The year 2020 was supposed to be Tauck’s banner year, its 95th Anniversary. The tour operator was founded by young Arthur Tauck Senior in 1925, when he put an ad in a New Jersey newspaper saying, “All I want is a congenial party…” and offered to take guests along with him as he drove around New England trying to sell banks on a coin tray he had invented that mechanically automated the counting process.
But in 2020 one nasty little virus stole the show, and Tauck’s 95th Anniversary didn’t get much attention. Flash forward to 2021, there are signs of hope in the struggle against COVID-19. And as that hope trickles day-by-day into the marketplace, Tauck is hearing the phone ring more than it has in a long time. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, ASTA put out a statement that was a distress call to everyone within range of its voice to recognize the dire state of one of America’s most endeared industries, to get the word to legislators that help must be included in the rescue bill now being run through legislative procedures. Otherwise, America could lose its retail travel industry.
So I am doing my bit to pass on the word, because America without its travel advisors would be a much gloomier place indeed. It would be like the transformation of Bedford Falls to Pottersville in It’s a Wonderful Life. That would not be a world many of us would want to live in. Read the rest of this entry »
I received an email in response to an article I wrote recently about the U.S. Tour Operators Association from a former head of a USTOA tour operator. He pointed out that my review of the history of USTOA’s $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program left out an important chapter of the story. And he had a point.
He was referring to the story of the Far & Wide Travel Corporation. It was an important chapter in the history of the tour operator segment of the travel industry.
But there was some logic to skating over that episode in a short summary, because Far & Wide was a big story in itself, one that could fill many pages. It would be challenging to do it justice in one column. The Far & Wide bankruptcy in late 2003 was a catastrophe. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been a year that has forced innovation. The time of COVID will go down as the most challenging period ever for the travel industry. The restrictions on travel imposed by the virus are appalling. For the travel industry it’s hard to imagine a worse scenario but, no, let’s not tempt the fates.
The big question for the travel industry has been, how do you survive when travel itself is practically curtailed? The methods by which the individual companies have coped with this nearly impossible situation have been nothing short of heroic. And, we are still in it. It’s an ongoing drama with many heroes and heroines.
Delta Vacations, the wholly owned subsidiary that serves as the vacation packaging arm of the airline, is taking steps to reduce risk and increase traveler confidence. It is adapting its service for the needs of an extraordinarily difficult time. Read the rest of this entry »
I was having a conversation with a tour operator the other day who said this: “How many businesses can go a year with no income and still be on their feet?”
It’s a great question, at the moment a great unknown quantity. Then he followed with what seemed like a reasonable conclusion.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting down a deposit with any tour operator right now.”
I had to admit, he had a point. There’s so much uncertainty now. After such a disastrous year, it’s almost like we’re waiting for the shoes upstairs to start falling.
Yeah, it’s a little scary when you try to put your head around the economic duress out there across America, all the businesses that have had to shut down operations, or at the least radically transform their operations. Read the rest of this entry »
Every president has an era named after him. So powerful is the influence of the office, and so greatly does a president dominate the news and set the character of the period, that it’s always hard to imagine how the world will change when the next president takes office.
Perhaps that’s why we have the three-month period of transition when we can start to get used to the idea of America under the next president. But now we’re at the week of the actual transition when we will cross that cusp from one era to the next. It’s hard to predict the many ways the world will change, or particularly the ways the change will affect travel. However, there are a few things we can reasonably expect. Read the rest of this entry »
COVID-19 is one of the deadliest natural disasters the world has ever seen. Scientists who study pandemics say COVID, SARS, ebola and avian flu are consequences of human incursion into animal habitats.
Rob Jordan, of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, explained in the Stanford News, “Viruses that jump from animals to people, like the one responsible for COVID-19, will likely become more common as people continue to transform natural habitats into agricultural land.”
If we ever thought of sustainable travel as an altruistic impulse, we now know better. Sustainability is a matter of self-preservation Read the rest of this entry »
Monday came down like a ton of bricks. January 4 was the Mother of All Mondays. It was the first Monday and the first business day of 2021, the year that finally assigns the disastrous 2020 to history and the rearview mirror forever.
After the brief holiday respite, when the New Year’s reveling dies down and the weekend winds to a close, I always feel like I’ve been thrown headlong into the New Year and find myself suddenly well into January. Never more than this year.
Back to serious business, and some grim realities lingering from 2020. COVID has made clear that it doesn’t respect boundaries, and that includes the boundary between 2020 and 2021.
But there are good signs: 2021 is going to be a good year. That’s my prediction. There are many reasons to believe this. Read the rest of this entry »
Kaz Brown of Intrepid Travel says Jordan is one of the global adventure tour operator’s top destinations, and climbing toward the top of the list.
“Jordan is in the top 10 in the US and Canada,” said Kaz, a partnership growth manager, who recently led an online discussion about Jordan. That’s out of more than 100 countries that Intrepid offers tours.
“But in the last couple of months,” she said, “it’s in the top five destinations people are booking to.”
You might well ask: Why this sudden surge of interest in Jordan? Read the rest of this entry »
South African Tourism, the country’s national tourism marketing agency, is making a strong case for South Africa as the ideal destination for your first post-lockdown trip.
Travel to South Africa became possible again on Nov. 11, when South Africa opened its borders to all travelers, with safety requirements for entering the country. All entrants must show proof of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID test within 72 hours from the date of departure from their country.
It was welcome news on both sides of the Atlantic. “South Africa’s borders are now open to international leisure and business travelers,” said Jerry Mpufane, president of the North America Hub of South African Tourism. “When North Americans are ready to travel, our wide-open spaces and friendly people will be ready to warmly welcome them Read the rest of this entry »
Perillo Tours has had a quiet year. As a specialist in travel to Italy for three generations, the company was paying close attention when Italy became the first country outside of Asia to get hit hard with COVID-19. The devastation in Italy was terrifying, and one of the early windows into what was coming to America.
Steve Perillo, president and CEO of Perillo Tours, realized early on that he was going to be forced to cancel some tours. No one knew how long the siege would go on. It just kept getting worse.
“On March 1, we canceled to May 1,” he told me. “On May 1, we canceled to July 1. On July 1, we canceled August. On August 1, we canceled September and October. On September 1, we canceled the balance of the year Read the rest of this entry »
I have attended the United States Tour Operators Association’s Annual Conference and Marketplace every year since the mid-‘90s. This is the first time since then that I have not closed out the year with a warm gathering of friendly people, in some beautiful hotel in a delightful location, with a concentrated schedule of events designed to promote productive engagement among diverse players in the travel industry from around the world. It is a highlight of the year.
It’s not a huge conference. It’s fewer than a thousand people, but it’s one of the most diverse gatherings of people I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. And they are high quality people from all over the world. The companies and organizations send some of their best people to that conference.
The attendance is based around the core membership of the association, its Active Members. Read the rest of this entry »
Everything changes with COVID. In the biggest whack the world economy ever took, millions of businesses were knocked flat, with their revenues cut off cold, just hoping to hang on to survive the storm. So, it was good to speak to Jeff Roy, the executive vice president of Collette, the century old tour operator of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and hear him say, “It’s going really well. We’re happy with it.”
Some context here. Obviously, Collette, a major tour operator that takes thousands of people a year to seven continents, took a serious blow this year. There was no way it could continue its normal operations.
Like nearly all tour operators Collette had to curtail virtually all travel when COVID hit last March, just as the heavy summer travel season was emerging on the horizon. Even now there are few international doors open to American travelers.
So, Collette’s good news is in that context. Read the rest of this entry »
Austin Adventures, the Billings, Montana-based adventure tour operator, acquired Wildland Adventures, a 36-year old company based in Seattle. To ensure a smooth transition, Wildland Adventures CEO Kurt Kutay will stay with the combined company for “the foreseeable future,” working on quality control and product development.
The happy ending of this story is that the acquisition will keep Wildland Adventures going after hitting a rough patch in 2020 that threatened to bring the company down for the count. And, in addition to that, this move also keeps the prime mover of Wildland involved in the company’s operations as it evolves through what can only be called a catastrophe for the travel industry. That’s as close to stability as can be hoped for in the Age of COVID. No company is going to come out of 2020 the same as it went in. Read the rest of this entry »
Perillo Tours spun off its Learning Journeys division, which will now go forward independently under the direction of its founder Carol Dimopoulos.
The separation was effective Nov. 1. As a newly independent business, Learning Journeys will lose its affiliation with the U.S. Tour Operators Association and will no longer be a participant in the association’s $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program.
Perillo Tours has been a member since 2014 and continues its membership now. Dimopoulos says she intends to re-join USTOA next year as Learning Journeys. Tour operators who join USTOA as an active member must post a $1 million bond, which is in effect the collateral behind the USTOA $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program. Read the rest of this entry »
Under the extreme duress presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, American Tours International (ATI) is offering one viable avenue for travel advisors to get back into business after the pandemic-induced paralysis of the industry.
American Tours International is a 43-year old company that specializes in tours and travel in North America. The company has built a formidable business over the decades, providing tours of America to visitors from abroad. Now its expertise is greatly needed as Americans turn inward to explore their own home continent.
With so many countries keeping Americans out right now, travel advisors with strong survival instincts are turning toward whatever travel that is still possible. And the most obvious destination that is still open is – the United States of America.
And you know what? It’s a great destination! People from all over the world want to come to see America. Now it awaits discovery by its own people. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the many side effects of COVID on the travel industry is that the loss of revenue from tourists is causing trouble in places where the economy relies to some extent on tourism dollars.
The chain reactions set off by the cessation of a stream of income can have devastating effects on the lives of people all along those economic chains.
One of the areas where the loss of tourism revenue has particularly devastating effects is conservation in Africa. We are at a unique time in history where many of the world’s most magnificent species of animals are on the verge of extinction. A significant part of the efforts being made to protect them is funded by tourism companies. Read the rest of this entry »
The COVID pandemic has put the kibosh on in-person conferences, and forced trade associations to devise some sort of virtual event as a replacement. So where does that leave the U.S. Tour Operators Association, whose Annual Conference & Marketplace has been its number one attraction since soon after the association was founded in 1972?
In surveys of USTOA’s membership, its annual conference always comes in on top, hands down, as the most valued service the association provides its membership.
The annual meeting creates an opportunity for the association’s active member tour operators to have invaluable face-to-face meetings with associate members Read the rest of this entry »
A few months ago the virus had the world hogtied, with people justly frightened of a deadly invisible enemy we knew almost nothing about. But as more is being learned about the disease, people in all walks of life are learning about ways to navigate safely through a world menaced by COVID, to begin to resume some semblance of what was previously called normal life, and to get back to business.
Profound change, such as that forced on the world by COVID-19, provides opportunities for innovators who use their ingenuity to introduce new ways for people to resume some of their previous activities without increasing their risk of catching the Coronavirus. Read the rest of this entry »
The phrase “pent-up demand” used to be a metaphorical expression, now it’s a literal truth.
As ASTA moves forward with plans to sue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if it extends its no sail restriction past Oct. 31, pent-up demand for travel continues to build toward the point of eruption.
Citing the 2020 Back to Normal Barometer survey, a twice-monthly tracking study of consumer preferences that has been conducted since the start of the pandemic lockdowns last March, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby said, “Travelers are thinking and dreaming of travel like never before. The data speaks for itself. Travel remains the top priority for discretionary spending.” Read the rest of this entry »
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I would hope the government would have better things to do than to tighten the screws one more time on the right of Americans to travel to Cuba.
The travel industry has endured enough troubles in 2020 without the most recent blow, clamping down with more restrictions, further strangling the operators of travel to Cuba.
But that’s politics. It’s an election year and Cuba has always been a political football in America. So we should expect nothing different in 2020.
Since the travel industry is at a virtual standstill because of COVID, the latest changes in Cuba travel regulations will have virtually no effect on the market now. The timing is, of course, based on the election. Read the rest of this entry »