Linda R. Kundell



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Educating consumers to the "safer" side of travel.

Traveling Beyond Crisis

By Linda Kundell

The 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 in general.

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 are heading.

Hottest destinations

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 travel.

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

Pressing Procedures

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

Promote safety

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 SARS outbreak.

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

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 said.

For more information on O'Dwyer P.R. Services, visit O'

© 2003 Kundell Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.