Sunday, November 18

Affluent travellers most likely to return

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Travelmole's David Wilkening reports that, according to a survey conducted for the U. S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), travellers with higher disposable incomes are the most likely to return to a favoured destination.

"People imagine high-income travellers jetting around the world, sailing the Amazon, visiting Rome this year, Rio the next, following a safari with a sailing trip along the Turkish coast, or taking an extended cruise," the study says. However, the survey findings defy expectations in that one-third of travellers with household incomes greater than $100,000 indicated they preferred to revisit favorite vacation destinations.

"That is the largest group giving this response in any income category," said Bob Whitley, USTOA president.The survey identified a correlation between increased income and the desire to return to favorite vacation spots. Thirty percent of households earning $50,000 to $99,000 also preferred returning to favorite destinations, but that number dropped to less than 20% for those earning $35,000 and less. "Higher-income travellers also said they enjoy exploring a favorite destination in depth, and a broader selection of side trips would motivate them to select a tour or vacation package," Wilkening's story points out.

Women, and those with lower incomes, based their vacation choices on practical factors, saying that additional meals and sightseeing included in the price would motivate them to select packaged travel. As a case in point, younger travellers (18-34) and families with children under 12 years said free hotel room upgrades were motivating factors, according to the survey.

Managing on the heels of crisis: tourism stakeholders move on after tragedy

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Ten years ago, a bus transporting 48 passengers came down the big hill at Les Éboulements in Québec's Charlevoix region. Forty-four people (mostly members of a seniors' club) lost their lives on Thanksgiving Day in 1997 when their vehicle crashed into a ravine. In a recent report published by Québec daily Le Soleil, Sylvain Desmeules describes how 10 years later, this picturesque community which relies on tourism is trying to move on.

This was the deadliest road accident in Canada. It deeply affected not only the local population, but also the tourism industry. Before October 13 1997, group tours accounted for 50% of visitors to nearby Isle-aux-Coudres on the St. Lawrence River, welcoming 800 motorcoaches annually. Today, Desmeules writes, a good year brings in about 400 coaches.

He quotes president of the Société des établissements touristiques de l'Isle-aux-Coudres Pierre Mazière: "The accident on the hill has only heightened the current heavy trend towards a decrease in motorcoach travel."

Desmeules also talked with Éric Fournier who used to run the Charlevoix tourism association. He remembers the panic triggered by the tragedy:

"We were just recovering from Saguenay flood of 1996, and all of a sudden, new negative perceptions about the state of our roads emerged." He recalls there was a wave of booking cancellations. Government authorities went ahead with a controversial road modification plan to alleviate further risks (in that instance a breaking system malfunction was eventually identified as the culprit). Mazière estimates that if the hill roadway hadn't been rebuilt, many businesses would have closed.

For the motorcoach industry, notes Desmeules in his article, it was a wake-up call. Explains Romain Girard of the Association des propriétaires d'autobus du Québec: "We suddenly became aware of just how precious and important the safety factor is in our industry. We have undertaken an in-depth reform focusing as much around safety as on recruitment of new clients."

Desmeules notes there has been a significant recovery since. It is estimated that group travel is a $1.3 billion market for Quebec, a third of whom are Quebeckers travelling within their own province, as were the passengers from the Beauce region who had boarded the ill-fated charter 10 years ago.