Travel Execs Address Marketing in a Recession

The Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) held a luncheon and marketing forum Monday at the Yale Club in New York City, featuring a panel of industry players that addressed the challenges of doing business in the nation’s current recession.


At the ATME luncheon in New York (from left to right), Joanne Smith, Delta Air Lines; Marc Kazlauskas, Insight Vacations; Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International; Frank Camacho, Hertz Corp.; Shirley Tafoya,; and Gary Sain, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Members of the panel included Joanne Smith, senior vice president, in-flight services & global product development, Delta Air Lines; Marc Kazlauskas, president, Insight Vacations; Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, Royal Caribbean International; Frank Camacho, staff vice president, marketing, Hertz Corp.; Shirley Tafoya, senior vice president of sales,; and Gary Sain, president, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The panel was moderated by Joel Chusid, ATME chairman and general manager, North America, of Hainan Airlines.

Chusid opened the discussion by asking the panelists to compare the current recession to the aftermath of 9/11. Freed noted that “the emotions are quite different. After 9/11, the emotion was fear; now it’s guilt about taking a vacation.” With so many people unemployed or on the brink, Freed said that people are having difficulty reconciling their own vacations with what’s happening in the economy. “In fact, there isn’t a better time to take a vacation. People are more stressed than ever,” she said. “Agents should help relieve their clients’ guilt, and remind them that it’s okay to take that trip.”

Kazlauskas has seen an increase in trading down among travelers from luxury to mass-market. “Everybody’s looking for the best price,” he said. “They’re calling agents and asking for trips that cost the least amount of money.”

Freed added that she sees many cruise travelers trading down from high-end luxury products to the highest-level Royal Caribbean trips.

One of the trends all the panelists are seeing is more family/multi-generational travel. Sain noted that this segment typically makes up nearly half of visitors to Orlando and he expects an increase this year. “These are stressful times, and families want to get away,” he said.  He pointed to the excellent deals being offered by Disney as an example of marketing to this group.

Hertz’s Camacho observed that there is much more last-minute decision making regarding trips, as well as a trend toward shorter trips over long weekends. “People are concerned about being away from work all week,” he said.

Kazlauskas also noted the tightening of booking times. “People are now looking to book two to four weeks from now, as opposed to six to eight weeks,” he said.

Camacho pointed out that the shorter booking cycles have forced suppliers to reexamine their marketing strategies. “We have to create marketing communications that are more timely,” he said, as opposed to print campaigns that demand a close date four to six weeks out. “There is more online marketing, and newspapers, media that can allow us to change our message in a shorter period of time.”