Week in Review: Iceland’s Eruption, Air Travel Updates

After nearly two months of increased seismic activity, a volcanic eruption finally occurred this week on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. It marked the fourth eruption in three years for the region. That said, it did not disrupt travel, with air traffic to and from the country operating normally nearly the entire time.

As of Thursday, December 21, “there is no discernible volcanic activity in the eruption fissures,” according to Visit Iceland. That said, the Icelandic Meteorological Office says it is too early to tell if the eruption has subsided entirely or if this is a momentary pause. The Blue Lagoon is currently scheduled to reopen December 27.

Air Travel Updates

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period, according to AAA. Roughly 7.5 million people will fly this holiday season, topping 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. In a positive, average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year.

Airport security
Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period, according to AAA. (baona/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Along those lines, Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) reported that the average ticket price for November was $547, a 2 percent decrease from both last year and the month prior. ARC data also found that total passenger trips, including domestic and international trips, were up last month versus the same period in 2022; however, only international trips were up month-over-month.

As for total travelers this Christmas and New Year’s, AAA projects 115.2 million, a 2.2 percent increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since the company started tracking this data in 2000.

OAG, separately, looked at the busiest airports and routes for 2023. While Kuala Lumpur to Singapore Changi ranks as the No. 1 busiest global route in the world, the U.S. had several other of the busiest airports—including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Only New York (JFK) to London Heathrow made the list of busiest routes that originated in the U.S.

Looking to the future, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to pilot new self-service screenings at airports for those enrolled in the Trusted Traveler Program. Travelers would use screening systems at individual consoles or screening lanes, reducing the number of pat downs and bag inspections Transportation Security Officers would need to perform. Several prototypes are being tested at various airports across the U.S. before further deployment would occur.

Running Your Business

TTC Tour Brands this week announced new e-learning courses for travel advisors. The TTC Tour Brands Masterclass is a complete overhaul of the brands’ training modules, redesigned to be detailed yet succinct overviews of the brand’s entire portfolio, including Trafalgar, Contiki, Costsaver, Brendan Vacations, Luxury Gold and Insight Vacations. The new masterclass is made up of seven courses of 20-minute modules or less, beginning with an overview of the sales division, followed by a course dedicated to each of the six tour brands.

Call center phone and headset
Avanti Destinations' new U.K. office will give advisors more hours to contact the tour operator. (Photo by Damontae Kazee/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, wholesale FIT tour operator Avanti Destinations—which is based on the West Coast in Portland, OR—has opened a sales service center in Manchester, U.K., to increase the number of hours that the company’s consultants are available to U.S. travel advisors. The move gives advisors 11 hours to contact Avanti by phone and 20 by electronic communications.

On the commission side, Norwegian Cruise Line, which began paying travel advisor commission on NCFs (non-commissionable fares) in January 2023, has extended those through March 31, 2024, for advisors currently registered. That said, the line will discontinue future NCF commission payments, effective April 1, 2024. NCFs include such elements as crew gratuities and port fees.

Lastly, Dream Vacations this week announced the winners of its annual business plan contest, “Operation Vetrepreneur: Become Your Own General,” awarding three military veterans with free travel franchises. More than 35 percent of franchise owners within Dream Vacations are military veterans and, in the past decade, the travel agency franchise has awarded 61 free franchises valued at more than $700,000 to military veterans.

This year’s winners include U.S. Army Veteran Dillon Svoboda of Roseville, CA; U.S. Navy Veteran Ron and Melissa Hargrove of Genoa, IL; and U.S. Army Veteran Michael and Teri Rigali of New Bern, NC.

Digging Into the Data

The global travel and tourism sector is delivering soaring employment opportunities to women and young people around the world, according to research by the World Travel & Tourism Council and Sustainable Tourism Global Center. The report shows that the travel and tourism sector directly employed a rapidly rising number of women between 2010 and 2019, increasing from 38.6 million to 47.8 million, an increase of 24 percent. Young workers are shown as an important component of the sector’s workforce, representing 15 percent of all jobs in the sector in both 2010 and 2021. (By contrast, the share of young workers in overall global employment fell from 16.5 percent in 2010 to 12.5 percent in 2021.)

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