As 2013 comes to a close, year in review stories are appearing across the Internet. I just came across a story in Travel Weekly “The Top Stories of 2013” which listed a number of impact events within the travel industry.
Carnival Cruise Line
They listed the changes at Carnival Cruise line as the #1 story. Carnival Cruises is on a mission to make sure they are not so much the lead story on the 6 O’clock news. Mickey Arison stepped down as CEO with Arnold Donald assuming the role. COO Howard Frank stepped down. Bob Dickinson returned as a high paid consultant to resurrect the brand (see our story Bob Dickinson Returns To Save Carnival Cruise Corp.) However, I think the bigger story is that as the people who made Carnival Cruises the number #1 cruise line retired, the replacements were people whose only ability to make an impact was to increase profits. However, as MARK TWAIN once said “Sometimes you have to find out how much is too much, to find out how much is enough.” Carnival found out the hard way how massive cost reductions led to cutting corners and their passengers found out the hard way. They also alienated the Travel Agent community biting the hands that feed it. Absolutely crazy mismanagement! However, it appears they seen the error of their ways and are on the right path. They are implementing a better maintenance schedule, improved on-board service and have made efforts to make amends with Travel Agents. 2014 appears to be the year Carnival Cruise line reclaims the principles that made it great.
The merger between American Airlines and US Air was the number #1 most impactful story for my money. This now leaves United, Delta, Southwest and new America Airlines as the only four major carriers in the US. We have been told to rejoice, that this merger is “good for the consumer” we are told buy the people who stand to make a lot of money off the deal. Think so? Think again. This oligopoly has caught the attention of Wall Street as the competition has been so reduced they are recommending airline stocks for the very first time. Look for fares to increase exponentially in 2014. I also see more and higher traveler fees. Remember the Alaska Airlines commercial with the guy doing the “I gotta pea dance” asking other passengers if the can break a dollar bill to get quarters for the on board pay toilet. Get ready for even worse airline service, higher fares and more traveler fees.
2013 may be remembered for the year Hawaii tourism rebounded to transform into the upscale destination it has so wanted to be. The great recession had some miserable effects, but the low interest rates provided the stimulus for major hotel renovations and upgrades. Now that the tourists have returned from both North America and Asia, Hawaii hotel average daily rates are now second highest in the United States behind New York City. I remember speaking with Hawaii hoteliers back in the 80’s and 90’s saying their goal was to move from a value destination that attracted families to a deluxe destination that attracted wealthy tourists willing to spend more once they are there. They have certainly gotten their wish. But caution folks, if the economy takes another downturn they may regret the “Hawaii is an expensive vacation” reputation. Only time will tell.
There was a study that the number of Travel Agents including independent home based, was in the neighborhood of 50,000. Travel Leaders says they employ 40,000 alone. So the 50k may be a bit low indeed. However, the real story is how are the Travel Agents marketing themselves to expand the industry. In other words, what are the agents doing to promote travel and the value they personally and as an industry add to the booking process? What are they doing to brand themselves are “rock star” destination specialists? Yet, I believe we will begin to see strategic partnerships between travel writers and bloggers looking to monetize their writing and travel agents who are in great need of professional marketing.
My next blog post will be 2014 travel predictions.