Sunday, December 2

Are online agencies losing competitive edge?

(Originally published in TOURISM)

TravelMole's Bev Fearis reports that the balance of power in the online travel market is shifting from online agencies to suppliers, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

The consultancy group says over the past 12 months, online travel agents have lost their competitive edge while suppliers have been able to take control of their inventory and make use of high speed broadband internet connections. Airlines and hotels are in a strong position in a market where price and convenience are still the crucial differentiators, the group believes.

Malcolm Preston, partner and travel sector leader explained: "Suppliers are now providing the lowest-cost bookings available on the internet. Those suppliers which have sufficient scale will continue to see more and more bookings made through their own sites. It's the smaller operators that will become the key clients of the aggregators."

Preston says loyalty schemes for hoteliers and reward points for airlines are proving to be very successful and provide the online supplier with another advantage over aggregators. "Aggregators struggle to provide anything significant to ensure customer loyalty. Discounts are one option but this comes directly off the bottom line. If they want to give a free flight, they have to first purchase it from the supplier."

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP believes all online travel players will need to be more creative in the future, for example expanding into theatre tickets, restaurant bookings and theme park entry for example.

Its findings are published in a new report, called "The Distribution Revolution: the growth of supplier-only sites has been at the expense of the online aggregators".

2008 Business Travel Outlook predicts increase in Canada's travel spend

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Hospitality Trends reports Canadian companies will increase their travel spends by a solid 4.2% next year, while placing greater emphasis on green programs and expressing a stronger interest in the video options of demand management, according to the 2008 Business Travel Outlook.

This analytical white paper was produced jointly by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC). It formed the basis of a keynote presentation by Alexander Fritsche, Economist for the CBOC, on November 20, 2007, the final day of the ACTE Canada Education Conference in Calgary.

The top three reasons cited for higher travel spending were: a greater number of international trips to destinations other than the US, rising travel prices, and growth in domestic travel. Based on survey responses from 43 major Canadian companies, the report predicted travel managers will face tougher negotiations in 2008 over higher hotel room rates, and to a lesser extent, rental car rates. Corporate airfares for domestic travel and trans-border travel to the US are each expected to edge up by an average of 1.2% over 2007.

"The survey also revealed the growing influence of corporate social responsibility and environmental issues in shaping corporate travel policies. Nearly all the companies interviewed for the report said their organization had embraced corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a corporate goal. This is a remarkable increase from a similar survey conducted two years ago. CSR has been a key ACTE initiative since 2005," notes Hospitality Trends.

"The idea of using video teleconferencing as a travel alternative is also gaining traction in Canada. The motivating factors driving this concept are savings, better technology, and a higher quality of life from the increase in personal time not spent travelling."

The study did confirm that the majority of Canadian organizations continue to recognize the critical role of face-to-face meetings in the way they conduct their business.

Study says gays and lesbians are a "dream market" for tourism

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to the results of a survey reported in TravelDailyNews (November 20, 2007), lesbians and gay men are a dream market for the tourism industry.

The report says 94.1% of over 6,700 American survey respondents to Community Marketing's 12th Annual LGBT Tourism Study stayed in a hotel at least one night in the last twelve months, with the median respondent staying 14 nights in hotels during that period. A hotel's reputations for gay-friendliness was cited as the top influence for choosing a hotel, followed by location near tourist attractions, location near a gay neighborhood, and free high-speed internet access.

77% of respondents said they shop for hotels and book online, while 29% said they book accommodations by phone or in person through a travel agent or directly with the supplier. 86% of respondents took at least one flight (up slightly from 2006) with a median of six flights in the last 12 months. 81% said they shop and book their flights online.

Other key findings from the study include gay and lesbian interest in adventure travel (41.8%), spa vacations (36.1% ), educational tours (31.6%), culinary trips (29.7%), eco-travel (26.2%) and casinos (22.8%). 25% attended a Gay Pride celebration where they stayed overnight, making it one of the most prominent "gay motivators" for taking a trip.

65% of respondents are gay men, 28% are lesbians, and the remaining 7% identify as bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. The median age of respondents is 46.

Family travel growing in significance and scale

(Originally published in TOURISM)

US family travel continues to be on an upward trend, according to research carried out in the last two years by various companies, including Y Partnership (formerly Yesawich Pepperdine Brown & Russell) and American Express. According to a Y Partnership study, family travel represents one way to bring back to families a sense of cohesion in a "contemporary world that is increasingly dominated by the demands of work."

As to the type of vacation families are looking for, a 2006 poll conducted by American Express showed that agents are increasingly booking outdoor, active, adventure family vacations. Norman Howe of Canadian boutique travel company Horizon & Co. notes that it's landscapes, natural wonders and wildlife ("especially whales") that give Canada a competitive edge. "The trips we run with World Wildlife Fund-Canada are popular because they combine social responsibility, extraordinary wildlife, stunning landscapes and family fun," says Howe. "The conservation workers whom we meet are inspirational, and there is something uniquely powerful about sharing Canada's natural wonders with your children and seeing it all through their eyes."

Canada's timeless image as a safe haven also adds to its family appeal. "The notion of Canada as an easy and safe destination is also important in the psychology of family travel," explains Howe. 'Safe' may seem boring for some kinds of travel, but for family travel it's essential."