2011 saw the travel industry rising to the challenge of coping with unexpected disasters, from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the violence in Mexico to the flooding in Italy and Thailand. Here’s a look at our top stories of the year, based both on total traffic and feedback from our readers.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan affected markets across the Pacific, including Hawaii, where the Hawaii Tourism Authority launched plans to shore up visitors from other major markets. We invited our readers to share client experiences of the disaster, and by year’s end Japan’s tourism was recovering faster than expected- maybe in part due to the country’s campaign to offer 10,000 free flights in October.
In August Mauricio Reyna, deputy secretary of tourism for Mexico City, and Luis Eduardo Ros, director general of Mexico City’s Institute of Tourism Promotion spoke with Travel Agent regarding the challenges the city faced in promoting itself in the wake of recent high-profile violence. While the majority of the violence in Mexico took place far from tourist areas, the year did see the country struggling to define itself in the face of its effects. During our exclusive coverage of Luxury Travel Expo, tour operators admitted that selling Mexico had become challenging, but pointed toward signs of recovery. Travel Agent spoke with Mexico tourism officials throughout the year- in September, we spoke with the COO of the Mexico Tourism Board regarding the tragic arson in a casino in Monterrey, and he talked about efforts to improve the police force and new safety initiatives. One month later, Monterrey launched a new public relations campaign to clean up its image in the wake of the attack. Travel Agent also convened a panel of experts from Acapulco who added their own thoughts on the challenges facing the country.
When flooding struck the five World Heritage-listed villages in the Cinque Terre, numerous organizations such as Save Vernazza pulled together to help affected residents, as Rick Steves reported in his follow-up blog.
Our annual story on the top leaders in the travel agent world continued to generate interest, and our 35 Under 30- so named because the strong candidates made it impossible to pick just 30- bodes well for the future.
When violent storms struck Florida, the Carnival Pride’s departure was delayed for several hours after it was blown away from the dock.
This story offered agents a reminder of the power of celebrity in influence’s clients’ travel habits when episodes from “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” highlighted the island destination.
Positive news for Mexico when global investigative and security firm Thomas Dale & Associates released a study concluding that Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest tourist destinations for international and national tourists.
Cruise travel agents continued to look ahead to 2012 when Royal Caribbean announced several new itineraries for Alaska.
New Department of Transportation (DOT) rules governing airline fee advertising posed new challenges for travel agents, and this issue is likely to remain important in 2012, as George Dooley argued in today’s editorial column.
Reader’s Pick: Flooding in Thailand
When we asked our readers about the most important travel stories of the year, they chose the flooding in Thailand, and several agents shared stories of the country’s recovery on our Facebook page.
Steph Shaw-Gregory of King’s House of Travel said, “I had a client who went the week after…it was fine aside from some water in some of the streets.”
“We have a fan who just returned, “ said DepartNYC. “Said he had very little problems. His pictures look fantastic. :)”
Frank Are Munkvold, managing director at bangkokbeyond.com, said, “We have our base in Bangkok. It is totally safe [to] come. There is still some water in outlying parts and south of the city but those areas are easily avoided. Dream World and a couple of attractions are still closed for repairs, otherwise everything is running normally.”
In early November the Tourism Authority of Thailand released a statement assuring visitors that the vast majority of attractions are open for business.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com in 2012 for the latest breaking news, deals and stories. What would you like to see from us in the coming year? We’d love to hear your feedback on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TravelAgentMagazine or on Twitter @TravelAgentMag