Week in Review: Mixed Signals to Start 2024, Travel Marketing Tools

Travel Agent’s “Travel Trends & Advisor Insight Report” for Q1 2024 revealed some mixed signals regarding the state of the travel industry. Some “negatives” included the number of advisors who reported their sales were up for the quarter over the same period the previous year, as well as the percentage of respondents who said they were more optimistic about the industry than they were the quarter prior—both of which were down compared to previous surveys.

On the positive side, however, many advisors have clients booked on trips for six months to a year from now, as well as a nearly even number who have clients booked for travel in over one year. The plurality of advisors said their clients were spending, on average, seven to nine nights away per trip. Only 12 percent said that budgets have shrunk compared to last year.

Advisors also reported an increase in multi-generational travel, LGBTQ+ travel, sober travel, more seniors/retirees traveling, an increase in smaller/expedition cruises, an increased interest in, women groups, wellness experiences and more.

Some of these themes were reinforced by other research. The “Travel Trends 2024” report by Mastercard Economics Institute found that despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying levels of affordability, the desire to travel remains stronger than ever. Nine of the last 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurred this year. The report also found that travelers are extending the length of their trips.

Valletta, Malta
Malta is one of the fastest-recovering countries in Europe. (Getty Images)

Looking at Europe—which was the second most popular destination (after the Caribbean) among clients of advisors responding to our survey—foreign arrivals and overnight stays for the first quarter of 2024 topped 2019 figures. According to the “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” report released by the European Travel Commission, the recovery is a bit uneven, with Southern Europe leading the way and Baltic countries lagging. The Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris this summer, as well as the EUFA European Football Championship in Germany are expected to draw a surge in visitors.  

On the flip side of all of this, an internal study by American Marketing Group—which comprises TravelSavers, Nest and the Affluent Traveler Collectionfound there is a need to improve the way new recruits are trained. Ninety-five percent of the network’s advisors say that training is essential or important for new entrants to the profession, but the individual agencies rely on diverse methods of developing their new consultants. Some of the most common methods included job shadowing, supplier programs and industry webinars. To this point, two of the top challenges noted by respondents to our survey were “keeping up with client demand” and “hiring qualified advisors.” Clearly, there is a need to bring in qualified recruits and a better way to train them for the role they will be taking on.

Cruise Lines Debut New Advisor Tools

Several cruise lines this week announced new tools for travel advisors.

Royal Caribbean Group has partnered with Rallio to make it easier for travel partners to elevate their social media presence. Rallio will give travel partners access to ready-to-use social media content that is developed by Royal Caribbean’s in-house, dedicated trade marketing team. The posts are easily customizable and is shareable across all major social media platforms to help travel partners boost their visibility, enhance their engagement, and keep their clients informed in real-time. The free tool can be found on CruisingPower.com and is available to use across Royal Caribbean Group brands (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea).

Oceania Riviera_Oceania Cruises
Oceania Insider Connect gives advisors instantly co-brandable marketing pages. Seen here is Oceania's Riviera. (Oceania Cruises)

Oceania Cruises, separately, debuted Oceania Insider Connect, a trade solution powered by technology from Approach Guides to boost the sales and marketing efforts of its travel advisor partners. Oceania Insider Connect offers instantly co-brandable marketing pages to showcase Oceania Cruises’ itineraries, onboard experiences, destinations, ships and latest promotions, as well as a co-branded website with real-time pricing and availability. In addition to pre-designed content experiences and offers using images and marketing, Oceania Insider Connect uses AI to suggest unique, engaging social posts and client emails and can create QR codes to link back to an advisor’s website.

Lastly, Aqua Expeditions updated its website to include a revamped portal for travel advisors. This landing page now offers an automated advisor account sign-up process, live online booking options, and access to a Resource Library for downloading essential information including sales materials such as flyers, itineraries, rates and departure dates. Advisors will be able to check both FIT and charter availability across the fleet and make bookings 24/7.

In other cruise news, we finally know the future of several former American Queen Voyages ships. John Waggoner, the founder of American Queens Voyages (previously American Queen Steamboat Company), will revive the ships he acquired (Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator) under their former names, Victory I and Victory II. These will sail on the Great Lakes next year under the Victory Cruise Lines banner, which he also founded.

American Cruise Lines, which acquired four other vessels, said it will scrap two of them. The remaining two—which includes American Queen, the largest paddlewheeler ever built, still have uncertain futures. Most likely American Queen will be donated and/or used as a museum, events space or hotel. There is no word on the possible outcome for American Empress, but it will not be sailing this year or next.

Air Travel “Chaos” Averted

Turkish Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer Ahmet Olmustur
Turkish Airlines’ CCO Ahmet Olmustur said, “As Turkish Airlines, we offer TKCONNECT to our business partners and travel agencies as a result of our goal to always offer advanced technology in a user-friendly way.” (Turkish Airlines)

The U.S. Travel Association had warned of “chaos” at airports should an amendment to the current Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would ban facial recognition technology pass. This amendment failed to advance and the reauthorization bill passed. U.S. Travel applauded this passage of the bill.

“Measures in the bill will address delays and cancelations and other travel hassles by modernizing air traffic control technology, boosting the air traffic control workforce, and investing in additional improvements to our nation’s airports and air travel system,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Geoff Freeman.

Separately, Turkish Airlines is set to launch its NDC platform, TKCONNECT, starting October 1. According to the company, travel agencies will have a wide range of exclusive features and privileges, including differentiated ticket pricing, NDC-only promotional fares, rich content supported with visuals and descriptions, enhanced and promoted ancillary services such as excess baggage, seat selection and special equipment. Bookings made via the GDS will incur a charge starting on this date.

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