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 »
More than once during the early days of the COVID lockdown, I heard someone make reference to Anne Frank. The significance was obvious. As we Americans, who are so accustomed to being free, had to hole up inside our homes to save our lives, it gave us a window of insight into what it must have been like for a 13-year old Jewish girl. A girl whose family had to hide out in an attic apartment for two years to avoid being dragged off to a concentration camp where they would most likely be killed.
The implications were that, as strange and difficult as was what we were going through with the COVID lockdown, what Anne Frank’s family went through was immeasurably worse. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been six months since March, when the Coronavirus came down hard and much of America went into lockdown. Doctors and epidemiologists have had millions of cases to observe and analyze, and a consensus has developed about how to stop the spread of the virus. Along with it, people have learned how to protect themselves, and strategies are emerging for how to travel safely in a world in which the Coronavirus is present.
Even during the days of the strictest protocols, people were allowed to avail themselves of “essential services,” such as going to the grocery store. Early on, it became clear that the most effective means for stopping the spread were wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. Wearing masks is at the top of the list and the most important. Read the rest of this entry »
I saw a Facebook post the other day of a story originally posted on LinkedIn entitled “NYC IS DEAD FOREVER. HERE’S WHY.”
The article went viral and was republished in the New York Post. There was some credibility to the statement, because the pandemic and the resulting economic dislocation has been catastrophic for New York. Besides the economic disaster, the widespread death and social disruption has taken a deep toll the costs of which over the coming years can never be calculated. Read the rest of this entry »
Rwanda recently became one of the few countries in the world that has opened its doors to the abandoned American traveler.
As of Aug. 1, Rwanda is accepting visitors on commercial flights – as long as they have a certificate showing they tested negative for COVID-19 in a SARS-CoV 2 Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test that has been administered within the previous five days.
In addition to that, Rwanda recently received the global safety and hygiene stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), certifying that it has successfully adopted the global standardized health and hygiene protocols of the WTTC for dealing with COVID19. The protocols have been formulated based on the experience of WTTC members as well as on guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read the rest of this entry »
When COVID-19 came down hard and fast in March, it looked like it could be the end for tour operators. Few could look confidently at being able to survive a year or more out of business while the world waited for the development of a vaccine – that may or may not ever happen.
But, gradually, the leading operators are learning how to adapt and move forward in a world where the Coronavirus is likely to be with us for a long time.
One of them is Alexander + Roberts. The Keene, NH-based tour operator is a survivor. With its history dating back to 1947, when it was founded in New York City as General Tours, it has endured countless disasters and problems that crippled the travel industry. Read the rest of this entry »
UnCruise Adventures, an operator of small-ship cruises, had a passenger who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Juneau airport and it forced the company to cancel the cruise four days into it, and then to cancel its whole season, including four more Alaska cruises that were scheduled to take place over 10 weeks this summer.
The incident cost UnCruise Adventures millions of dollars and deprived many people of their planned trips. And it’s still not possible to say for sure if the passenger was really infected. Read the rest of this entry »
In the Age of COVID, the world in which nearly all countries competed fiercely for the American tourist dollar is a fading memory, and today there is a relatively small list of destinations that welcome Americans.
Sad as it may be for Americans to give up the throne of favored tourism demographic, being unwelcome is a minor problem compared to the possibility of catching the deadly disease. In terms of both of these issues, and some others besides, Africa emerges as a strong possibility when considering venturing out again after months of sheltering to avoid COVID. Read the rest of this entry »
Since March, when American tour operators and wholesalers were hit with an immediate and, practically, total cut-off of business, they have been scrambling to hold onto what they could and trying to prepare for a resumption of business when travel opens again for Americans.
When that opening would come, no one could say for sure. The rush to reopen led to a skyrocketing of COVID cases that created another setback as the European Union closed its doors to American travelers, forcing operators to scrap much of their planning and start over again. After the second hit, consumer confidence in travel plummeted further and prospective travelers became even more cautious about resuming travel. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s hard not to be political these days. Historically, travel business journals have tried to steer clear of politics, saying it’s just about business. It’s difficult to do that now.
It was Pericles, the longest-lasting leader of the Golden Age of Athenian democracy around 400 BC, who said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Indeed, somehow politics has found its way into the issue of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. Read the rest of this entry »