Week in Review: Flight Centre’s Big Moves; Cruise Interest Is Up

More than half of U.S.-based travel advisors (55 percent) reported increased sales in 2023 when compared to 2022. Of those that had better numbers, two-fifths said their sales were up 31 percent or more.  These findings come from the latest “Travel Trends & Advisor Insight Report” by Travel Agent

In this most recent survey, we also learned that:

  • The war in Gaza has not impacted many advisors’ businesses, nor has the switch to New Distribution Capability (NDC).
  • More than three-quarters of advisors reported that their clients are willing to spend up on hotel accommodations, including higher-end hotels or suites.
  • Just under three-quarters of advisors additionally reported that all-inclusive resorts are the most common request from their clients.
  • Cruise interest is up among clients who have never taken on, according to two-thirds of travel advisors.
  • Adventure/active travel, culinary tours/dining experiences and wellness treatments were the most popular on-the-ground “wants” among clients.
  • Two-thirds of advisors said they were more optimistic about the travel industry in Q4 than the previous quarter.

Flight Centre Travel Group’s Big Moves

Envoyage Logo
Envoyage will focus on luxury and corporate travel. (Photo by Flight Centre Travel Group)

Looking to consolidate its efforts in the “strong leisure and corporate growth opportunities in the large U.S. market,” Flight Centre Travel Group (FLT) announced it is closing its GOGO Vacations brand. GOGO, first founded in New Jersey in 1951, was acquired by FLT in 2007.

“Effectively, we are playing to our strengths and doubling down in our best-performing sectors and where we see exciting future growth potential,” said Flight Centre Travel Group Americas President Charlene Leiss. “We are also bringing the U.S. business into line with the leisure and corporate structures we have elsewhere in the world.”

A transition team will remain in place to service exiting GOGO bookings but the majority of staff has been let go.

At the same time, FLT announced its newest brand: Envoyage. The global brand will cater to independent travel advisors and agencies and will specialize in corporate and luxury travel.

Flight Centre Travel Group Global Leisure CEO James Kavanagh said Envoyage will allow the company to continue nurturing the huge potential they see in the independent travel space. “Independent travel has been one of the fastest growing divisions for us in recent years and the investment in our new brand signals the significant role we expect the network to play in our future business model.”

A Surge in Summer Cruise Bookings

American Eagle
American Eagle is the first of American Cruise Lines' new coastal catamarans. (American Cruise Lines)

Corroborating the results we found in our Q4 2023 “Travel Trends & Advisor Insight Report,” Global Travel Collection has seen a surge in summer 2024 cruise bookings, with the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Norwegian fjords topping the list of preferred destinations for luxury travelers.

Advisors from the network reported a shift in cruise clientele, with it increasingly appealing to travelers of all ages. They also said that cruisers are more often opting for longer excursions now—12 to 18 days at sea, rather than seven. Rising demand for ultra-luxury experiential cruises is also on the rise, as new ships hit the market. Small-ship and expedition cruises are also on the rise, according to Global Travel Collection advisors.

Considering new ships hitting the waters, Travel Agent recently sailed aboard American Cruise Lines’ 100-passenger American Eagle, first in a new series of 241-foot-long coastal catamarans. The “Great Rivers of Florida” itinerary included scheduled port calls at Green Cove Springs, Palatka, St. Augustine and Amelia Island, FL, while navigating the St. John’s and Tolomato rivers.

We found the ship’s design to be excellent, with a sleek, modern appearance. The ship has the largest standard staterooms of any riverboat and the dining—especially the desserts—was a standout. Public spaces included two eateries, several lounges and outdoor decks, a gym and a bit more.

That said, not all is positive for the cruise industry. MSC Cruises is moving MSC Opera’s previously planned winter 2024-25 season in the Red Sea to the Canary Islands. The Red Sea sailings were canceled because of the current risk to shipping in that region.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands (Photo by Elena-studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

MSC Opera, instead, will operate seven-night itineraries with six ports of call between November 3, 2024 and March 16, 2025. The ship will depart Santa Cruz de Tenerife for Las Palmas, Puerto del Rosario, Funchal, Santa Cruz de la Palma and Arrecife, before returning to Tenerife.

Similarly, Virgin Voyageswhich recently altered Resilient Lady’s repositioning from Australia to the Mediterranean this March—is now canceling the return journey from Europe to Australia later this year. Scheduled to complete its Mediterranean season on October 20, when it would head back to Australia via the Red Sea, Resilient Lady will instead sail from Europe to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The ship will offer seven-, eight-, 10- and 11-day itineraries to St. Maarten, St. Vincent, Colombia and Dominica. The repositioning sailing is not yet finalized but will include the ports of Catania, Casablanca and Tenerife.

The Latest in Paris

The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors this week after a six-day closure due to personnel strikes. Workers were seeking salary raises in proportion to the incoming revenue from ticket sales and improved maintenance of the monument. SETE, the operator of the Eiffel Tower, reached an agreement with the workers’ union on a €380 million investment to be made by 2031. Salary negotiations are in the works.

As the city prepares for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, for travelers heading to the destination in search of some live music, Travel Agent’s Paris correspondent has detailed his favorite jazz clubs in the city. While the genre was invented in the U.S, jazz has found a lasting haven in Paris.

Building Your Business

Indigenous Tourism_WeTravel
weTravel's 20-minute course explores working with Indigenous tour operators and suppliers and offers tips on how to find and develop partnerships with Indigenous communities. (WeTravel)

For travel advisors looking to build their book of business, WeTravel launched a free online course in partnership with the Indigenous Tourism Collaborative of the Americas. The course, titled “Indigenous Tourism: How to Partner with Indigenous Communities,” aims to equip travel professionals with the knowledge and skills to form respectful and impactful tourism partnerships with Indigenous people and communities and to support and strengthen Indigenous cultures through travel.

In addition, Visit Lauderdale has launched a new VIP Passport for travel advisors, allowing them to receive special deals at local attractions. Travel professionals who complete the brief online training session on the Lauderdale Loyalist website will receive an access code via mobile device and email for immediate use. Upon arriving at a participating business, travel advisors present their coupon on their mobile device to the attendant or staff member to redeem available discounts.

Last Chance for 30Under30 Nominations!

Nominations for Travel Agent's 30Under30 for 2024 are closing today, Friday, March 1! 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. 

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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