WTM Virtual – DAY 3 Wrap Up

WTM Virtual Extra Day

WTM Virtual has added an extra day of meetings on 12 November due to the huge success across the past three days and the high volume of meeting requests.

The platform will be open today for meetings until 9pm (GMT). Visitors will also be able to watch any of the conference sessions on demand from earlier until 25th November.

China’s outbound travel market may take two years to rebound

The third and final day of live conferences at WTM Virtual started with China outbound travel market.

China’s domestic tourism industry has started to bounce back – but the outbound travel market may not recover fully for two years, WTM Virtual heard.

Ning Guoxin, Vice President at Uni Core Communication, told a panel of China tourism experts that domestic travel will become mainstream, because the outbound market will feel the effects of the pandemic for the next two years.

China’s recent National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday generated 637 million domestic tourist arrivals during over an eight-day period – about 79% of the amount seen in 2019.

Dr Tongqian Tony Zou, Assistant President at Beijing International Studies University, commented: “In the ASEAN region, people will need time to save money they lost during the crisis.

“It will take at least half to one year for people to start taking holidays, while long-haul tourism could take longer.”
He said consumers are opting for shorter, domestic tours, with contactless technology coming to the fore.

Operators in China are adapting their programmes to cater for this shift and have been offering cultural experiences online to maintain their profile.

Other initiatives to boost spending include support for street vendors and stalls, and small businesses catering for the “lipstick effect”, where consumers want to buy less costly luxury goods.

Dr Sun Bo, from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said subsidised ticket prices helped to revive the performing arts in Beijing, and online reservations mean that visitors can book timed slots to avoid queuing at attractions.

JetBlue still on track for London 2021 routes

The CEO of low-cost US carrier JetBlue has said the airline will go ahead with plans to fly to London in 2021, promising to “disrupt” the market by offering “a much cheaper way of flying between the UK and the US”.

During a one-to-one interview with aviation analyst John Strickland at WTM Virtual, Hayes said: “London is a huge market. The largest market out of New York and Boston that we don’t fly to.”

He added: “Next summer there will be pent-up demand.  People are desperate to go away, desperate to see family, but just want to wait a bit longer. All leisure travel will be largely recovered by the end of 2021. I think launching flights to London next summer, probably Q3, is the perfect time to introduce all of my friends in the UK and Europe to JetBlue.

“We’re looking forward to showing what we’ve got.”

“We thought a lot about this and we’re 100% confident. But if it doesn’t work, we will fly somewhere else.”

He added JetBlue will have interline partnerships to feed more traffic in through Europe.

He said JetBlue’s transatlantic service would be a ‘significant enhancement on what we already offer’. He wouldn’t talk about transatlantic prices, but said when the carrier launched JFK to Los Angeles flights in 2014, premium prices on in its Mint cabin started at US$599, compared to UK$2,000 being charged by rivals.

It’s understood JetBlue has applied for slots at Gatwick and Stansted and there have been reports it had recently applied for Heathrow slots.

But when Strickland suggested: “It seems to me if you wanted Heathrow you might be able to get all three,” Hayes said: “We will make an announcement when we are ready to put the flights on sale.

“We are very comfortable we have a path into more than one London airport and excited about what we want to do. Some of the other London airports have been underserved to the US.

The airline’s recent partnership with American Airlines, has given JetBlue access to more slots in New York.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and for American, but the real winners are the consumers.”

Digital skills are most in demand, say recruitment experts

Companies in other sectors are recruiting staff from travel and tourism who have digital, finance and HR skills.

Millions of jobs in the travel sector have been lost or affected by the Covid-19 crisis and there are now fears of a brain drain, a WTM Virtual debate heard.

James Nally, Senior Manager at recruitment firm Michael Page Group, told the panel at WTM: “On the digital side, there have been interesting discussions in the FCMG [Fast-moving consumer goods] and automotive space, looking at the talent within travel.

“Other skill sets are transferable too, such as finance professionals and HR, but the digital space has been an interesting conversation picking talent away from travel.”

Adam Jones, Aerospace Bristol’s Marketing Manager, agreed that digital skills are in great demand.

“It’s something that you constantly have to train in, just to stand still, let alone get ahead,” said Jones, who is also Tourism Ambassador for the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s South West regional board.

He advised job hunters not to forget the “softer side” of their skills, such as networking, and less formal learning via podcasts, reading and conferences such as WTM Virtual.

Also on the panel was Niki Zoli, formerly Director of Social Impact at Marriott International, who recently lost her job because of Covid-19.

She said many travel firms are helping employees find work or volunteer opportunities elsewhere with other business partners. After leaving Marriott, she spoke to someone at Amazon about a Covid initiative and found herself working as a volunteer on a food waste project and liaising with hotel groups.

Nicola Sadowski, HR Consultant at Kuoni Travel, advised employers to carefully consider how they handle the redundancy process, especially as experienced, talented staff will be needed when travel recovers.

Kuoni helped its departing staff with CVs and career counselling, and created the Kuoni Talent Finder website to promote their skills.

Nally urged jobseekers to use their networks, saying: “This is the time for references and testimonials from your employers.

“Talk to people you have previously worked with: ‘follow the footsteps in the sand’ and ask for advice, connections, books or webinars that they can recommend.”
He added: “Speak about this [travel] industry with passion; it does not put employers off.

“Your passion about the industry will spark a conversation that will lead to common ground.

“Write about it, blog about it, do something creative. Talk about the success you had and how you added to the business.”

‘Tourism is a Force for Good – We’re Not Victims or Villains’

The travel and tourism sector must show how it can help economies to rebuild – and stop being seen as victims or villains, say industry bosses.

The sector must demonstrate its importance in destinations around the world, which are threatened by instability because of job losses and sustainability concerns.

That was the message from WTM Virtual, during a session called Travel Future: Balancing Risk & Restoring Confidence.

Talking about the importance of a sustainable future, Luis Araujo, President of Turismo de Portugal, said: “We need to stop being seen as victims or villains.

“The only way to change this is to understand tourism is a force for good. If not, we will lose jobs and there will be social instability.

“I hope tourism will be seen as force for the economy and help solve problems.”

John de Vial, Director of Membership and Financial Services at ABTA, commented:

“Sustainable development can go hand in hand with consumer demand. We can help the recovery of destination communities around the world.”

He pointed to ABTA’s new ‘Tourism for Good’ report and its Travelife sustainability certification scheme as examples of how the sector is helping destinations.

Panellists agreed that collaboration between public and private sectors, as well as governments around the world, was vital to develop consumer confidence and open up international travel.

Alan French, UK CEO at Thomas Cook, said: “Consumer confidence underpins everything but there is no single silver bullet.”

He said it was vital that consumers can trust they will be refunded if holiday plans need to change – and there must be coordinated agreements between countries about testing programmes.

One country held up as a good example is Singapore.

Carrie Kwik, Europe Executive Director at Singapore Tourism Board, said private and public collaboration has been key in developing health protocols, contact tracing, widespread testing and a nationwide accreditation scheme for businesses.

The panellists agreed that technology used during the pandemic, such as virtual and augmented reality, will remain important in marketing and product development.

Kwik said the success of online events may mean that hybrid events may prove a long-term feature in the future – and more digital nomads will choose to spend longer periods working overseas.

French forecast fewer two-week sunshine holidays as people increasingly opt for more , TUIexperiential breaks, and de Vial said: “We’ve learnt how to work from home; that’s a game changer for combining travel and life.”

Araujo concluded: “This is the moment to prepare for the future…but the big concern is a lack of coordination and cooperation. “Our biggest competition is not our neighbouring countries; it is fear; we fight fear with clear coordination from all sectors.”

UK travel trade sees green shoots of recovery

Agents and operators in the UK are optimistic about a recovery next year, especially for cruise and beach holidays.

Talking at WTM Virtual, industry bosses said they were boosted by news of a vaccine for Covid-19 and the buoyant demand for 2021 and 2022.

Miles Morgan, Managing Director at agency chain Miles Morgan Travel, said: “I am more upbeat than I have been since March; I see green shoots of the industry getting back on its feet again.

“We’re all really lucky as we don’t have an issue with demand. Demand will be higher than ever.

“As soon as a vaccine properly gets the green light, demand will go up.”

Richard Sofer, Commercial and Business Development Director at TUI UK & Ireland, added: “The great news is bookings for next year are positive; people who have not holidayed this year have mostly transferred to next year.”

Lisa Fitzell, Managing Director of Elegant Resorts, said the luxury operator had seen a boost for late bookings to destinations that don’t require travellers to quarantine on their return.

Morgan said his agents were urging customers to book now as prices look set to rise once the vaccine gets the go-ahead.

But Sofer said the UK travel industry is “hugely competitive” so prices will still be “keen”.

Session moderator Daniel Pearce, Chief Executive at TTG Media Limited, said his company had been tracking sales and inquiries at travel agencies since the start of the pandemic.

The favoured destinations were the Caribbean, Spain, Greece and the UK, while beach breaks, weddings, honeymoons and cruises were proving popular holiday types Morgan commented: “Our recovery in sales has been led by cruise. The cruise industry, led by CLIA [Cruise Lines International Association], has done an exceptional job and that will build back trust in cruise.”

Sofer agreed, praising the cruising health protocols that have been developed.

“You get the feeling of how safe an operation those cruise ships will be,” he said, adding that he thinks the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office is close to lifting its blanket ban on ocean cruises.

Fitzell said the most popular holiday type for her clients was luxury beach, in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

She forecast that tailormade tours in Asia and Australasia will take longer to come back.

Morgan urged the trade to look at the Covid crisis as an opportunity to highlight the value and security of booking with travel agents.

“Some people have done the two ‘H’s – hibernated and hoped. That is a sure-fire recipe for disaster,” he said.

“You still have to be proactive and on the front foot.”

Build Back Better for Animals Together

Tour operators and Destination Management Organisations, as stakeholders in destination stability and economic wellbeing, are repeatedly asked to act towards ensuring animal welfare and public health.

The panel Build Back Better for Animals Together sponsored by Four Paws highlighted the importance of taking actions that consider community needs and concerns. In some regions, millions of dogs and cats are stolen or farmed for meat every year.

The session advocated the importance of collaboration between corporates, NGOs, and communities to bring about meaningful change for all.

The moderator Daniel Turner from ANIMONDIAL asked “Dogs and cats are eaten in some regions, when chickens and cows are eaten in others. Why should dogs and cats matter?”

And Katherine Polak, Head of Stray Animal Care SEA, Four Paws said:

“In this case, this is a trade that is brought with illegality in terms of the death of the animals. These animals are kept in captives and this is a public health risk. The way we eradicate rabies is though dog vaccination. Some trades are selling animals with rabies putting everybody at risk – the trafficker, consumer, dog handler, etc. This is a massive issue.”


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