Travel industry news: Cautious optimism from Abta

Travel industry news: Cautious optimism from Abta

Sam Ballard reports from Abta’s annual Travel Convention in the Azores where one of the key messages was how holiday habits are changing

Under the banner of The Next Chapter and with the shadow of Monarch’s recent failure looming overhead, the industry’s famous faces descended upon the Azores for Abta’s annual Travel Convention.

Mark Tanzer, Abta’s chief executive, opened the conference with sentiments that echoed many in the room: cautious optimism. He criticised the government’s decision to repatriate Monarch customers
who were not protected by Atol and pass on the cost to credit card companies and Atol holders, calling
it “completely unsatisfactory”.

Few argued when he added that “the industry is left wondering what is the point of Atol protection if everyone gets brought home anyway”. See Talking Point (p48).

Tanzer made it clear that Abta would be working with the Department for Transport to develop a new approach to any future airline failure. With Brexit also looming, it looks like the association is going to be kept busy over the next few years.

Arnold Donald, the president & CEO of Carnival Corporation, was the conference’s most high-profile speaker and he didn’t disappoint. Across multiple engagements, Donald spoke of the Caribbean as still being very much “open for business”, despite the recent hurricanes.

G Adventures’ Brian Young
Royal Caribbean’s Ben Bouldin and G Adventures’ Brian Young

Out of 47 islands that the company visits across its 10 brands, just five sustained significant damage, he said. However, media reports about islands such as the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have meant that many tourists believe the hurricanes had devastated the entire region.

When asked whether an issue such as Brexit was a concern he countered that the corporation dealt with regional issues all the time. To handle them was built into its business plan and, he added, companies such as P&O Cruises could handle Brexit because onboard pricing was in pound sterling, thus negating the weak pound.

A panel discussion later in the conference on the hottest trends in travel produced some interesting points, too. Executives involved included Ben Bouldin, managing director and associate vice president of Royal Caribbean, Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures and Janet Parton, head of sales for Cosmos Holidays.

Bouldin highlighted that for Royal Caribbean multi-generational holidays (or “3G holidays”) were making up about 20 per cent of the company’s bookings. Of that group, 32 per cent were new to cruise. He added that the line sold solo cabins quicker than any other, although he admitted the line did not do as much as it could to make it “easy” for solos.

Young said that solo guests were a strong part of G Adventures’ touring programme, particularly solo female travellers. In a previous interview with our sister publication, Solus, the company said that more than 50 per cent of its bookings have only one name attached.

The discussion was backed up by Abta’s own Holiday Habits Report, which was published at the conference itself. About 12 per cent of people travel alone while 21 per cent of people travel with extended family (classed as family members outside the household).

One of the key messages to take away from this year’s convention was this: our holiday habits are changing and the way we buy them is developing (20 per cent of people now book their holiday with a mobile, up from 13 per cent last year). But, as the number of Britons taking a holiday rose to 87 per cent (the highest it’s been since 2011), it’s clear that our appetite for travel is only growing stronger.

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