The travel agent is not dying

Travel AgenciesA recent research shows that what is known as “The Internet killed the travel agent” is not true. The travel agent is not dying as well. In 2014, 18 percent of American travelers used traditional travel agents compared to 12 percent in 2013.

Tech savvy millennials could easily use online travel aggregators, such as Expedia or Priceline, to book a leisure trip, but they’re choosing to use travel agents instead. In 2014, 28 percent of millennials used a traditional travel agent, compared to only 13 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 65) and 15 percent of Generation X (ages 36 to 49).

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are not leery of using on-line travel tools because they’re repeating past travel experiences, such as returning to the same hotel or a place they’ve previously visited. They’re a more seasoned traveler and don’t need a travel agent to guide them through decisions.

These are the results of a recent study by MMGY Global, a Kansas City-based travel and hospitality marketing firm.

Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, said, “One of the most counter intuitive facts that comes out of our research is that millennials are actually using traditional travel agents at a higher rate than a lot of age groups.”

MMGY doesn’t see the trend toward travel agents ending anytime soon. In fact, the resurgence of travel agents made MMGY’s top 10 list of travel trends for 2015. One reason is travel agencies have perfected what they do best.

In the 1990s when online travel aggregators gained traction, a number of travel agencies either went out of business or began focusing on a niche, such as focusing solely on the cruise industry or trips to Europe. Travel agencies became specialists in the industry, which made them stronger, Reid said.

“They essentially became more valuable to the people who might use them because they were forced to become better at what they do,” he said.

MMGY’s research found that those who booked a leisure trip through a travel agent within the last year were more satisfied with their overall trip than those who booked through online third parties, such as Orbitz. In addition, three out of four leisure travelers said travel agents are in the best position to make recommendations for their travel.

“We’re seeing very high satisfaction levels with using a travel agent, which helps build momentum,” Reid said. “People have said they’ll go back and use a travel agent again because it’s making their trip better.”

Source: Kansas City Business Journal

via The travel agent is not dying.

World Marketing Group to lead business development for Destination Asia in North America

Destination_AsiaDestination Asia announces, effective 1 February 2015, World Marketing Group will lead its North American incentive travel and event business development for the Asian region. The new alliance offers customers access to highly skilled Asian operations, backed by in-market sales and marketing support and expertise.

“We are honored to have World Marketing Group represent the growing incentives and events business to Asia from North America, their specialty for over three decades,” stated Jim Reed, CEO Destination Asia Group. “Our dedicated meetings and events divisions are at the heart of the Destination Asia Group, aligning our services with the growing demand of business group travel to Asia. Our shared legacy of market knowledge and customer service in incentive travel and event management elevates our offering to effectively meet the growing customer expectations of this region.”

“Our 35 years of working with North American clients on their Asian programs aligns with Destination Asia’s superbly delivered customer experience,” said Jane Schuldt, CIS, CITE, President, World Marketing Group. “We believe Destination Asia’s laser focus on Asia-only operations positions them to deliver unparalleled value to customers seeking unique experiences. We look forward to putting the force of our expertise behind their initiatives.”

via World Marketing Group to lead business development for Destination Asia in North America.

Expedia Acquires Travelocity From Sabre for $280 million

By: MARTIN BLANC

Sabre & TravelocityPublished: Jan 23, 2015 at 3:40 pm EST

The online tourism market was shaken today with the news of Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) acquiring the online travel agency, Travelocity, from Sabre Corp. (NASDAQ:SABR) for $280 million in cash. The deal is the continuation of a strategic marketing agreement between Expedia, Inc. and Travelocity, which enables the former to power the technology platforms for the latter’s websites in US and Canada. This agreement allows access to Expedia, Inc.’s supply as well its customer service and support program.

Expedia is one of the pioneers of online travel industry, which, over the years, has cemented its position and made an extensive brand portfolio, covering many aspects of the tourism and travel market. It provides travel information, and hotel and flight bookings, as well as localized websites in 31 countries to cater to local audiences, amid other services.

Expedia, Inc.’s President and CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, commented on this development saying: “Travelocity is one of the most recognized travel brands in North America, offering thousands of travel destinations to more than 20 million travelers per month, The strategic marketing agreement we’ve had in place has been a marriage of Travelocity’s strong brand with our best-in-class booking platform, supply base, and customer service. Evolving this relationship strengthens the Expedia Inc. family’s ability to continue to innovate and deliver the very best travel experiences to the widest set of travelers, all over the world.”

Sabre is a leader in the global travel industry and provides technology, data, software, and distribution solutions. The company’s services are utilized by many players in the tourism and travel industry, from airlines to hotel management, in ensuring the success of operations such as reservations, revenue tracking, and flight and crew management. The President and CEO of the company, Tom Klein, acknowledged that Sabre and Expedia have had a successful partnership in boosting Travelocity’s business, and called today’s decision to be in the interest of the company.

Expedia, Inc. stock is up 2.16% today trading at $88.56, while Sabre stock is up 1.29% trading at $20.75 as of 3:25 PM EST.

via Expedia (EXPE) Acquires Travelocity From Sabre (SABR) For $280 million.

Affluent Travelers Tougher For Marketers To Reach

by Tanya Gazdik Irwin

Comment

This year will be challenging for travel marketers hoping to appeal to affluent consumers, according to a study from Unity Marketing.

Changes in affluent travellers’ attitudes and behaviour call for marketers to develop new strategies to capture some of the roughly $8,000 they plan to spend on their next vacation.

The demographic will be looking for new luxury travel experiences, all the while scrimping and saving on experiences that don’t mean as much to them (such as how they get to their destination) and splurging once they arrive. They will delay making plans till the last minute and will be less loyal to their travel rewards programs, as they search out promotions that offer more meaningful and motivating rewards, according to the study, “Affluents Will Travel in New Luxury Style in 2015,”

Affluents plan to take an average of three vacations in 2015, but they are waiting until the last minute to book. This works in their favour, as they carefully research all the available options, compare the many promotional offers received, and tap the Internet and social media for reviews and recommendations.

For travel planning, they are more DIY this year, using travel professionals less than in 2013. Furthermore, due to growing global unrest and the Department of State “worldwide caution” warning issued on Jan. 9, it only makes sense to wait until the window of opportunity is right.

The share of affluents who are undecided about their travel plans this year more than doubled from Unity Marketing’s 2013 luxury travel study, says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of the new study.

“Further, the projected budgets for their next vacation is lower than we’ve tracked since 2009,” she says. “Consumer uncertainty and lack of confidence is never a good sign for marketers and that is the environment that travel marketers face this year.”

Travel marketers’ mantra this year should be “hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” she adds.

“Given all the factors that can impact people’s willingness to travel, especially overseas, travel marketers need to recognize that their customers will be harder to commit to proposed trips this year,” she says. “Those customers will be more demanding when it comes to getting the most for their investment and may look more aggressively to cut expenditures wherever they can. Further, this may be an especially good year for the travel insurance business.”

Rewards programs are less motivating for affluents in 2015 than two years ago. A growing share of affluents have no plans or are undecided if they will redeem rewards for travel this year. Affluents report being less influenced in their choice of travel provider by the opportunity to collect rewards points.

“Since travel marketers rely heavily on rewards programs to market their services, this is an important call to action,” Danziger says. “It points to the need for travel providers to focus their marketing and rewards programs toward rewards that are more meaningful and motivating to affluent travelers.”

via Affluent Travelers Tougher For Marketers To Reach 01/23/2015.

Hotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland – TTG Asia

Kuoni logoHotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland

Raini Hamdi, Singapore, January 16, 2015

THE Hotelplan Group has emerged as a suitor for Kuoni Switzerland.

CEO Thomas Stirnimann confirmed with TTG Asia e-Daily “we are looking at it” when asked if the company was keen to buy Kuoni Switzerland.

“I guess we would be the best owner by far,” he said when asked for his views on who would be the likely buyers of the outbound businesses Kuoni has put up for sale.

If the deal goes through, Hotelplan would consolidate its position in Switzerland, where it is the second-largest tour operating company after Kuoni.

Asked about the future of the tour operating business, Stirnimann said: “We can only say that it is working out well for us, but you needed to adapt a couple of years ago. Today there is no more B2B or B2C business but only business with which you serve all channels.”hotelplan logo

Now that Kuoni has made known its intention to sell its outbound units, a few sources interviewed speculated that potential buyers could be the bigger players in the Middle East, private equity companies, or other non-travel related investors.

“I would be surprised if any of the larger travel groups in Europe purchased them given their current directions, although maybe Flight Centre might see value in their global expansion plans,” opined Chris Bailey, senior vice president sales & marketing Centara Hotels & Resorts Thailand.

On who they wished would buy, several Kuoni groundhandlers in the region are wistful.

“There are not many companies that invest in customer care and training like Kuoni does. Many talk about it but pass it to the ground agency to carry it out. Kuoni ensures the ground agency understands what the brand stands for, how important the customer is to Kuoni and why you should be proud to be part of the Kuoni group. The annual training for our staff looking after Kuoni customers are well organised and gives our staff a sense of pride to be a part of Kuoni,” said Judy Lum, group vice president sales and marketing, Tour East Singapore.

Lum wished Kuoni would reconsider. “I had hoped they would synergise the model of GTA with Kuoni tour operating and be the first to be able to give the consumers what they expect as a holiday, yet deliver the efficiency in the booking process for the customers of today. I know the business models of GTA and Kuoni are different worlds but they serve the customers of the same planet who expect a lot from each,” she said.

A source lambasted Kuoni for the sale announcement. “I do not think that it is wise to announce a sale of a company when you have no buyer.

“Firstly you demoralise your own staff, secondly you discourage existing and new clients to book with you, and thirdly you devalue your own company image/share value,” said the source.

Centara’s Bailey shared some of that sentiment. “All situations like this have an impact on the staff (I have seen a few myself [as a tour operator before]), however upbeat the message from management. It’s the fear of the unknown and potential change that always disrupts people’s attention to their day job.

“On the other hand, as I said before, if staff can be engaged with the change and kept in the loop with regular updates, then they can go the extra mile during this transition period.

“The other threat is of course from the competition as it’s often an opportunity to cherry pick talent and or commercial arrangements in such times.”

Kuoni contracting managers contacted by TTG Asia e-Daily on the impact on them did not respond at press time.

via Hotelplan looking to buy Kuoni Switzerland – TTG Asia – Leader in Hotel, Airlines, Tourism and Travel Trade News.

Why leisure matters by Illusions Online – Arabian Travel News

illusionsThe travel trade can harness technology to grab its fair share of the increasingly lucrative leisure travel market

It has become a well known fact that the growth of leisure travel is outpacing business travel globally.

Over the last five years, spending on holidays has increased 25% and visiting family and relatives’ (VFR) spend has shot up by 17%, both outgrowing business travel expenditure, which increased 16% over the same period, according to World Travel Monitor 2013 by IPK International.

Since 2009, the volume of city trips taken by international travellers has grown by 47% and the number of tours purchased by 27%, all of which spells good news for destination management companies and the travel firms that successfully package these components.

International tourist numbers continue to grow year-on-year, breaking the one billion barrier in 2012 and increasing by another 5% in 2013, according to the UNWTO.

This brought an additional 52 million interna-tional tourists into the mix, with a further 4.5% increase anticipated in 2014.

But this will be a drop in the ocean come 2030 when the UNWTO predicts the majority of all international tourist arrivals (57%) will hail from emerging economy destinations, namely the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia. India and China.

Add to that the already explosive growth of the Pan-Asian travel market, plus longer term, the potential of the North American market to switch from domestic to overseas travel and the opportunities for the travel trade to harness the leisure segment are mind-boggling.

But where do you start?

Firstly, I believe it’s imperative to get your business model right and decide which segments of the incredibly broad leisure travel market you are best suited to serve.

The Gulf’s travel industry has its foundations in corporate travel, so that’s as good a starting place as any because leisure matters for business travellers.

Your corporate clients will, more often than not, have a small amount of leisure time to spare during their trip and if you’re savvy, you can boost your revenues and customer service kudos by building leisure add-ons into their itinerary.

The options are endless; city tours, day trips, spas, restaurants, museums, attractions, experiences, sports events, theatre productions, music gigs, to name but a few.

If your client is travelling to Kuala Lumpur and you know they like golf, why not book them into the famous Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, or KLGCC as it is known? Or if they are travelling inbound, to Dubai for example, get them VIP tickets for a music event, to which they can invite a corporate client.

The majority of businessmen who arrive in Dubai will be looking to make the most of their stay and will refer to listing publications when they arrive. They may even miss out on their chosen activity because tickets are sold out. Imagine if you could book it for them in advance, without them even asking? What about if you anticipated their needs and provided a value-added service that will keep them coming back for more?

This might sound time-consuming, but if you have the right technology in place that can do the work for you, it will take just minutes of your time.

Firstly, if your technology integrates sophisticated CRM capabilities, you will know your customers’ tastes and preferences and be able to tailor your leisure offering accordingly.

Secondly, if your technology can provide you with access to the best content, from core products such as air, accommodation and tours, to the aforementioned fiddly bits such as attractions, restaurants, spas, et cetera, all bundled into one package, it’s a no-brainer.

Crucially, the solution must give you rates, availability and the ability to book and confirm instantly, in real-time.

This is the next frontier in travel distribution and a vision that at Illusions has become a reality.

All of our technology from our off the shelf fully integrated solutions, to our online global travel marketplace, i-World Travel eXchange (iWTX), makes booking a complicated package, involving many facets, whether for business or leisure, possible.

Our system is built to optimise business processes, whether it’s CRM or booking engines, and all other front and back office functions a travel firm requires.

Illusions products are designed to bring simplicity and efficiency to the travel industry, helping companies to focus on customer service and maximise revenue.

By cleverly leveraging technology, the travel trade can thrive and start to take command of a leisure travel market brimming with infinite growth opportunities.

via Tour Operator & DMC software – Illusions Online Travel Technology – Articles – Arabian Travel News – November – 2014.

Smooth Seas for Cruising in 2015 – Travel Market Report

Cruise Market2014 was a strong year for cruising, with safety concerns being mostly minimized and increased demand in the U.S. being captured in the Caribbean and other regions. Group sales boomed, while booking windows lengthened. Pricing, however, remained stagnant as cruisers continued to take advantage of steep discounting.

But what is in store for the cruise industry in 2015? Travel Market Report asked cruise industry executives to reflect on the events of 2014, and cast a critical eye toward the opportunities of 2015

via Smooth Seas for Cruising in 2015.

Why investors in online travel need to be picky about China in 2015 | Sally White EyeforTravel

Silvana ComugneroThere can be no doubt that China is a crucial market for travel brands but it may not be for everybody, writes Sally White

Fast growing China’s foreign travel market may be, but investors should be very picky about buying into this story. Certainly, the market is eye-wateringly large – 100 million outbound trips were made in 2014, according to the China National Tourist Administration (CNTA). Adding to its allure for companies wanting a growth story to woo shareholders, this figure could reach 1.4 billion by 2030 with a spend of $1.8 trillion. Also, the number of countries Chinese travellers can visit easily rises this year as more governments and tourism boards are offering them visa-free access.

But these numbers could be a snare and delusion for foreign corporates not already well established. Most of these travellers keep to their own turf, with 90% staying within Asia according to the CNTA. Not only are local giants already well established, spending heavily and growing fast in all areas of online travel trading! The international heavy-weights are there, too, with the necessarily thick wallets to help their Chinese partners and subsidiaries.

via Why investors in online travel need to be picky about China in 2015 | Travel Industry News & Conferences – EyeforTravel.

Marketing watch: Digital marketing trends for 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC] – TNOOZ

signal-2015-predictions-infographic11The new year begins well-intentioned on the marketing front. Marketing plans, heavily crafted and finessed late in 2014, begin to be implemented – only to discover that the landscape has already shifted, making said plan obsolete.

The cross-channel marketers at Signal have put their marketing tools to the grindstone of reality, with the result being some of the most important digital marketing trends of the year.

From beacons to data cooperatives that allow a consistent higher-level understanding of the customer, these trends continue to push marketers to become technologists. So rather than simply creating strategies to leverage OPP (Other People’s Platforms), the successful marketer must become a voice for marketing technology organization-wide.

via Marketing watch: Digital marketing trends for 2015 [INFOGRAPHIC].

Ctrip acquires majority stake in Travelfusion

ctrip logoThe China-based travel service provider, Ctrip.com International has announced that it has completed an investment transaction in Travelfusion by purchasing a majority stake in the company.

Travelfusion is a UK-based leading online low cost carrier (LCC) travel content aggregator and innovator of direct connect global distribution solutions. Aggregating 200+ LCCs, full service carriers (FSCs), rail operators and 30+ leading hotel consolidators.

Ctrip chairman and chief executive officer James Liang noted: “Travelfusion has built a great GDS system for LCCs globally. The strategic relationship we built with Travelfusion will further extend our leadership in China’s international travel market, and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our IT system by leveraging Travelfusion’s advanced technology. We are excited to work with Travelfusion’s team to create greater value for our customers.”

travelfusion logoTravelfusion chief executive officer Moshe Rafiah added: “China is expected to be the largest travel market in the world, and Ctrip is the clear leader in the online and mobile travel industry in China. After 15 years of building Travelfusion to be an industry leader, we are thrilled to take further steps to realize and fulfil our potential in such a great market with such a powerful industry leader.”

via ArabianTravelNews.com | Operators | Ctrip acquires majority stake in Travelfusion.