Week in Review: Record Start to 2024; Hornblower Group Receives Funding

Travel agencies are off to a record start in 2024, as Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) recently released its January air ticket sales data and found that it was the highest total for the month recorded. In all, sales totaled $8.9 billion for U.S. travel agencies—a 7 percent increase over January 2023 and a 55 percent increase over December 2023.

In addition, total passenger trips (25.6 million) were also up 7 percent compared to 2023, with domestic (+8 percent) and international (+6 percent) on the rise. The average ticket price in the month was $546, a 3 percent increase over January 2023 and a 1 percent increase over December 2023.      

January ancillary sales, according to ARC, increased 37 percent year-over-year to $27.9 million, while ancillary transactions increased 39 percent to 462,856 over the same period.

In separate news from ARC, it has fully integrated TAP Air Portugal’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) with the ARC Direct Connect program. This partnership enables TAP Air Portugal to offer richer content and detailed information through its booking platforms for travel agencies.

American Queen Voyages Ceases Operations

American Countess_American Queen Voyages
American Queen Voyages has ceased all operations as its parent company looks to sell the line. (American Queen Voyages)

American Queen Voyages this week shut down permanently. All voyages have been canceled and all employees have been terminated. According to Adam Peakes, president, Hornblower Group (owner of American Queen Voyages), the line was “unable to fully rebound from the effects of the pandemic.”

While the line was not yet sailing in 2024, several February voyages had previously been canceled by the American-flagged small-ship line. In addition, several major trade groups had dropped the line as a preferred supplier.

At nearly the same time, Hornblower Group entered into an agreement with its investors that will strengthen its financial foundation “and position Hornblower for a successful future.” Strategic Value Partners, LLC and its affiliates will acquire majority ownership of Hornblower, while Crestview Partners will retain a significant minority position and become the sole owner of Journey Beyond, a stand-alone operating unit of Hornblower. Hornblower will look to sell the American Queen Voyages product.

Outside of American Queen Voyages, Hornblower's current services will not be impacted in any way by the transaction.

In other cruise news, Larry Pimentel has left Four Seasons Yachts. Philip Levine, co-founder of Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings, joint owner and operator of Four Seasons Yachts, has departed alongside Pimentel, who was serving as president and CEO of the venture.

The cruise line is expected to debut in late 2025. The first Four Seasons Yacht will have 95 suites with terrace decks ranging from 100 square feet for the deluxe suite to nearly 5,000 square feet for the Funnel Suite. A second yacht it expected to be delivered in November 2026.

Eiffel Tower Closed Due to Worker Strikes

Eiffel Tower and Seine River in Paris
It's currently unknown when the Eiffel Tower could reopen amid personnel strikes. (Photo by saiko3p/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Ongoing personnel strikes have caused the Eiffel Tower to remain closed for a fifth consecutive day this week. The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union in France represents about 400 Eiffel Tower workers who are seeking a salary increase in proportion to the incoming revenue from ticket sales and improved maintenance of the monument. A union representative earlier this week said there was "no chance of a solution overnight" and that city officials "refuse to even meet with us."

While the Parisian landmark’s website had previously given day-by-day updates, it has now removed all mentions of dates, simply saying, "Due to a strike action of a part of the Eiffel Tower personnel, the Eiffel Tower is currently closed. Visitors with e-tickets for today are invited to check their email. We apologize for the inconvenience."

In separate strike news, Southwest Airlines and the Transport Workers Union Local (TWU) 555 reached a tentative agreement for a new labor contract. TWU 555 represents nearly 18,000 Southwest Airlines ramp, operations, provisioning and cargo agents. Since October 2022, nine Southwest work groups have ratified new agreements. Next on the list could be the airline’s flight attendant (represented by TWU Local 556), who authorized a strike earlier this year. The two sides still have time to reach an agreement in federal mediation but if nothing is agreed to, the union could request to be released into a 30-day cooling-off period, after which over 21,000 Southwest Airlines flight attendants would be free to strike.

30Under30 Nominations Now Open

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Nominations for Travel Agent's 30Under30 for 2024 are now open! You may nominate yourself or pass the word along to a qualified candidate you know.

What to know: Nominees must be 30 years old or younger as of December 31, 2024, currently work at any level as a travel consultant, have completed a significant project for his or her travel agency, and be recognized by leaders of his or her organization as an emerging leader. The deadline to be considered for the 17th edition of the program is March 1, 2024.

Please make sure to fill out the form in its entirety and don't be shy about bragging a little—it will help us make our decisions! We hope to hear from you and good luck!

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