Travel Convention 2016: Final day preview

Travel Convention 2016: Final day preview

Outbound travel defied forecasts of a downturn following the Brexit vote, with figures from analyst GfK showing season-to-date passenger bookings to the end of August up 4% year on year.

Bookings in the month of August may have been down 1% on 2015, but revenue was up 4% off the back of a £30 increase in average selling price (ASP) leading the monthly GfK Leisure Travel Monitor to note it had “not been necessary to offer deep discounts”.

The strong market extends beyond summer 2016. Bookings for this winter were up 14% year on year in August, leaving season-to-date bookings and revenue for winter 2016-17 both up 18% on a year ago.

Summer 2017 bookings were also well ahead, as August marked a third month of surging early sales. Bookings were up 5% year on year in August after 10% growth in both June and July. That left the revenue for summer 2017 to date up 16% – with £45 added to the average sales price.

The strong figures came despite multiple challenges – not least the terror attacks that have shut off Tunisia and Sharm el-Sheikh and damaged the market to Turkey.

The outbound market appears broadly undeterred by the pound’s weakness, with Office for National Statistics figures confirming the positive trend, with holiday departures in the first seven months of 2016 up 5% on 2015.

This is the background against which Thomas Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead will address the convention on Wednesday morning. Mottershead has run Cook’s UK business for just over a year, but he has been a leading a figure in the industry since the early 1990s. He will reflect on the changes he has seen in his time at Airtours, Tui (twice), Travelzest and Thomas Cook, and in North America and Russia, not just the UK.

There will be a further look to the future from Iglu.com chief executive and Abta board member Richard Downs, Kuoni UK managing director Derek Jones, Royal Caribbean International UK and Ireland managing director Stuart Leven, and Travel Weekly’s Lucy Huxley later in the morning.

Between these sessions, TV presenter and former McLaren Formula 1 mechanic Marc Priestley will give a crash course in achieving improvement by the millisecond (and we thought the margins in travel were small).

Either side of lunch, you must select a workshop to attend.

First up is a choice of consumer trends reflected in a study by PwC and the latest research from Abta, a look at the growth in solo travel, or a look at the most up-to-date marketing techniques.

After lunch, you can choose between making the most of social media, an examination of ‘cruisers of the future’ and a discussion on the latest digital insights from Google.

Should these sessions still leave you uninspired, be sure to catch 10-times Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson, who will speak ahead of the convention closing. Lee competes in equestrian dressage, confesses he is allergic to horses and argues that his event is all about “building a relationship with an animal”.

Well, a lot of us have to do that for work – so listen and learn.

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