representative articles and video
Educating consumers to the "safer" side of travel.
Traveling Beyond Crisis
By Linda Kundell
travel business has rebounded nicely from `03, a year that could be aptly
dubbed "The Year of Travel Crises." Topics, such as SARS, the economic downturn
and terrorism, are taking a back seat in `04. Even the Madrid terror attack
earlier this year had little effect on U.S. tourism to Spain and to Europe
Aside from an occasional
reporter inquiry about travel insurance, it's more back to business as usual.
For the first time since 9/11, tour operators and vacation packagers are
looking to grow their businesses. That optimism is confirmed by results from
an informal survey conducted for client, United States Tour Operators Assn.
Forty-two percent of respondents expect overall `04 sales to increase by
more than 25 percent.
The Association's membership, whose companies provide vacations for more than
10 million people annually, provides a good barometer of where industry trends
Europe placed first as the hottest area for international tours and packages, with respondents saying sales to Western Europe this year will increase by more than 25 percent over last year. Italy is the clear winner. Thirty percent of respondents - more than any other single destination - chose the country as the hottest place for vacation packages and tours.
Domestically, Alaska came in as the No. 1 destination, chosen by 23 percent
of respondents, with the American Southwest following, at 11 percent. According
to the USTOA companies, the hottest up-and-coming destinations are Eastern
Europe, and South Africa. For travelers looking where their dollar will go
the farthest, the U.S. and New Zealand were cited as best values.
Perhaps in response to the rising value of the euro, Central and Eastern Europe
is expected to realize the strongest sales growth in packaged travel (tours
and vacation packages). More than 50% of USTOA respondents predicted a dramatic
50% jump in sales to this area, which is still perceived as a good value.
Independent travel leads the way
In terms of the way people are traveling, independent vacations and packages are expected to realize the greatest gains, with 43 percent of respondents expecting sales increases of more than 25 percent.
Another healthy growth area is the combination cruise and tour--with 58 percent
of USTOA respondents saying cruise tours will increase by anywhere from five
to 25 percent. Fifty percent of those polled predicted that sales of escorted
tours will increase by 10 - 25 percent and two-thirds see sales from niche
travel increasing anywhere from 5 to 25 percent.
As for the hottest growing demographic group for independent vacations, Baby
Boomers were the overwhelming majority, with 70 percent of respondents citing
this group. Another 30 percent see families as the hottest group for independent
Value beats price
People want to get their money's worth. When asked what the fastest growing segment price-wise is, 62 percent of USTOA respondents chose value for the dollar; and, surprisingly, 27 percent see luxury travel as the next in line for highest growth.
PR practitioners can leverage
these findings by focusing on media that reach the Baby Boomer and family
markets. And, while we see a trend toward reporters targeting "discounted" travel
- a media trend in large part driven by the airlines and internet travel
agencies - recent discussions with reporters indicate that, if you can show
value for the dollar at almost any price level, reporters are receptive.
As seen in O'Dwyers PR Services Report
August 24, 2004
I received a phone call recently from a frustrated, well-known reporter who
was writing a story about vacations for a national magazine. He was getting
the runaround by some company officials, who also treated him with suspicion.
Prompted by his call, I thought it might be helpful to share some public relations
hints to help agencies achieve the best results with the media.
• Identify the Call. Know
the difference between an ad salesperson and a reporter. Your operator and
staff can quickly identify a caller by asking, “Is
this a press or advertising inquiry?”
• Communicate. Designate
a press representative and inform your entire staff, especially your telephone
operator and anyone relieving him or her. In larger organizations, each branch
should know where to refer a press call—to headquarters, a local
staff person or your public relations agency.
• Forward E-Mails. Leave a forwarding e-mail address. Reporters
are increasingly relying on e-mail for communication. Don't lose an opportunity
for coverage because your public relations contact is away or on vacation.
An out-of-office e-mail reply is useless to a reporter unless you provide an
e-mail address for a pinch hitter who can handle press queries in your absence.
• Be Honest. We're all human, and business brings us good
and bad days. By owning up to a mistake or a negative, you will win a reporter's
trust and goodwill. In the long run, it can result in lots of positive coverage.
• Be Accessible. While your public relations department or
representative should be the first line of communication, your top executives
should be easily accessible for comments and interviews.
• Be Timely. Reporters often work on tight deadlines. Responding
promptly to a reporter's call will help you get more coverage in the long run.
-- Linda R. Kundell, Kundell Communications
Linda Kundell's New York-based
firm, Kundell Communications, recently launched a "We're There For You" campaign
for the United States Tour Operators Assn. (USTOA) to encourage travel with
tour operators and vacation packagers in the aftermath of the Iraq War and
Kundell used radio PSAs to drive home the point that tour operators serve
as an advocate for travelers if something happens while they are away.
Kundell pointed out the extraordinary lengths tour operators went to in order
to help travelers immediately following 9/11.
Last summer's floods in Europe were also used to show how tour operators jump
into action to help travelers.
KC worked with a team of psychologists to develop the Travel Comfort and Vacation
Personality Quiz for the USTOA website at www.ustoa.com.
Kundell said a dozen drafts were necessary to finalize the quiz, but
it is not a clinical test even though psychologists were used.
"We're always looking for creative ways to make people want to
travel," Kundell said.
Kundell explained that tour operators have been promoting their services
as the best way to obtain the lowest fares on the fewer and fewer airline
seats available from the airlines.
Offers to fly companions for free and inexpensive price leader trips
to Europe and abroad are being used to lure travelers, according to Kundell.
"People don't realize how much money can be saved by buying package trips," Kundell
more information on O'Dwyer P.R. Services, visit O'DwyerPR.com.
Kundell Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.