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Editor’s letter; plus, how to get in touch
Plus, Tui to offer testing packages from £20
Plus, Inspiretec CEO Simon Powell on how technology can help the recovery
Plus, APT’s Paul Melinis on the return of the luxury sector
With the Seychelles having successfully sped through its Covid-19 immunisation programme, its pristine paradise resorts are ready and raring to welcome back holiday-starved British visitors
ABTA promotes Rachel Jordan; Coalition urges recovery plan
Shelly Beresford, head of brand and marketing; plus ask the experts
The latest virtual conferences and training
Luxury travel will be the first sector of the industry to bounce back in a post-Covid world, because it is defined by exclusivity, space and attention to detail
Hello and welcome to the May edition of ABTA Magazine. In this issue, we take a look at the luxury end of the travel industry, gathering expert insight from APT, Kuoni, CV Villas, Swift Travel and more.
Of course, many of the elements that define luxury travel – exclusivity, space and attention to detail – will seemingly put it in good stead in the post-Covid world. We ask: are the well-heeled travellers seemingly more likely to embrace travel once they’re able to? And is it true that holidaymakers will splash the cash – treating themselves to a little luxury after their 2020 plans were curtailed?
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FCDO) has removed its advice against non-essential travel for a number of destinations, including some Greek islands and much of Portugal, prompting speculation over who will make the green list. Fortunately the wait is over, with all to be revealed today.
We hope you enjoy reading.
Read our guide to the Maldives
Also out now is the ABTA Magazine Guide to the Maldives. White sands, clear skies and turquoise waters – it has long been held up as the very definition of paradise. But, sparsely populated and reliably warm, it is also the perfect destination for a post-Covid world. As we explore in this guide, there are luxury resorts in abundance, but there is much more to the Maldives than high-end hotels: from colourful corals and a wealth of marine wildlife to fascinating culture and traditions.
Anthony Pearce, director
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Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTA; Travelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.
Non-essential travel ‘permitted’ by Foreign Office for Greek islands and much of Portugal – but industry still awaits green list
The Foreign Office (FCDO) has removed its advice against non-essential travel for a number of destinations, including some Greek islands and much of Portugal.
Recent updates to the government department’s country-specific travel advice say the exemptions are “based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks”.
Israel, Malta and the US Virgin Islands have also been given an exemption. The Greek islands are Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos.
The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands, but excluding the Canary Islands. It still advises against travel to the rest Greece and the Azores. It is unclear whether these destinations will form part of the Department for Transport’s green list.
It has now been confirmed that the EU will reopen to holidaymakers from countries with low Covid infection rates such as the UK, and to anyone who has been fully vaccinated, by the start of June under a European Commission plan.
However, senior UK government sources said the number of destinations to which Brits can travel to without having to quarantine from May 17 could be lower than 10.
People arriving in the UK from green list countries will need to take a pre-departure test in that country. On or before the second day after arriving in the UK, they will need to take a PCR test, which costs around £120, but will not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive test.
People arriving from amber list countries will have to quarantine for 10 days at home. They will have to take a pre-departure test, then a PCR test on days two and eight, but there will be an option for “test to release” in which they can end self-isolation early if they test negative on day five by purchasing an extra PCR test.
In both cases, test packages must be booked and paid for before travelling from a list of government-approved providers.
The operator’s announcement comes after Iata warned that the prohibitive costs of testing will impact bookings
Tui UK has partnered with a government-authorised test
Four packages have been created with Chronomics to make inbound and outbound testing affordable for travel to countries on the as-yet-unconfirmed green and amber lists, Tui said.
Customers will be able to order tests on a newly created Tui booking hub an hour after booking their holiday and will input their booking reference, departure date and country of travel to enter the site. The new booking hub will go live on May 10.
The packages are:
Andrew Flintham, managing director, Tui UK & Ireland said: “We have always believed that cost-effective testing solutions, as well as maximum flexibility, will make travel a possibility this summer and beyond. Our research has shown that customers are looking forward to their much-needed holiday overseas, but affordable and easy testing solutions was imperative to make this a reality.”
The announcement comes after the International Air Transport Association (Iata) warned that Covid tests cost more than some short-haul flights.
Its survey of costs for PCR tests showed wide variations in prices across 15 countries. The average minimum cost for testing was $90, while the average maximum cost was $208. Before the pandemic, the average one-way airline ticket cost $200, including taxes and charges. A $90 PCR test raises the cost by 45 per cent to $290. Another test on arrival takes the one-way cost to $380.
Willie Walsh, Iata’s director general, said: “As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets.
“But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs – particularly PCR testing.
“Testing costs must be better managed. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; and avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that governments pay the cost of testing for travellers, but only France has so far complied.
Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of ABTA, said that the “requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people”.
He said: “Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable, while still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus.
“The government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.”
During her keynote speech to G20 tourism ministers, Gloria Guevara said that action is needed to save millions of jobs
Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) gave an opening keynote speech at the G20 tourism ministers’ meeting, as they gathered to discuss the G20 Rome Guidelines for the Future of Tourism.
WTTC said the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on travel and tourism and that clear rules and a protocol to restart international mobility will be crucial to its long-term sustainable recovery.
It urged that action was needed now to save millions of jobs throughout the sector, which depend upon the immediate resumption of international travel, but that there would not be a sustainable and resilient future, unless there was recovery from the crisis.
Gloria Guevara said: “The guidelines address the importance of sustainability, safe mobility and how we collectively manage future crises while maintaining our resilience and focusing on the digital transition to enable a more seamless travel experience. These priorities are aligned with those of the private sector.
“However, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not out of the crisis yet, and urgent action is needed now to save the 62 million jobs lost globally last year, with many millions more still at risk.
“During this important meeting, WTTC highlighted the devasting impact Covid-19 has had on our sector, with its contribution to global GDP dropping a staggering 49.1 per cent last year, compared to the overall global economy which dropped by just 3.7 per cent. Furthermore, this incredibly important sector suffered a loss of almost US$4.5 trillion.
“We need clear rules and agreements among countries to safely restore international mobility, which will in turn enable the return of safe international travel and bring back millions of jobs. It will also protect a sector which will be instrumental in powering the global economic recovery.
“The private sector remains committed to working with the public sector to ensure a swift recovery, which has been significantly boosted by the vaccine rollout. However, there is still much work to be done with many parts of the world still suffering from the pandemic.
“WTTC’s recent Global Summit in Cancun has proven that international travel can safely resume with a combination of vaccines, comprehensive and cost-effective testing, enhanced health and hygiene measures and mandatory mask wearing.”
WTTC thanked Italy, G20 Chair, for their leadership and for including the private sector in this important platform, as well as acknowledging Saudi Arabia, who held the G20 Presidency in 2020, and recognised the importance of working with the tourism private sector in the declaration.
WTTC also recognised the Ministers of Argentina, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, the UK, the US and the EU for their strong partnership with the private sector and particularly with WTTC.
Simon Powell, CEO of Inspiretec, on how technology can help the industry bounce back
Travel has been in my blood for as long as I can remember as my family owned a chain of high street travel agencies and a call centre in Wales. I love everything about travel and the opportunities it offers, but this pandemic has challenged us all beyond belief.
As an industry we’ve dealt with many crises over the years that have hit bookings hard, but no one could have imagined the sheer scale of the impact the last 12 months has had on travel. However agents, operators and other travel businesses both big and small have shown their resilience. We’ve stood together and, while there are still so many questions to be answered, the roadmap is in place and I do believe better days are ahead.
With domestic travel now opening up and the hope that non-essential international travel will resume soon, I am certain that the industry will be even more competitive than in previous years. As we look to the future, the need to drive efficiencies will be key as agents look to make their businesses as cost-effective as possible to maximise their bottom line.
Therefore, it is crucial for agents to consider how to engage with and retain new and existing customers. I know from experience that many businesses tend to plan interactions in a way that suits them, rather than personalising their communications to best suit the customer’s needs. It’s a small change to the way we interact, but it can make a real difference.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is designed to give retail agents a single view of their customers in one place, so they know what they are searching and enquiring about, what they are booking and when, across all channels. There are many options for agents to choose from in the market, including our own TheTravelCRM, which we have designed specifically to meet the needs of the travel industry, rather than taking multi-sector approach.
For agents, having information about their customers such as demographics, previous holidays and typical spend all in one place can create a really strong overview to help them refine their sales strategy and make that all important booking. In short, these insights ensure agents are as efficient as possible when communicating with their customers.
Having a strong understanding of your customer and their previous search and booking history is an incredibly powerful tool to have when pitching the right products and prices to match their requirements.
Another benefit of a CRM system is its time saving capabilities. Often the administration tasks behind a booking – such as pre-departure emails and welcome home surveys – can be very time consuming for staff members. Having these jobs automated by software allows agents to become more efficient and gives them more time to focus on selling and generating income.
As the industry bounces back, many travel agents’ budgets will be tighter than ever before. Operating efficiently, managing staff workflows and using a CRM system to their advantage will be vital for businesses to succeed.
No one wishes to live through another year like 2020, but I truly believe we are on the right road out of the pandemic. After such an unsettling year, the reassurance and service that agents provide will be more important than ever. I am confident they will flourish if equipped with the right tools to add value to every customer’s experience.
Inspiretec is offering ABTA travel agent members the chance to sign up for a FREE, no obligation four-month trial of its travel specific CRM system. Agents should visit https://www.thetravelcrm.com and be sure to include ‘ABTA’ in the offer code field.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has also said the government will release their ‘green list’ of destinations in the next fortnight
Travellers will be asked to show their vaccination and testing status using the NHS app, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps also said that the government would release the much-anticipated list of possible holiday destinations, known as the ‘green list’, within a fortnight.
However, a government source later told the BBC that the app, which is used to make appointments, would not be ready “imminently”.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast that the NHS’ digital division “are working on making that operationally possible for May 17”, but a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said only that the app was “being considered as part of the digital route”.
On the green list, Shapps told Sky News: “I have to say that, so far, the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure we’re protected from the disease being reimported.”
He added: “We do need to make sure that we do this very, very carefully… But, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll come back on and I’ll be able to tell you about which countries will have made it into the traffic light system – and that green list in particular.”
He said that the green list would consist of “countries where you’ll be able to go to, without needing to quarantine on your return, you will still need to take a pre-departure test, and one test on your return”.
Green arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of their arrival back into the UK, but will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) or take any additional tests.
Asked how the lists would be decided, Shapps said: “There will be four factors that we will be looking at when we look at a country: we will be looking at their rates of vaccination; we will also want to look at the rates of coronavirus in that country; how many concerns there are about various mutations of the virus in that particular place; and how accurate we believe the reporting to be.”
He added: “In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm we are working on an NHS application – actually, it will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on – to be able to show that you have had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing.”
Later he told Times Radio that the public would have to “wait and see” which countries are on the list. “Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer to that because the Joint Biosecurity Centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can’t do that until a bit nearer the time,” he said.
Paul Melinis, managing director of APT, on how the luxury sector is planning for a post-pandemic revival
Like all sectors within our industry, luxury travel has been turned upside down over the last year. With the advent of a restart, it’s clear that we’ll be returning to a very different environment once overseas travel gets its long-awaited green light.
So how will the luxury sector look for river cruising and touring post-pandemic? Well, the good news is that the appetite for these holiday styles is huge, and travellers in our core guest demographic – predominantly those aged 65 and over – are, by and large, financially secure. They have money to spend, the time to travel, and aspirations to enjoy their bucket list destinations as soon as possible. Longer-haul APT itineraries to further flung destinations are booking at pace, with luxury river cruises on the Mekong and adventurous trips to Canada, Australia and New Zealand proving extremely popular. Similarly, these guests want every detail to be looked after, and are happy to pay a premium for a more luxurious experience than they might have selected pre-pandemic – it’s safe to say that most of us are tired of doing all of the cooking, cleaning and washing up, and customers just want to be pampered.
An important benefit to choosing river cruising or touring post-pandemic is the care and security that these travel styles offer. To ensure that the highest standards of hygiene are met throughout guests’ holidays, APT’s team of experts will be vetting all elements of the itinerary and doing due diligence with partner hotels, restaurants, attractions and transport providers.
However, while cruising and touring holidays tick many boxes for travellers in the new normal, we are also seeing other luxury trends emerge. Discerning travellers are demanding increased privacy and seclusion, and are happy to pay more to secure it. Since launching a few weeks ago, we have already sold 50 per cent of the capacity on MV Lady Eleganza, our new small ship luxury yacht in Croatia, which has a maximum of 34 guests in 18 cabins. This is a very accessible way of securing a secluded post-pandemic holiday for HNWIs as they reconnect with loved ones.
On land, chauffeur-driven experiences and travelling in smaller, self-selected groups will be more of a focus for the luxury traveller. This allows for more flexibility when it comes to sightseeing, and the opportunity to bypass the crowds, which will be increasingly desirable for post-pandemic travel.
This flexibility is an important theme, and personalisation will be important for the luxury market. At APT we are responding by putting more emphasis on our Tailormade holiday experiences. We have a dedicated team of experts that can help clients with a completely bespoke approach, and create holidays that are every bit as unique as our guests are.
While luxury, as with all travel sectors, will inevitably take some time to rebound, the demand is there. Those who have the means to travel are eager to get away as soon as it is possible to do so, and luxury operators, like all of us at APT, are ready to welcome them for the holiday of a lifetime.
With the Seychelles having successfully sped through its Covid-19 immunisation programme, its pristine paradise resorts are ready and raring to welcome back holiday-starved British visitors, just as soon as they’re free to travel again. In fact, such was the rapid success of its comprehensive, two-dose vaccination programme, launched back in January 2021, that the far-sighted Indian Ocean nation has been open to international visitors since March 25.
Rest assured, then, that local operators have had ample time to prepare for your visit. And with no quarantine requirement, no minimum stay in establishments upon arrival and no restrictions of movement once there (just a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure), visitors are free to savour the Seychelles’ signature tourism offering unfettered. What’s more, given the Seychelles’ focus on small-scale responsible travel you’ll struggle to find a safer place to be right now.
UK travellers can choose from a plethora of flight services, from Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways to Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot and Ethiopian Airlines. Once there, getting around is remarkably simple, too. From private boat transfers and local ferry services to helicopter or small plane transfers, island hopping is a cinch, especially among the ‘Inner Islands’ such as Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. This enables the more adventurous to tick off local experiences with ease (once they’re ready to drag themselves away from the restful resorts and dreamy beaches, that is).
Scattered among the idyllic waters of the Indian Ocean, east of Africa, the 115-island archipelago is home to some of the world’s best beaches, their bone-white, sun-kissed sands accented by smooth granite boulders, flanked by lush forests and caressed by gentle turquoise waters. If you’re looking for destination inspiration then sandy stretches such as Anse Georgette, on Praslin, or Petite Anse, on the main island, Mahé, speak for themselves.
While some favour the five-star offerings of international hotel brands such as Raffles, Hilton and Four Seasons, others gravitate towards the more local-style private island resorts such as Denis Island and Bird Island, with their timeless approach to barefoot luxury and nature conservation. In such times, the exclusive sanctuary offered by such ‘one island, one resort’ offerings has never seemed more attractive, with other aspirational offerings including Fregate Island Private and North Island, long a magnet for high-profile honeymooners such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Not that you need to break the bank to ‘get away from it all’. Take diminutive La Digue. Stepping foot on the sleepy, unhurried shores of this refreshingly carefree, and largely car-free, island, easily accessible from Praslin or Mahé, is like journeying to a simpler, more innocent time – albeit backed by world-class beaches and resorts.
Among the Seychelles’ other big draws sits the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, on Praslin. Even in an archipelago so awash with jaw-dropping pristine natural habitats the biodiverse Vallée, a Unesco World Heritage Site, stands apart, a unique habitat home to towering, prehistoric-looking vegetation such as the Coco de Mer palm – its distinctive nut being one of the nation’s most recognisable symbols.
Offshore, the calm, dreamy waters of the Seychelles’ protected marine biosphere support activities ranging from catamaran cruises and kayaking to snorkelling and diving. Among those with a particularly strong active focus is the recently opened, family-friendly Club Med Seychelles, on Saint Anne.
The Seychelles’ vaccine rollout
The Seychelles began its vaccination programme back in January 2021, targeting 70,000 adults among its total population of 98,000. As of May 3, 97 per cent of the targeted population had received a first dose and 85 per cent a further second dose. For more updated travel advisory info see tourism.gov.sc
While some of the Seychelles’ natural wonders can be remote, such as the Aldabra Group among the Outer Islands, home to a population of giant tortoises and the recently launched Cosmoledo Eco Camp, most are refreshingly accessible. Easy walks such as Grand Barbe trail on Silhouette Island and Mahé’s Salazie Nature Trail, for example, offer an immersive appreciation of the archipelago’s untouched majesty, while one of the best ways to experience La Digue is to grab a hire bike and pedal, walk or hitch a ride on a passing ox cart en route to secluded beaches such as Anse Cocos.
Another strong selling point is the resolute approach to responsible tourism adopted by the government and local operators, the pioneering work in sustainability and conservation by properties such as Denis Island carried on by later ‘eco-chic’ entrants such as the solar-powered Alphonse Island.
Finally, no Seychelles trip is complete without time spent in Victoria, the compact capital on Mahé. Its shops, bars, restaurants and museums offer a great way to pass an afternoon or evening, experiencing the authentic Creole culture and cuisine alongside the locals, or interacting with giant Aldabra tortoises at its sumptuous Botanical Gardens. Mahé also hosts major annual events such as the Creole Festival, and the staggeringly scenic marathon, held on the last Sunday of February. Being home to a smattering of more affordable, mid-scale properties the island also attracts those on a budget.
Digital nomads looking to tweak their work-life balance, meanwhile, should take note of the government’s new Workcation Retreat Programme, aimed at enticing long-term remote workers for up to one year (workcation.seychelles.travel). Whatever your reasons for visiting though it’s high time to book and discover for yourself why the Seychellois say their home is your sanctuary.
She moves into a new, expanded role as John de Vial moves to focus on the delivery of ABTA’s strategic plan
ABTA has promoted Rachel Jordan to director of membership and financial protection. The move sees Rachel take on overall responsibility for membership onboarding and management, in additional to her existing financial protection role.
Rachel’s enhanced brief comes as John de Vial, ABTA’s current director of financial protection and financial services, moves to focus on major initiatives supporting the delivery of ABTA’s strategic plan. Both Rachel and John will report to ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer.
He said: “Our members are ABTA’s beating heart and in Rachel they will have an extremely capable new director of membership and financial protection, supporting them as we move into travel’s restart and beyond.”
ABTA has also announced that Alice Catterall, its director of partnerships and events, is to leave in the summer to take on a managing director position in the private sector.
Mark Tanzer added: “Alice has been an excellent leader of a varied and vibrant industry events programme that is highly valued not just by our members but the wider industry, too. The successful transition from in-person events to virtual formats during the pandemic has enabled ABTA to stay in touch and relevant to our members. For the past few years, Alice has also managed the ABTA partner scheme – ABTA partners have provided much needed additional support and advice to our members during the coronavirus pandemic and are an essential part of the ABTA community.”
The Save Future Travel Coalition has written to Oliver Dowden asking for targeted support for the UK’s travel and tourism industry
The Save Future Travel Coalition has written to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to urge the swift development of a tourism recovery plan to support the UK’s travel and tourism industry.
The development of such a plan was recommended by the Global Travel Taskforce last November and was referenced again in the Taskforce’s report earlier this month. In their letter, the Save Future Travel Coalition stresses that the plan must be developed without delay, and must recognise the significant value of both outbound and inbound tourism, as part of the UK’s overall tourism mix.
Emma Wade, public affairs manager at ABTA, one of the Coalition partners, said: “It is important that this plan is developed without delay, outlining clearly how the international travel industry will be supported as the UK’s recovery progresses. Within it, the tourism recovery plan should demonstrate how, through financial support to the sector, government can level the playing field with our direct competitors across Europe who have received such support, and also UK industries such as hospitality, leisure and the arts.”
In the letter, the Coalition states that:
“The tourism recovery plan should recognise that every element of the UK’s tourism mix (domestic, inbound, and outbound) brings enormous benefits to the UK economy, UK businesses and UK residents,” adds Emma Wade, “and we look forward to hearing how government intends to move forward with its development.”
The Save Future Travel Coalition is made up of 15 leading travel bodies and campaign organisations which together represent the vast majority of outbound and inbound organised travel to the UK, they are:
Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response
I am an agent and a fairly recent member of ABTA. As travel restarts, I want to know what help you can offer if any of my customers’ holidays are not up to scratch. I know that you offer some kind of dispute resolution scheme, but I’m a bit sketchy on details. Could you give me some more information so that if my customers need help I can steer them in the right direction? Anon
What a great question as there can often be misconceptions as to exactly what ABTA can do to help customers resolve disputes and we can also only get involved if the dispute is with one of our members or if the disputed service has been provided as part of a package put together by an ABTA tour operator.
Our customer information team offers information and guidance to customers on the best way to proceed with their dispute if they have reached deadlock with one of our members. Initially, your customer will need to register with us online for us to be able to provide them with this information (you cannot do this on behalf of the customer). Once the dispute has been registered, we will approach the member and ask for further comments or give them the opportunity to resolve the issue prior to the customer being referred to our Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service.
If the ABTA member’s position remains the same, or they are unable to reach an agreement with the customer, we will then provide the customer with the information they require to pursue the matter via our ADR service. This is then referred to Hunt ADR, who are the facilitators of this service. Hunt ADR will then appoint a qualified individual to review the dispute and make a legally binding decision based on the evidence provided to them.
We can also provide advice to the customer based on our Code of Conduct and we will advise the client if we believe there has been a possible breach, the case will then be referred tour legal department, However, regardless of any subsequent code outcome the customer will still need to take further action via our ADR service or if they prefer the small claims court.
The ADR service is designed to bring you and the customer together to reach a possible positive outcome, ADR is in the vast majority of cases, more cost effective than going to court and much faster. Any results are also confidential, which means the result cannot be published resulting in potentially unwelcome negative publicity, It is also good to note that everything is done online and will not result in either the customer or member needing to attend court.
In summary, our Customer Information Team is here to provide information and advice based on our Code of Conduct and our ADR service. We have lots of useful information on our website which is being reviewed and updated regularly. So, in the first instance, I would advise you to refer your customers to the ABTA website if they require more information.
Hopefully your customers won’t need to use our services very often as the vast majority of holidays provided by our members are of a very high standard and go ahead without any problems.
Chloe Walters, customer information manager
Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Shelly Beresford, head of brand and marketing
As ABTA’s head of brand and marketing I look after everything related to our brand – marketing, advertising, our website abta.com, social media and comms-related member engagement. I am very lucky as I get to work with a fabulous team in all these areas, and we are part of the wider communications department which includes our PR and media team.
I have worked in marketing for over 20 years, starting my career at UK Sport as their marketing coordinator after the 2000 Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games. This was really fun as Lottery and government funding was at an all-time high for elite sport and the UK had a lot of potential to win medals. I moved on to work for another government-backed organisation, which introduced an education pathway for young athletes who had not quite made it in their chosen sport. The apprenticeship programme we developed meant they had options after sport to help them either forge a new career or go on to university. Sadly, the government funding ran out and I found myself pursuing new opportunities which resulted in being interviewed at ABTA. I knew very little about the industry, but had a great love of travel and I remember leaving the interview super excited and really wanting the position. Ten years later, I am still here, a lot more knowledgeable and more enthusiastic about the Association than I have ever been.
The ABTA brand is iconic, widely recognised by both industry and consumers – I would say even more so after this past year. Pre-pandemic we were gearing up for a year of celebrations to mark our 70th anniversary and I was looking forward to interviewing some members who had been with us since day one and others that had joined us throughout the decades – I hope to still do this at some point.
From my perspective, ABTA’s role is ever-evolving. The work we do on behalf of our members is very wide-ranging. Working with and lobbying governments; partnering with destinations on health and safety issues; sustainability; crisis management; providing legal advice; supporting members through their financial protection requirements; facilitating events; the list goes on. One of my main roles is to ensure we are communicating effectively to members, letting them know about the services and products we offer and providing material that they can use to inspire confidence in travel, promoting why it is so important to book with an ABTA member.
But it does not stop there, I get involved with consumer-facing activity as well. ABTA has a high recognition among the general public. People have an innate trust in ABTA, they strongly associate the brand with confidence, safety, reassurance, expertise and reliability – even throughout all the difficulties created by the pandemic. For years we have annually surveyed consumers, but since May 2020 we have conducted seven waves of sentiment research to check that the brand was still as highly regarded and relevant. We all know what has happened over the past year and that consumer confidence has been severely dented; however, perception of ABTA has not changed and sentiment toward the brand remains hugely positive. As one of our most valuable assets this is crucial for us and puts our Members in a strong position. A few years back, following extensive consumer research, we introduced the strapline ‘Travel with confidence’ and while that message, at the time of writing, has been difficult to proactively promote over the past few months we have been promoting booking with an ABTA member enthusiastically at every appropriate opportunity.
Our role has always been to maintain consumer confidence in travel and promote all the benefits of booking with an ABTA member. Right now, we have a huge task ahead. We have to help restore consumer confidence in the industry; we have to inspire and excite people to want to travel and we also have to reassure and inform people about what their holidays are going to look like from the moment they leave their house. Working with our members and destinations, we are in a really good position to do this and give consumers the confidence to get travelling again. But there is a lot to do to get there. My team and I are really looking forward to playing our part in this.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ABTA has postponed its normal events schedule and is running a series of free webinars, new practical training events and one-day conferences virtually. These virtual events are designed to help travel businesses navigate the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and be prepared for the restart of travel.
Visit abta.com/abtaevents to find out more and register.
ABTA has launched a series of new virtual training days offering practical guidance in key areas for travel businesses of all sizes. ABTA members and partners benefit from discounted rates.
Now is the time to shift your social media strategy from inspiration and dreaming, to content that generates leads and converts bookings. ABTA’s new introductory-level training day, led by travel social media expert Bruce Martin, will equip you with the skills you need to create effective content and stand out against your competitors. Take part in interactive exercises and get practical guidance on advertising, selling, content creation and measuring performance on a variety of social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Find out more
This online training day provides an essential guide to data protection and cyber security in travel, including an update on the key regulations – GDPR, DPA and PECR. Learn how to legally process data and transfer data to the EU and the rest of the world. Get the latest cyber security guidance for remote working and learn how to respond to a data breach. Find out more
ABTA’s one-day conferences are brought to you virtually, streamed live via a custom event platform. Combining keynote conference sessions and interactive workshops with online networking, hear from a line-up of expert speakers who will provide the latest insights, guidance and advice in key areas for travel businesses. Early bird discounts and business rates are available.
The Travel Law Seminar is the industry’s major legal update, attended by 200 business leaders and legal professionals from travel companies of all sizes. This year, legal experts, regulators and industry representatives will share vital guidance on how to remain legally compliant in an ever-changing world. Learn how to manage traveller, contract and business risk as the industry starts to recover. Find out more
After a year of unprecedented change, equip your operational teams with the knowledge and skills they need in preparation for travel restarting. Get practical guidance from leading health and safety experts and industry representatives on how to manage the balance between business as usual and Covid-safe protocols. Take part in training workshops to help you manage your travel business’ health, safety and security risks. Find out more
Conferences on demand: Access ABTA’s previous virtual conferences in areas including customer service, travel finance and marketing and PR on demand here.
ABTA’s 11th annual Travel Matters will be brought to you virtually in 2021. This year’s theme is ‘Politics and Policies: An Agenda for Recovery’. At a time when it has never been more important for our industry to come together, ABTA will lead the conversation on how we can unlock travel and build a strong foundation for the future. Join senior industry representatives, CEOs, political figures and government stakeholders for a timely update on politics and current affairs in an ever changing world. This year, ABTA members are invited to attend free of charge. Find out more
ABTA’s webinars are delivered in collaboration with trusted ABTA Partners and offer business support, advice and guidance to help travel businesses through the Coronavirus crisis. They are free for ABTA members and Partners, keep an eye on abta.com/abtaevents to view our upcoming webinars.
Luxury travel will be the first sector of the industry to bounce back in a post-Covid world, because it is defined by exclusivity, space and attention to detail
Last year, it was reported that the wealthy were upgrading to private jets and charter flights for quick getaways – getting ahead of sudden travel-corridor changes. Data from aviation specialists WINGX showed that, while the number of commercial flights had dropped by three-quarters since the start of the pandemic, private flights were down only 42 per cent compared with 2019. In fact, in August 2020, demand for private jets was back to 93 per cent of normal levels, while scheduled flights remained down 65 per cent. Richard Koe, the managing director of WINGX, said private aviation offered “an on-call and convenient means of connectivity, essential as gaps appear in the scheduled networks”. Of course, even among luxury travellers and first-class fliers, most can’t afford the step up from commercial airlines to private jets – but the data provides an insight into how well placed the luxury market is to make a recovery.
Many of the elements that define luxury travel – exclusivity, space and attention to detail – put it in good stead in the post-Covid world. In fact, not only are well-heeled travellers seemingly more likely to embrace travel once they’re able to, but there also appears to be truth in the suggestion that holidaymakers will splash the cash – treating themselves to a little luxury after their 2020 plans were curtailed. Prior to Covid, luxury travel was outstripping the rest of the industry: in 2016, travel technology company Amadeus wrote that, over the next 10 years, the growth rate in outbound luxury trips in the US was projected at 6.2 per cent, almost a third greater than overall travel (4.8 per cent).
“The majority of bookings are for 2022, with main trend being saving and upgrading,” a spokesperson for Kuoni says. “Average spend for 2022 is up compared to 2019 and people are pushing the boat out as many will have missed out on a holiday for two years by the time they go.”
Among Kuoni’s most popular destinations are several countries that have low infection numbers and high vaccination rates, making them likely to make it onto the green list. It lists the Maldives, Mauritius, St Lucia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Antigua, Thailand, Kenya, Barbados and Tanzania as its top 10 destinations currently being booked. Certainly, we are likely to see select Indian Ocean and Caribbean destinations being at the forefront of both long-haul and luxury travel – destinations blessed with isolated, luxurious resorts.
Swift Travel, a luxury specialist, says it is seeing customers embracing longer trips. Edward Riddle of the company says: “We’re seeing a definite trend in slower and more considered travel, large itineraries spread across multiple destinations to make the most of a trip.” He adds: “After a period with unprecedentedly strong restrictions and uncertainty we predict these extended ‘epic’ trips will continue to grow in popularity, as well as meaningful itineraries to remote locations.” Riddle says he fully expects the latter to “continue and grow with small ship cruising – river and ocean – along with trains being particularly appealing”.
Prior to the pandemic, the luxury and premium sectors of the cruise industry were growing rapidly, from amenity-rich larger ships to all-inclusive river boats and the trend towards yacht-style cruising, mostly in the ultra-luxury sector. With cruise lines adopting stringent safety protocols and, in some cases, mandatory vaccination certificates for guests, the industry is well-placed to return strongly. In particular, the luxury expedition sector will allow guests to travel in vaccinated bubbles to remote regions such as the Galápagos or Antarctica.
Kuoni also confirmed that villas are in strong demand, with average group sizes increasing as extended families travel. “Honeymoons are very much back on – weddings have been on hold and some couples opting for smaller ceremonies and spending more on the honeymoon instead,” a spokesperson said.
It’s no surprise that, in this new world, villas are proving popular. CV Villas reported a spike in interest following the announcement of the roadmap out of lockdown earlier in the year. It has since seen Greece and the Balearics in particularly prove popular, suggesting holidaymakers may embrace island travel. “The feeling of seclusion is what people are after,” says managing director Tristan Symondson, who also reported several familiar trends: longer holidays, working-from-anywhere stays (often called digital nomadism) and larger groups through multi-generational holidays, with the average booking value up by 26 per cent on 2020 and 48 per cent on 2019.
While much has been written about longer lead-in times Symondson says that, while there are those planning further in advance, there are many who will hop on plane in search of sun and a little luxury once they are able to.
“When things did sort of open up from early July , we had our busiest July and August on record; July and August, for taking bookings, was like a normal January and February,” he says. “[Villas] are the sort of holiday that people will do at the drop of a hat. They may not go on a complex tour of India next week, but they will go on a blitz, you know, on a holiday in Greece next week. It’s the kind of thing that you can do without too much planning. So we saw a huge last-minute surge when stuff did open up last year and we were confident that we’ll get the same [this year] if we get the news we are after.”
Riddle at Swift Travel adds that, as well as private villa bookings, ‘residence on resort’ holidays are popular among luxury travellers, which he says offer “privacy and safety with top spec but benefit from outstanding resort amenities if required”. There is, he says, an abundance of options in all regions, which also “cater for longer stays far better, which is definitely on the up due to sudden changes in restrictions and huge growth in remote working”.
In Amadeus’ Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel report, Julia Sattel, executive committee member, wrote that luxury is filtering down throughout the travel industry. “In short, what is considered luxury today will continually shift to become mainstream tomorrow,” she said. “For example, spas used to be associated with high-end luxury; now they are virtually mandatory in every four-star hotel and included in many business and first class airport lounges, thus ‘raising the bar’ and threshold service levels over a relatively short period of time.” It feels as if post-Covid travel may exacerbate this effect.
On the subject of villas, Symondson adds that, because of the seclusion, very little about the holiday type – apart from the housekeeper wearing a mask – is different to pre-pandemic times. It’s a little slice of life before all of this started – and that’s something travellers will want from all holiday types. In the age of Covid-19, maybe that’s what true luxury really is: normality.