Adventure travel, cruising and Brexit were among themes of a 2018 predictions round-table hosted by Travel Weekly and Club Med. Amie Keeley reports from Club Med Val Thorens Sensations, France
Industry bosses and agents predict consumers will shun ‘fly and flop’ holidays in favour of adventure travel in 2018.
The growing trend towards adventure and touring offers an opportunity for agents as customers seek expert advice for complex experiential holidays.
Nick Marks, co-owner of Baldwins Travel, said: “We will sell more adventure holidays next year.
“The number of people saying they want to do something more exciting and challenge themselves has grown. Fly and flop is slowing.”
He said there was a misconception among customers that adventure holidays are expensive.
“We need to get staff on fam trips because they’re not always confident selling adventure holidays,” Marks added.
Trafalgar UK sales and business development director Ruth Hilton and Cosmos chief executive Giles Hawke said customers want VIP experiences they cannot get if they create a holiday themselves.
Hilton said: “It’s not fly and flop anymore, it’s about getting something out of your holiday and giving customers something they can’t do on their own, like dining in the Vatican.”
Hawke said: “People want everything a tour offers: a VIP experience they can’t create themselves. And they will pay for that.”
Brian Young, G Adventures’ managing director for the EMEA region, said the Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas), launched last year, had been “phenomenally successful”.
“The Atas Conference [in October 2017] woke agents up to the fact that they’re missing a trick with this sector. To some extent they’re still playing catch-up.”
He said the operator had seen sales increase by up to 50% after engaging with agents on its products. “You have to get people out to see the product because as soon as they see it they become very engaged. We also work hard to create ambassadors in stores or bring retailers into our office and tell them about our business.”
Hawke added: “It’s just the right time for Atas to train agents. We will have to keep saying the same messages like we did with the cruise sector and Clia.”
Calvert: EU workers don’t feel welcome in UK
The chief executive of Shearings Leisure Group said recruiting staff this year would be “tough” as more European workers leave the UK following Brexit.
Richard Calvert said 2018 was “looking better” on the tour operating side of the business but he had concerns about Shearings’ UK hotels division following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
“We employ 1,600 people from 29 countries, mostly European,” he said. “They feel nervous because they don’t feel welcome [in the UK]. We are finding it tough to recruit British people to replace them.”
Club Med UK managing director Estelle Giraudeau said Brexit was a “massive challenge”.
However, she said: “Consumers see the importance of all-inclusive packages, so we think that we are gaining share in the market.”
What trends do you predict for 2018
2018 will be a better year
“I predict 2018 will be a better year than 2017 because people will have become used to higher prices following the Brexit referendum. It’s the new normal.”
Giles Hawke, chief executive, Cosmos
Indies will see a renaissance
“People get so used to booking online, but now they’re a bit nervous after Monarch so we’re seeing a renaissance for independent agents. Younger people want to travel and can’t get that knowledge online.”
John Sullivan, head of commercial, Advantage Travel Partnership
Knowledge will build loyalty
“People are well-travelled and can get the information online, so if agents can say we have been there or know what things there are for the customer, that’s how you build customer loyalty.”
Sandra Corkin, managing director, Oasis Travel
Training will be key
“It’s not all about commission; it’s about developing agents’ business to sell our product through training and marketing.”
Brian Young, managing director EMEA, G Adventures
Cruise will keep growing
“Ocean cruising is the fastest‑growing sector in travel and there are no signs that it will slow down, with new ships on the order books for most lines.”
Iain Baillie, vice-president UK and international sales, Carnival Cruise Line
Skiers will seek luxury
“There has been a massive investment in ski product with consumers seeking more modern luxury. We’re seeing Brits go to better-quality resorts and booking earlier. Considering the poor snow in recent years, that’s very resilient.”
Richard Downs, chief executive, Iglu
Airlines will consolidate
“There is an opportunity for more airline consolidation – we’re seeing it with IAG and Lufthansa – and that’s going to continue.”
Colin Stewart, director UK and Ireland, Air Europa
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