Airport taxes, insurance and fees. These were the main themes for the Italian market in recent weeks, with the airline industry in particular turmoil, coupled with that facing travel agencies.
An additional increase in taxes at Italian airports decided by the government has generated considerable controversy among the airlines, who raise their voice to ensure that the industry is not penalised by decisions that can have a high impact on the competitiveness of our market.
In particular, the Ibar, the Italian Board Airlines Representatives, is to convey this necessity, while Ryanair threatened to close some operations in Italy from next October, precisely because of the increase of the tax burden.
In turmoil are also travel agencies regarding the Italian market, struggling in recent weeks with two hot issues: the cutting of commissions (incorporated in VAT) decided by some tour operators and compulsory insurance.
The first step is generating friction between the networks of travel agencies and the big players in tour operating, with a distribution that asks for an open round table on the subject.
Regarding the issue of compulsory insurance, however, for travel agencies and tour operators some changes are going to happen on the market, which should result in two separate solutions for manufacturers and distributors.
One of the most striking pieces of news about air travel in recent weeks is the memorandum of understanding signed between the airline Meridiana and the sovereign wealth Fund of Qatar for rescuing the airline. The strategy should take shape around a cut in the workforce, with 900 redundancies, in order to proceed to the creation of a new company: the Aga Khan would remain the majority shareholder with 51%, while the remaining 49% would be owned by Qatar.
Other great developments are those concerning a network of travel agencies: Gattinoni Mondo di Vacanze recently acquired the network One! Travel Experience, reaching a total of about 750 stores.
About travel agents, TTG Italia recently launched a new editorial operation: it has debuted in early February “Agenti segreti”, which tells the stories of those retailers who have decided to innovate and change the market.
Returning to companies, other news that has aroused interest in the market was the entry of the banking group Intesa Sanpaolo, one of the most important in Italy, in the world of tourism with the incoming Destination Italia, made with Lastminute.com. The project will debut officially in mid-2016, with the goal of bringing 10 million more tourist arrivals to Italy.
The Czech Republic recently saw some changes in its hotel scene, with several Prague hotels changing hands at the beginning of the year. The luxury five-star Le Palais Art Hotel in downtown Prague was acquired by the Chinese CEFC giant, the four-star Dorint Don Giovanni hotel was sold by its German owners to a group of Czech and international investors and renamed Hotel Don Giovanni****, and two other central Prague hotels, the Central and Fenix, originally part of the Austrian K+K group, are now owned by American investors from Goldman Sachs and Highgate Hotels, who have purchased the Austrian group. Also the country’s biggest online seller of travel packages Invia.cz, until now owned by the Polish MCI fund, is to be sold to the investment group Rockaway Capital. The deal is currently being reviewed by the Czech anti-monopoly authority.
On February 19, the 18th TTG Travel Awards, Czech Republic´s most prestigious annual travel industry awards, honored the best organizations and individuals in the industry for their achievements and contribution. Sixteen companies have been awarded at the ceremony held within the Gala Evening of the Holiday World fair in the glamorous Spanish Hall of the Prague Castle.
Naďa Rybárová, TTG Czech
The MENA region is currently gearing up for a number of exhibitions and events, expected to bring specific destinations into the limelight.
Taking place in Abu Dhabi on March 6-12 was the inaugural Abu Dhabi Aviation and Aerospace Week, aiming to enhance Abu Dhabi’s status as a leading global hub of aviation and aerospace, business tourism and specialised events. Meanwhile, from March 20-21, the Hotel Technology Summit will be taking place in Riyadh whereby over 120 leading decision makers from the hospitality sector will come together to discuss developments in hotel technology, tackle the challenges of catering to millennial guests as well as sharing insights garnered with years of experience in a constantly changing industry.
Speaking of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this hospitality giant is swiftly seeing an increase in its hotel rooms with a variety of major hotel companies looking to invest; the latest one is Swiss-Belhotel International with Swiss-Belhotel Al Khobar, slated to open its doors by the end of 2016. Furthermore, Rezidor Hotel Group has recently announced plans to introduce its lifestyle select brand, Radisson RED, to Jeddah, with the first property, Radisson RED Makarunah, to open its doors in Q2 of 2018.
Natalie Hami, Editor
The first two months of 2016 saw some exciting announcements about cruise, from the UK travel trade’s point of view.
First, NCL announced that it is to send Norwegian Jade back to the UK in 2017, marking a return to sailing ex-UK after a seven year gap, then MSC Cruises announced it is also to base a ship here once more. That two major cruise lines are re-committing to the UK demonstrates their faith in the strength of the UK market.
We’ve seen before how UK departures play a vital role in introducing holidaymakers to cruise for the first time, and there is a considerable market of those that do not wish to fly. Greater ex-UK capacity will be music to the ears of UK retailers – although some agents expressed concern about whether the market can really sustain it.
Another interesting situation is the fact that the more cautious American market is holding off Med cruises this year because of generalized security concerns about the region. Cruise lines with significant US customers are already bracing themselves to have capacity left to fill – and expect to look to the British market to fill it.
Having to slash prices to fill ships would be far from ideal for the cruise lines themselves. But travel agents in the UK will be only too pleased to be able to offer their customers some very attractive prices in the Mediterranean this summer.
Pippa Jacks, Editor