refunds in case of visa rejection, and Global SOS with 94 percent success rate.
—Ctrip is the largest provider of overseas travel for Chinese, presenting a strong platform for global expansion as the company becomes increasingly connected to the global travel industry supply chain. Complementing this expansion is the growth of Ctrip’s international brands Skyscanner and Trip.com, which collectively attract over 90 million monthly active users globally.
—Ctrip promotes direct connections to overseas businesses, such as flagship stores in partnership with Accor Hotel Group and Hyatt Hotels; signing strategic cooperation agreements with KLM, destinations, tourism bureaus; and more.
—In terms of enabling suppliers, Ctrip mainly uses its leading advantages in data and technology to help suppliers identify new growth opportunities, improve operational efficiency and enhance product competitiveness.
—China’s travel industry is rich in opportunity, with multiple drivers to growth. Growth in domestic travel is sustained through factors such as the unprecedented rise of China’s middle class from 430 million in 2017 to 780 million within the next 5-10 years, as well as the development of the world’s largest high-speed rail network, making domestic travel accessible and affordable.
—While China’s outbound travel market is already the world’s largest, valued last year at $200 billion, there still remains huge growth potential, the company says, as this accounts for less than 10 percent of the Chinese population. According to Euromonitor, China is set to become the world’s most popular tourist destination by 2030.
* Ctrip is recognized as a proponent of scientific management in using data analysis in managerial decision making. One example of this is the randomized control trial that the company conducted on telecommuting and which was sponsored and Peking University and reported on by a Stanford University research team. Given the uncertainty over the impact of telecommuting on company profits they decided to evaluate its impact before making any management decisions. Ctrip conducted an experiment on 242 employees. The experiment found that employees randomly assigned to work at home for 9 months increased their output by 13.5 percent vs. the office-based control group, and their turnover rates fell by almost 50 percent. Adding in the savings from cutting office space telecommuting was found to have substantially reduced costs, leading Ctrip to roll this practice out across the firm.
German Trade Anticipates Good Year
Data from GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung, or Society for Consumer Research), the Nuremberg-based market research company, are about the closest thing we have to real-time, relevant data for any major source market. And if the latest sales numbers from GfK are any indication of where the market is going, the tour and travel industry can look forward to a modest but certain increase in business from Germany, which is the largest source market for inbound international visitor traffic from Continental Europe.
Before 2018 ended, retail travel sales figures from Germany’s travel agencies and OTAs—they are based on GfK’s analysis of 2,000 representative travel agencies, OTAs and tour operator websites—the sales figures for November came out, and they showed the following:
GfK figures for German holiday sales in November
—Sales by German travel agencies and OTAs in November could not keep up with the previous year (2017). During the month, overall sales for winter 2018/19 dropped by 1 percent and for next summer by 2 percent, compared to 2017.
—Even so, the German travel trade weekly FVW reported, the current winter season and next summer were still showing solid growth of 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively, after good early bookings over the last few months. For example, German consumers had already spent about €3.8 billion ($4.35 billion) on winter holidays, mostly for trips in November and December, GfK pointed out.
—More than half (57 percent) of the November sales revenues were for summer 2019 holidays, with June proving a very strong month: revenues up by nearly 18 percent. In fact, all months except for May showed growth compared to the same time last year.
—FVW reported that the upbeat outlook for 2019 has been reinforced by new figures from the German Tourism Industry Association (BTW). Germans traveled for leisure purposes on 1.7 billion days thus far in 2018, which was 1.8 percent more than 2017, according to the organization, which relies on GfK consumer spending surveys.
—Against this background and with stable macro-economic conditions, the BTW predicted another good year for German leisure travel in 2019, with a similar growth rate of about 1.7 percent in terms of the number of days spent on leisure travel, ranging from day-trips and short breaks to long holidays.
The GfK analysis seems to sync with what the most recent forecast from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office had to say about the outlook for Germany, projecting that visitation from the market will increase 2 percent in 2019.
Said BTW President Michael Frenzel, “We are looking ahead very confidently to the 2019 travel year.
—Just opened in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood is the KGB Spy Museum, which explains and illustrates to visitors the history of the USSR/Russian intelligence agency with the aid of 3,500 espionage items. The museum is a relative of a military museum that two Lithuanians—Julius Urbaitis and his daughter, Agne Urbaitye—operate from a nuclear bunker in Kaunus, Lithuania. Julius and his daughter have spent years collecting objects for the KGB Museum. Visitors can see and examine the museum’s artifacts, or study the KGB’s evolution or take in interactive exhibits such as learning how to use Morse code and telephone switchboards, or even strapping into an interrogation chair for a lesson on the KGB’s sadistic tactics. The new attraction is located at 245 West 14th Street in Chelsea. Retail ticket prices are $28 for adults and $20 for children 7-17, students and seniors. For more information, visit , or call 917.388.2332.
—Has “Storm Tourism” Found a Home? As “storm tourism” begins to get a foothold on the supplier side, it has found a home in “ChaserCon,” the annual National Storm Chaser Convention. The next edition of the niche event—it’s the 21st—will be held February 8-10, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita, Kansas, which is billed as being “dead center” in Tornado Alley. According to one published account, some see this as an opportunity to make Wichita a prime destination for storm chasing tours. ChaserCon was held in Denver for almost two decades, convention coordinator Roger Hill told the Wichita Eagle, but about four years ago, as the event grew in popularity, there was more push to “bounce it around some different places.” For more information, visit www.chasercon.com.
—The Flyer-San Francisco is the newest attraction at Pier 39 in San Francisco, combining motion seats, live action and computer-generated 3D imagery to take guests above San Francisco and under the Golden Gate Bridge, into Alcatraz and through the Redwood National Forest. A thrilling and inspiring attraction for all ages, The Flyer — San Francisco is a perfect introduction to San Francisco and a riveting ride for locals, who will see San Francisco in a whole new way. For more information, visit www.theflyer-sanfrancisco.com, or call 415.445.0120.
—The Mascot Hall of Fame, an attraction featuring U.S. sports mascots, and which was originally an online-only attraction, is now a reality in Whiting Indiana, which is about 16 miles from Chicago. Founded by David Raymond, who was the original Phillie Phanatic from 1978 to 1993, used to have an induction ceremony taking place each year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The new Hall of Fame opened the day after Christmas last month. It is one of those “must-see-to-be-believed attractions. Ticket prices start at $12. For more information, visit www.mascothalloffame.com, or call 219.354.8814.
At a Glance: Macy’s
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HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Jen Schroer has been named by New Mexico’s new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, to head the New Mexico Department of Tourism. Schroer served in the department for about 11 months during the first term of outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez where she was director of strategic partnerships. Schroer left the department in 2014 to run the New Mexico Hospitality Association. She was executive director of the trade group until March, when she left to manage the chamber of commerce in Davis, Calif.
Contiki has named James Marchant as its new global CEO. Marchant joins Contiki from Second Estates, where he was a marketing, loyalty and strategy consultant for the luxury holiday rental investment company. James will be based at Contiki’s head office in Geneva and responsible for the social travel company’s global network of teams across Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Sharon Munro is leaving her job as president of Barrhead Travel, one of the largest travel agency chains in the UK. the Scottish travel agency chain. She became president last year, having previously held the title of chief executive. A 28-year veteran of the company, she is the daughter of Bill Munro, founder of the company, which was sold early in 2018 to the U.S.-based Travel Leaders Group. Jacqueline Dobson, Barrhead’s managing director, will move up to the top job as president.
Mario Antonio, vice president of sales for Grupo Trend—it is a CVC brand—is leaving the company on March 31st. after having served the company for 8 years. He told the Brazilian travel trade publication PANROTAS that he is “analyzing some proposals,” and plans to continue in tourism.
Christophe Jacquet has been named CEO of Havas Voyages, a Paris-based tour operator specializing in tailor made tours. Previously, Jacquet’s career has been primarily in consumers goods and digital marketing. He was the founder, in 2014, of the start-up One4You.com, the first site of French corporate shopping. In 2016, the start-up integrates Crédit Agricole’s Le Village by CA (Paris) innovation center. One4You now has over 200 clients, including Selectour, Société Générale, Maaf and Total
Ken Lawson, who was named president and CEO of Visit Florida following the resignation of Will Seccombe in the wake of a flap over the agency’s contract with rapper Pit Bull, is leaving his post; the state’s new governor, Ron DeSantis has appointed Lawson to be executive director of the Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
Kurt Krause, a long-time veteran of the hotel industry, has been named the new president and CEO of Visit Norfolk. The 63-year-old Krause succeeds Anthony DeFilippo and Sam Rogers, who had served most of 2018 as interim president and CEO. In addition to serving at different hotel properties over a span of three decades, Krause was once worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the wake of 9/11.
Long-time Industry veteran Richard Prosser is joining the OTA loveholidays as chairman. He brings almost 40 years of experience in travel including top jobs at First Choice and Tui Travel. Prosser has taken various roles as chairman to private equity-backed businesses since 2010 including Audley Travel.
Tillie Youngs for 26 years at 1000 Islands International Tourism Council
Patricia “Pattie” Baker for 18 years at Dreamscape Vacations
Bernard Metzger for 10 years at Travel & Tourism Foundation
Grace Young Kim for 5 years at JJ USA Tours/Club
Douglas McClain for 4 years at Newport Beach & Company
Phil Hannes for 2 years at San Diego Tourism Authority