Airlines & Airports
Grappling With Volatility
[PHOTOCAPTIONPHOTO: Terror events around the world have thoroughly impacted European travel bookings for places such as Mykonos, pictured above. (photo by Claudette Covey) [/PHOTOCAPTION]
As vice president of marketing for the Globus Family of Brands, Steve Born oversees the promotion of the company’s wide range of products, including Globus, Cosmos, Avalon Waterways and Monograms. We sat down with Born to discuss such topics as how terror events in Paris and Brussels have impacted business and how agents can be successful in a volatile travel climate.
How are recent world events impacting Globus companies?
This year has been unlike any other both in terms of booking periods and the destination mix. When all is said and done, 2016 is ending up looking a lot like 2015 in terms of volume.
But the way it’s shaping up is unique. The year got off to a really good start for early sales last summer. We were bolstered by pent-up demand for Europe. Then things started to slow down in the fall. After [the events in] Paris hit in November, we had an extremely quiet period through December. We were starting to see some rebound in January. Then after the [events in] Brussels there was another lull.
It was just a reminder that there are some concerns about traveling to Europe, a “what next” kind of attitude. Then we started to see another lift in May. Overall, with those ups and downs, it’s a much different pattern than we’ve seen in the past. And the destination mix has also changed.
In what ways has the destination mix changed?
There’s been a lot of growth outside of Europe. We’re doing really well in North America. Overall, our North American tours are up over 20 percent year over year. That’s helping to offset some of the ups and downs we’re seeing in Europe. And the exotics are doing really well. The caveat is that South America was doing well for us, but the effect of Zika was surprising. Originally we were hearing that it was primarily affecting Caribbean all-inclusives and cruises. But it turned out to be anything south of the border. We’re doing really well in Asia, Africa and the South Pacific.
What’s the impact on business going forward?
Travelers are super smart, especially in a market like ours. They are very connected to the various offers. It didn’t take long for them to realize that there is no [negative] consequence in waiting. There are better offers that come up. They’re in full control of that.
So looking at 2016 and how unpredictable it has been, I think we are seeing signs of how things will be for years on out. This could be [the start of] a 20-year stretch when the dynamic of travel is completely consumer-driven by the baby boomers. Traditional cycles won’t dictate what they do and how they do it.
What recommendations would you offer travel agents on how to deal with today’s travel uncertainties?
It’s about maintaining consistent contact with clients and the right connection in terms of your product offering to get them to act. What agents can do about today’s volatility has nothing to do with generational stereotypes. Every human being appreciates the experienced support. If you have plumbing issues, you want the [assistance] of a qualified expert – because if you get it wrong there could be consequences.
When you consider the amount of travel information a person has to wade through, the need for an agent is greater than ever. Today you must not just be a travel specialist but a marketer as well. Agents need to be the ones to initiate that contact with their clients. It can be social media. It can be picking up the phone.
The boomers are ready to go. They are just waiting for someone to be the spark, to reach out and say, “This is what you need to do.”
More by David Cogswell
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A version of this article appears in print in the July 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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