John Devereux, General Manager of American Holidays, has been elected as President of the Irish Tour Operators Federation at their annual meeting in Alicante, Spain.He told Irish Travel Trade News: “The principal function of the Irish Tour Operators Federation is to speak with one voice for the tour operation industry, such as on issues like the volcanic ash cloud and VAT.
“The biggest issue currently is the level of bonding and the fact that dynamic packaging sites and airlines are not covered by the legislation and bonding requirements. Tour operators and travel agents have a common cause here. ITOF made an eight-page submission to the Department and we will keep lobbying for change.”
Outgoing ITOF President Philip Airey of Sunway said: “Competition has never been stronger for Irish tour operators and, in a stagnant market where sales for 2013 are forecast to be at the same level as 2012, operators must strive to exceed expectations with their customers in order to gain market share.
“Unlike many global bedbank portals, tour operators invest in their product range by researching their destinations, carrying out site inspections on an ongoing basis and ensuring that standards are maintained in all properties. They also have a direct relationship with the hoteliers, often block booking rooms or even entire hotels on a year-round basis.
“It is this re-assurance that our customers want and only operators who continue to invest in this product development will hold or gain market share in these tough trading conditions.
“It’s not just about offering thousands of different hotels to pick from thumbnail pictures, it’s a selection and recommendation process. I think most people want some guidance and a comfort factor when investing in their holiday.
“As tour operators we own our holidays. If there is an issue we can deal with it on the ground because we have representatives on hand, we have a duty of care to our clients, and we want them back next year.
“People also need to ensure that they are comparing like with like, from room type and baggage charges to transfer costs – and not to forget that all ITOF members are fully bonded and licensed.”
ITOF members account for 90% of all outbound packaged holidays and the organisation represents the major tour operators in Ireland: American Holidays, Crystal Holidays, Falcon/Thomson Holidays, Sunway Holidays, Thomas Cook Holidays, and Topflight.