UK travel agents – particularly in business travel – have been outraged by Lufthansa’s decision to charge a €16 fee for booking on a global distribution system (GDS). Various agent groups have vowed to sell away from Lufthansa, and sister airlines Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. Agents remember that when British Airways stopped paying agents commission more than 10 years ago, all other airlines soon followed suit – and fear Lufthansa’s bold move heralds another seismic change in the relationship between agents and airlines.
The “school holidays debate” has developed in recent weeks, with new rules from September that allow head-teachers across the country to set their own term dates. The government hopes spreading out demand will make holidays more affordable for families, and stop parents taking their children out of school during term-time, (more than 12,000 UK parents were prosecuted and fined £120 each last year).
But holiday companies fear that, unless schools within a region work together, staggering holidays won’t work, as parents frequently have children at two different schools. And they continue to argue the educational value of a family holiday can far outweigh a week in the classroom.
In TTG news, we’ve revealed our fourth intake for our Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders initiative, recognising young talent in the travel industry. We’ve also announced a sizeable addition to our business: a new partnership with Routes, the route-development shows, which will see TTG Media print the Routes News magazines and show directories at these critical global conferences.
Pippa Jacks, editor
It’s been a summer to remember in our market. The biggest Italian tour operator, Alpitour, is reorganising, after having faced a challenging summer season: the whole industry is waiting now for the market leader’s next steps.
Summer 2015 was difficult for many of our outbound destinations, after attacks in Tunisia (and the effects on North Africa area in general) and economic instability of Greece at the beginning of summer. But Italian tourists travelled anyway, and particularly in Italy itself. Our domestic market has therefore had one its best seasons ever, with the Italian people rediscovering their own country.
Travel agents have all been waiting for Lufthansa’s GDS fee – which came into force on September 1 – while last week the American luxury travel agent network, Virtuoso, landed in Italy, with its first agency in Bologna, with more expected to join soon.
Low-cost airlines are continuing to make strides in our market, with Ryanair at the forefront, while the future of one of Italy’s last charter airlines, Blue Panorama, is currently unclear.
We eagerly await TTG Incontri on October 8-10 – Italy’s biggest B2B tourism fair, in Rimini.
Rita Pucci, editor
The biggest news in our market has included the acquisition by China Energy Company (CEFC) earlier this month of a 10% stake in the Czech airline operator Travel Service. CEFC said it planned to acquire a further 39.9% in the carrier at a later date. The value of the deal has not been made public, but the deal also gives CEFC access to the Czech Republic´s flag carrier CSA Czech Airlines in which Travel Service has a 34% stake.
The Egyptian Tourist Office has recently opened its representation in Prague within a revamp aimed at reducing costs. While many local offices were closed worldwide including the Warsaw office that was in charge of the Czech Republic, new offices were opened elsewhere. The new Prague office will be responsible for nine markets: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. It seems a wise move, as the numbers of Czechs traveling to Egypt steadily rise.
Significantly for the Czech Republic, Air Canada announced recently it will launch a summer-only service from Toronto to Prague next year. The three flights a week will be operated by its subsidiary Air Canada rouge.
Naďa Rybárová, editor
Despite a rather quiet summer for the Mena region, the industry is now back in full swing, with major hotel companies making headway in destinations such as the UAE, Lebanon and Iran.
Minor Hotel Group has a number of properties on the horizon. The group has recently partnered with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding company to develop Anantara Durrat Al Bahrain Resort. It has also announced its first property in Ras Al Khaimah with Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort, as well as announcing a strategic partnership with Nakheel for the development of Avani Deira Dubai Hotel.
Meanwhile, luxury hotel company Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will be managing a new, upscale hotel and branded residences in Beirut, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2018. And marking a double debut in Tehran, Iran’s capital, AccorHotels has signed a management agreement with Aria Ziggurat for Novotel IKIA and ibis IKIA, set to open in October.
North Africa has been in the spotlight, with Emirates to fly a larger Boeing 777-300 on its Algiers (Algeria) route, and Air Canada to fly to Casablanca from summer 2016.
Qatar Airways and Oman Air have both upped their flight frequencies to a number of European cities: Qatar Airways will boost frequencies to Stockholm Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Brussels, Belgium, while Oman Air will be adopting a fifth frequency per week between Muscat and Paris Charles De Gaulle.
Natalie Hami, senior media reporter
In spite of all the political and economic problems, Russia remains a lure for foreign investors and management companies. There’s been a fresh wave of rumours about which hotel group will manage Moscow’s legendary Rossiya hotel, which was for many years the epitome of the Soviet epoch, before being demolished five years ago.
The newly built hotel forms part of Zaryadye Park, Russia’s first new public park in 50 years. The park is to be complete by 2017, and will feature restaurants, shops and this five-star hotel, with 150 rooms and 50 apartments.
But a new dispute has broken about who will manage it, with Russian news portals claiming three different management companies are in the running: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Oetker Collection and The Dorchester Collection. The location is very attractive, only a few steps away from Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is estimated Zaryadye Park will be visited by 8-12 million people a year.
Maria Shankina, editor in chief