Our media partnership with World Travel Market London, which took place last month, has become a vital part of TTG UK’s business. But in ten years of covering the exhibition, I cannot remember a year when exhibiting at and leveraging WTM was perceived as being quite so critical by quite so many countries.
From Tunisia, whose tourism industry has been on its knees since the terrorist atrocities of March and July, to Gambia, which has seen its UK market halved this year because of Ebola, and from Greece, which is struggling to recover from economic crisis, to storm-ravaged Dominica in the Caribbean, WTM 2015 was seen as playing a pivotal role in rebuilding the tourism industries upon which these destinations and their people depend.
Then, just a week after WTM 2015 drew to a close, Paris experienced the deadliest peacetime atrocity in the country’s living memory. The horror of this most recent terrorist attack, so close to home, led some in the UK travel industry to question if the famous hardiness of the British outbound market might finally be broken. And yet early indicators are that UK holidaymakers are just as determined to visit the French capital and to show their support.
I’ve lost track of the depressing number of editor’s columns I’ve written about terrorism, tragedy and disaster in 2015 – a more troubled and unpredictable year than I can ever remember. But if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that travel and tourism is a resilient industry – and is also one of the few that can act as a real agent of healing and recovery when the unimaginable happens.
Pippa Jacks, Editor, TTG UK and Ireland
The Airbus A321 tragedy in the Sinai Desert and the consequent ban on flights to Egypt for Russian airlines was an unexpected and serious challenge for the domestic travel industry and above all for major operators. Right after the incident there were talks of the “fatality” of Egypt. As is known, flights there were banned twice before, in 2011 and 2013. But at that time some operators continued the flights, while now all regular, transit and charter flights with passengers on board are forbidden.
The ban on flights in 2011 lasted for two months, in 2013 three and a half months. As some operators and experts note, there are hopes that this time it will last for the same period or even less. Clearly, these are only hopes since the country’s authorities say nothing specific. At the same time, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: “We should not indulge in illusions – it’s impossible to solve the security issues very quickly”. So organizing tours to alternative destinations with additional or new flights is quite urgent.
Turkish Antalya was the main destination offered to tourists as an alternative right after the news of flights cancelation. Another alternative route to replace Egypt at the beginning of November was Cyprus. Among other options for beach vacations in winter are Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, India and to some extent the Dominican Republic.
The temperature may be close to that in Egypt but prices clearly are not. Prices on tours in these countries with the same services and amenities are twice as much as Egypt. To somehow match price of holidays in Egypt tourists would have to give up part of the services or shorten the duration of their stay, choose a hotel of a lower category or book breakfast and dinner instead of all inclusive. In any case there is no real alternative to vacations in Egypt. However, according to some specialised sites, the number of reservations in the most affordable hotels in Thailand and Vietnam is slowly growing and in one week increased by 5%. But the numbers in cooler Turkey and Greece and in more expensive UAE and Indonesia remain the same.
The consolidators cannot say what new charters will replace the banned flights. Travel companies noted that they will stake on flights to countries with no visa required.
Maria Shankina, Chief Editor, TTG Russia
Prague Airport has been named National Champion in the Customer Focus category in the first stage of the 2015-16 European Business Awards competition. Selecting from over 32,000 companies, a panel of independent judges including business leaders and senior academics named 678 National Champions from 33 countries across Europe. The next round of the awards, sponsored by RSM, Europe’s largest business recognition program, requires the champions to make a presentation video, telling their unique story and explaining their business success. The judges will view all of the videos and award the best of this group the coveted ‘Ruban d’Honneur’ status. Ruban d’Honneur recipients will then go on to be part of the grand final in 2016.
The association of Czech hotels and restaurants protests a planned law amendment that would ban smoking in bars and restaurants, arguing it will mean the end of many pubs and restaurants mainly in the countryside. So far, restaurants have been obliged to be marked as smoking or non-smoking or having separated areas for smokers. The government draft, which also includes a provision requiring restaurants and bars to offer at least one non-alcoholic drink cheaper on the menu than the cheapest alcoholic drink, still needs approval by the parliament before it can be signed into law by President Milos Zeman, himself a keen smoker.
Naďa Rybárová, Editor, TTG Czech
Enit, a new EU directive on package tours, gives the possibility of multiple licenses for travel agencies. The beginning of autumn was marked by a strong focus on the Italian market, and those that are the incoming news for tourism operators on the front regulatory.
In particular, the definitive approval from the European Union on new rules packages that basically compares anyone who organises travel – including an airline – to a travel agency, with rights and duties connected to it.
Another issue that has aroused the interest of the market is the possibility for travel agencies to obtain multiple licensing. The pilot project is starting in Turin, but there are already several case histories from Italian shops; next to travel practices, many travel agencies have opened their business to articles like clothing, luggage and books.
These themes are complemented by a new course of Enit-Agenzia, the Italian agency for tourism promotion. Indeed, the market is waiting to know if concrete steps will be made by the institution, now presided over by Evelina Christillin, after a long period of administration.
On the companies front, once again the interest of the market has focused on the moves of two big names in the national travel industry. On one hand, Alpitour World is preparing its listing at the Stock Exchange (Piazza Affari), and in the meantime signed an agreement with the giant of publishing, Mondadori. On the other side, Uvet Group is raising the leisure industry with a new tour operator.
In the aftermath of the Russian plane crash in the Sinai after its take-off from Sharm el Sheikh, another topic that has focused the industry’s attention has been the fate of the Red Sea: a tourist destination par excellence for the Italian market, on which the entire industry has set important investment, and which again is waiting to find an actual rise.
Rita Pucci, Editor, TTG Italia
Aviation has taken centre stage in the region with the conclusion of the Dubai Airshow. And it has certainly proved a success with close to $30 billion worth of deals agreed by day two. Among the agreed new deals were Boeing and Jet Airways, who signed a deal worth approximately $8 billion, which will see the manufacturer build 75 new 737 MAX aircraft for the Indian carrier, a partner airline of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.
In other aviation news, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between Dubai South and Boeing for the establishment of Boeing’s Middle East headquarters in the city’s Aviation District. Following the agreement, Boeing’s operations are to be located at the recently rebranded Dubai South, (previously known as Dubai World Central), which will include Boeing Middle East’s headquarters, a spare parts warehouse, a distribution facility and a maintenance training facility specifically for the region.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s hospitality sector is going from strength to strength, in line with the country’s vision for expansion and development. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage recently released a report outlining that the total number of hotel projects currently under construction in Makkah exceed 100 towers, some of which are nearing completion. The new hotels will contribute more than 24,480 hotel keys. Hotel group Carlson Rezidor is also keen to be part of developments in the KSA with the Park Inn by Radisson Makkah Al Naseem, representing the company’s first property in Makkah. Announcements for expansion into the country have also been made by the likes of AccorHotels, Starwood and Elaf Group.
Natalie Hami, Senior Media Reporter, TTG MENA