To paraphrase Brian Friel, “Philadelphia Here I Come”. The ITAA did just that as they selected this iconic historical city for their 2018 Conference with the theme of the landscape of travel trends within the USA and Europe. The 105 delegates comprised travel agents, tour operators, airlines, car hire companies, bed banks, cruise lines, and airports.
The Business Sessions had an interesting panel of industry experts providing some trends and developments, some of which are already on their way across the North Atlantic.
Perhaps the most relevant presentation was from Genevieve Strand, Senior Advocacy, American Society of Travel Advisers (ASTA). ASTA has 10,500 members who book 83% of sales made through a travel agency, they sell 66% of all tours worth US$13 billion. They also sell 68% of all cruises worth $11 billion, 53% of all air travel worth $86 billion, 24% of hotel sales worth $33 billion, and 31% of car rentals worth $5 billion.
Perhaps the most emerging trend that Irish agents learned was that 63% of all bookings in 2003 were made in a retail agency location, but by 2016 this has figure had dropped to 35%, while home-based agent bookings have increased from 7% to 44% over the same period.
Genevieve went to say that sales by ASTA members for domestic travel versus international trips in 2011 were 45% and 55% respectively, and are now 37% and 63%. These figures are borne out for overseas trips, which were 26 million in 2004 and have grown to 38 million in 2017. Average nights spent abroad were 16.6 with a spend per person of $3,965.
Changes in perceptions,priorities and expectations are now high on the traveller’s list: they are seeking experienced and social aspects of travel from their adviser and not just in making bookings. Agents have got to understand the motives, preferences and the budget of their potential and existing customers.
ASTA has carried out extensive consumer research to come up with the best term or description for a travel agent. They narrowed the list down to nine different descriptions and then categorised them into strong, moderate and poor. Following on from this exercise, they have selected ‘travel advisor’ – and hence they have changed their name to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).
“I don’t do things in moderation” – Eoghan Corry, on his role as the conference business sessions moderator
“Travel transcends politics. The key factor driving inward tourism, which was never down – in fact it was up, is the $ exchange rate.” – Chris Thompson, President and Chief Executive, Brand USA
“Philadelphia had 14,000 Irish visitors to the city, with more than 18,000 bednights and generating $12.4 million economic input.” – Julie Coker Graham, President and Chief Executive, Philadelphia CVB
“The Philadelphia Convention Centre is planning a $789 million expansion.” – John McNichol (whose roots are from Derry), President & Chief Executive, Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority.
“An airline ticket through Travelport has a value of three times to one sold on an airline website.” – Simon Ferguson, President and Managing Director of Americas, Travelport