Archive for September, 2010

Economic Development and Chamber Bestow Community Awards

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Here is part of article in the paper. The criteria was that we 1. Showed
innovation, passion in entrepreeurship. 2. Demonstrated professional
development as well as leadership development. and 3. Deomonstrated
community involvement.

Making the Case for Tourism Funding

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Making the Case for Tourism Funding
Travel Conference to examine need for tourism funding

LINCOLN, NEB. (Sept. 9, 2010) — What happens if you take a successful marketing program and cut it to zero? It happened to the tourism marketing budget in Colorado with devastating results. In these difficult economic times, all budgets are under scrutiny, and marketing budgets are an easy target.

At this year’s Nebraska Travel Conference, Dr. Bill Siegel, chairman and CEO of advertising research firm Longwood International in Toronto, will explain why tourism funding is a wise investment rather than a cost.

Siegel wrote a legendary Colorado case study that demonstrated the shocking results of cutting that state’s tourism budget to zero in the 1990s. His firm’s research was instrumental in the restoration of Colorado’s tourism marketing funding and the subsequent recovery to record visitation levels.

The 34th annual Nebraska Travel and Tourism Conference will be Oct. 12-14 at The Cornhusker, a Marriott Hotel, 333 S. 13th St.

The conference will include educational workshops, general sessions and networking opportunities, as well as travel industry exhibitor booths displaying essential new products.

Check out the conference agenda or register online at A special conference hotel rate is available only until Sept. 24, so book your lodging reservation early.

Two of North America’s 100 Best Events for 2011

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Two Nebraska Events Are Tickets to Fun and to Critical Group Tourism Dollars

LINCOLN, NEB. (Sept. 7, 2010)—The American Bus Association (ABA) announced today that Kool-Aid Days in Hastings and the North Platte Rail Fest have been designated as two of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2011 by an expert tourism industry selection committee. Inclusion in the Top 100 list indicates that an event offers excellent entertainment value to tour groups and individual travelers from around the world, according to the ABA. The list is featured in the September/October Destinations magazine supplement.

The release of the ABA’s 2011 Top 100 Events in North America marks its 29th program year. What began as a way for motorcoach operators to incorporate new product into their itineraries has grown to one of the most sought-after lists by travel professionals, motorcoach operators and the general public.

“The attractiveness of Kool-Aid Days and North Platte Rail Fest as don’t-miss entertainment values are only part of why the selections this year are such a distinction for Nebraska,” said Peter J. Pantuso, CTIS, ABA’s president and CEO. “The real news here is that these events have been recognized as a potential magnets for tourism dollars, at a time when reenergizing domestic tourism is so important to our spirit and our economy. The honor gives Hastings and North Platte an important boost in visibility among professional tour planners.”

According to studies completed by researchers at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Dunham and Associates in Brooklyn, N.Y., one motorcoach group’s overnight visit can result in anywhere from $5,000 to more than $13,000 gains in a local destination’s economy. Those dollars are spent on lodging, meals, admissions and other fees, as well as shopping, souvenirs, services and local taxes.

“Motorcoach groups spend more and stay longer,” Pantuso said. “That’s why Kool-Aid Days and North Platte Rail Fest are truly local economic assets. There is no better way to jump-start tourism than to attract motorcoach groups to a great event and convince them to extend their stay.”

ABA’s 2011 Top 100 Events Selection Committee chose Kool-Aid Days and North Platte Rail Fest from among a record 650-plus event nominations submitted by ABA members. Judges considered each event’s broad appeal, accessibility to motorcoaches, ability to handle large groups and other related criteria.

The Top 100 Events list is available online at

“A New We”

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Now Showing: A New We

A New We – a documentary about eco-villages and eco-communities in Europe

Recently, we came across A New We, a documentary by Austrian filmmaker Stefan Wolf about established eco-communities across Europe, and thought our readers might find it interesting.

A New We takes viewers on a fascinating journey into 10 different eco-communities in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, and the Canary Islands, and seeks answers to some interesting questions:

* How are these communities organized?
* What decision-making processes do they use?
* How they finance themselves?
* What food choices do they make?
* How much of the food and energy that they need do they produce?
* Is spirituality important?
* How do adults and children interact?
* Are there schools?

The film explores these unique communities and the interesting characters who inhabit them and the creative solutions they embrace to tackle social, environmental and economic challenges.

To watch the trailer or order the DVD visit

Think Any Monkey Can Write a Press Release? Think Again.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Think Any Monkey Can Write a Press Release? Think Again.

By Sharon Pomerantz

No offense to monkeys, but often times within companies the idea of writing a release is dismissed as a simplistic task and relegated to either a very junior staffer or someone perhaps who has no communications background at all. Now if you are Disney or American Express you probably have a significant communications team and think these thoughts could never apply to your company.

But here is the catch, sometimes even in large companies the mantra of effective communications becomes lost with the need for approval by committee with the central focus of the news release becoming each department’s opportunity to have input.

And, this becomes an even greater concern when communicating your company’s sustainability efforts. Given the complex nature of sustainable tourism practices and strong skepticism by the media and consumer, your company has to ensure it is not perceived as “greenwashing” its brand. Authentic and specific facts need to be delivered to engage your shareholders and to reassure the media that your company is genuine in its practices. Being vague and broad stroke will only undermine your brand.

I am not saying that all companies do this, however there is time and place to have a review of what you are communicating and if it is benefiting your brand, especially with regard to sustainable tourism measures. What are your ultimate communication goals? Do you have specific branding messages that you are reinforcing each time a news release is issued? How are you communicating your sustainability measures to best benefit your company? Do you just say that your company is “green” without specifics? Does the release perform by today’s SEO standards? What is your competition doing that is right and perhaps wrong?

To garner your fair and positive share of voice, each company needs to concede at least once or twice a year to do a communications audit to see if their news releases and communications tools are performing. What benefit is it to undertake sustainable tourism practices and have your name in the marketplace if it does not meet your objectives? Ensure your best and well-trained talent are involved in the process and seek outside agency opinion and support too.

And as to the monkeys, while “it is all happening at the zoo,” in public relations and social media it is best to look to the experts and professionals to make your news roar.

For a complimentary consultation on your company’s PR/Social Media/Marketing efforts, please contact Sharon E. Pomerantz, President, Pomerantz PR at (203) 256-0460 or or visit Sharon serves on STI’s Special Advisory Board.

Step into Sustainability

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Step into Sustainability

STEP 101, an Eco-certification Primer

Sustainable Travel International helps travel-related businesses develop and implement systems to minimize the negative and maximize the positive impacts of travel. Our most comprehensive offering is the Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Program™ (STEP) and we recently launched the Sustainability Planning & Reporting Kit which provides businesses with all the necessary resources to draft a sustainability policy, measure and monitor performance and impacts, and apply for eco-certification.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Self-assessment and certification are commitments that go far beyond changing light bulbs. With the new Sustainability Planning & Reporting Kit, businesses can learn how to put pencil to paper and move principles into practice. Truly sustainable companies will do this not only for the sake of a 1-5 star rating, to better penetrate the market, or to attract the growing segment of savvy, green consumers. Many of these pioneering companies realize that they can only affect real change and protect the destinations they serve through improved business practices. This is why STEP is designed to help companies take an incremental approach to sustainability.

STEP 1 – Assessment: Our project management and self-assessment license gives you access to our Sustainability Planning & Reporting Kit, including a workbook, policy templates, benchmarking tables, and a half-hour to one-hour consultation. These tools will help you to self-assess your company and implement sustainable business practices by utilizing a single platform to score your sustainability efforts, set timelines, assign tasks, upload documents, and apply for certification. Although Assessment is a voluntary procedure, companies who complete an Assessment are encouraged to apply for Eco-certification.

STEP 2 – Application: Following the Assessment, you have the option to apply for Eco-certification. Applicants only need to submit the “Required” Policy & Documentation (P&D). STI will review and evaluate the information provided. If your P&D is approved, you will receive a 1 star Eco-certified rating that is valid for up to 12 months, and you can proceed with scheduling an on-site assessment.

STEP 3 – Eco-certified: Next, a STEP Lead Assessor will undertake an on-site verification to verify compliance with STEP, and document and compare their findings with the information provided in your Application. The on-site audit is not pass/fail, but rather a verification of a company’s policies and operations. Upon completion, successful businesses are given a 2-5 Star Eco-certified rating.

STEP is aligned with the minimum baseline Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC), and applicable to tourism businesses of all sizes. STEP fees start as low as US$200 / year. STI members are eligible for a reduction of the project management and self-assessment license of up to $500, based upon your membership level.

For more information please email Robert Chappel, STI’s Director of Eco-certification and Standards Development.

13 Chefs’ Secrets for the Perfect Breakfast

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010


13 Chefs’ Secrets for the Perfect Breakfast

Here are the professionals’ tips for flawlessly executing the most important meal of the day.

From The Cheating Chef’s Secret Cookbook

Try one of these 8 healthy breakfasts for higher energy throughout the day.

1. Omelet
Want a perfect omelet? Getting the egg out of the pan is the challenge. Here are some helpful hints chefs already know:

* Heat the pan hot! When you pour in the egg, it should sizzle and bubble. The pan should be hot enough to cook in just moments, without browning.
* Use a heavyweight nonstick pan, and make sure it is spotlessly clean.
* Use a heatproof rubber scraper. These flexible tools, once used merely to scrape batter out of pans, have become major cooking tools with the advent of heatproof silicone blades.

From Magic Foods
Try one of these 8 healthy breakfasts for higher energy throughout the day.
2. Hash Browns
Boil the potatoes in advance and — this is the key — refrigerate them overnight before grating them, resulting in picture-perfect hash browns that are golden-edged and crisp. That’s because cooking and chilling will crystallize the potato starch, allowing them to cook up dry and crisp, not gooey.

3. Frittata
For an extra crispy, perfectly browned frittata top, drizzle with a light splash of extra-virgin olive oil before popping into the oven.

4. French Toast
Ever wonder how restaurants get their French toast so brown and sweet without overcooking the middle? Here’s the trick: When you melt the butter, add a pinch of brown sugar, a pinch of ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to the pan at the same time. When the butter begins to foam, put the bread in the pan, but do not move it around until it’s time to flip!

5. Muffins and Scones
Are your breakfast baked goods a little tough? Here’s a secret weapon that just might help: sugar. Stir a few tablespoons of sugar in when combining the dry ingredients. Sugar helps weaken the gluten in the flour so it can’t form such tough bonds. When it comes to baking, sugar is a natural tenderizer.

6. Pancakes
The best and lightest pancakes are made from buttermilk and baking soda, which together create air bubbles that are trapped by the gluten in the flour. This simple chemical reaction happens and subsides quickly, so don’t wait around. Mix the pancake batter quickly (and minimally — over beating makes them tough and flat) and cook them immediately. Discard any leftover batter.

7. Bacon
To avoid splatter, and for even cooking, cook bacon in the microwave. For 1 sandwich, place 1 or 2 slices of bacon on a folded paper towel and lay it in the microwave. Cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and sizzling. For more than 2 slices of bacon, lay the paper towel on a plate and increase the cooking time as needed.

8. Oatmeal
The key to perfect oatmeal every time is to not add milk until the end; otherwise, it will curdle and throw off the texture of the cereal (not to mention its flavor).

9. Scrambled Eggs
The secret to scrambled eggs is in the cream cheese. When cream cheese melts, it doesn’t melt into a liquid; it melts down to the consistency of sour cream, which adds a velvety smoothness to this delicious dish.

10. Breakfast Stratas
Everyone loves the crunchy bits on baked dishes like stratas and even lasagnas. The ingredient that’s bound to make crunch-lovers happy is cornflakes! Sprinkle them on just before baking, and watch your family beam with delight when the dish comes out of the oven.

11. Granola
Most granolas involve masses of raisins, which can get old and stodgy after a while. The secret to the delicious tang that gives granola such bright flavor are crisp and tart dried cranberries and dried cherries.

12. Cornbread
The real secret to the best cornbread isn’t in the batter; it’s in the process. The hotter the cast-iron pan is before you pour in the batter, the crispier the crust will be. (Just be careful removing it from the oven!)

13. Muffins
If your muffins emerge from the oven flat instead of puffed into a dome, you’re probably over beating the batter. Resist the impulse to beat it smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet all at once and turn the batter over from the bottom with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, not a whisk. Several brisk stirs should do the trick. When you can still see a few streaks of unincorporated flour, that’s the time to spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans.
From The Cheating Chef’s Secret Cookbook

Building a Mobile Strategy for Business Travel

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Day One of Four: Building a mobile strategy for business travel

Posted by Special Nodes USA on 13 September 2010


NB: This series is a guest post by Mark Tiden, co-founder of Conducive Technology and a creator of FlightStats.

It seems that every other press release these days is about another corporate travel agency announcing a mobile itinerary strategy.

Agencies are under enormous competitive pressure to “check the box” of a mobile itinerary strategy as their customers increasingly expect mobile capability.

While even the simplest mobile itinerary viewer offers some benefit to the traveler, many of these partnerships appear to be more of a tactical reaction by the agency to the competitive pressure instead of an integrated customer service strategy that includes a smart mobile offering.

In some cases, re-branded or co-branded consumer itinerary applications may actually do more harm than good for the agency.

Many applications rely on confirmation email parsing that makes itinerary changes difficult to handle. Most don’t include any significant reporting capability, and may even encourage out-of-policy booking behavior.

In addition, these applications usually don’t do much to improve customer service and offer no opportunity to the agency for incremental revenue.

However, if they are part of an integrated customer service strategy, smart phones and mobile itinerary applications represent a real strategic opportunity to dramatically increase the agency’s relevance and value on the day of travel as well as before and after the trip.

An integrated strategy can help minimize leakage, promote policy compliance, encourage productive engagement with the traveler, and provide full global visibility and reporting to the agency and corporate travel manager both during and after the trip.

A strategy that addresses these key components would be a success by any measure.

However, smart mobile devices also offer an opportunity to deliver new high-value services on the day of travel that create new revenue opportunities for the agency.

So what does an integrated customer service strategy that incorporates mobile look like?

Of course, there will be differences between agencies and corporate customers, but let’s consider a few common elements of such a strategy.

Part One – Direct itinerary capture and processing

mobile calendar

Integrating a mobile device into the overall customer service strategy begins with reliable and efficient itinerary capture and change management.

While constructing the initial itinerary from parsed emails is simple (though somewhat unreliable) and doesn’t require virtually any IT investment, changes to the itinerary are difficult to manage—even when they are made by the agency.

All-too-common travel disruptions can often mean that the agency, the mobile device, and the actual travel itinerary are out of sync. In addition, a static itinerary viewer does nothing to help the traveler deal with these disruptions.

Consumer itinerary applications with email parsing often strip all agency branding from the itineraries as well, effectively cutting the agency out of the traveler’s day-of-travel experience.

Look for a solution that includes a direct connection to the agency’s mid-office or QC systems or to the GDS used by the agency.

An ideal system also makes it very easy for the traveler to report a change to the agency and have their agency itinerary updated outside of these systems.

Imagine a traveler being able to select an itinerary segment on the mobile itinerary application and generate a message directly within their itinerary application that informs their agency that the airline has re-protected the traveler on the selected segment.

The application picks up most of the relevant details including the date, origin and destination from the itinerary and all the traveler has to do is report the new flight number.

The system can then update the itinerary within the monitoring system to reflect the changes so that all monitoring and messaging is on the updated itinerary.

The agency remains in the loop and relevant, even when changes are made outside of the agency’s control.

In addition, security systems for traveler tracking can also receive the updates from the itinerary monitoring system so that travelers don’t fall “off the radar” when trip disruptions occur.

NB: This series is a guest post by Mark Tiden, co-founder of Conducive Technology and a creator of FlightStats.

Examining Current Industry Trends

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010


Dear Travel Colleague:

The summer ended much as it began, with the economy slowing and the travel industry on the cusp of an incipient recovery. Recent economic news does little to restore our confidence, but bright spots in industry performance suggest better days ahead.

Sharp Spike in Imports Drags Down Economic Growth

The U.S. Department of Commerce slashed its estimate for Q2 ’10 U.S. GDP growth from a 2.4 percent annual rate to 1.6 percent, confirming fears that economic growth has slowed significantly. In Q1, real GDP increased 3.7 percent, following a 5.7 percent growth rate in the final quarter of 2009. This deceleration in economic growth was caused primarily by a sharp acceleration in imports. Further, economic entrenchment that began in the second quarter spilled over into the summer, reflecting ongoing troubles in the nation’s housing sector (sales of existing and new homes in July hit record lows), continuing high levels of unemployment (stuck at 9.6%) and first-time unemployment claims, a continuing losing streak in the stock market and a rapidly rising trade deficit (which spiked 16 percent in June). Bright spots included corporate investment in such big-ticket items such as new machinery and computers, corporate profits from current production (they surged 4.6% on the quarter and were up 39.2% year-on-year), gains in U.S. home prices and an improvement in real personal consumption (+2.0%).

Some consumer attitudinal measures have also improved modestly in recent days. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) showed a slight gain of 2.5 points in August to 53.5, reflecting an improvement in consumers’ short-term outlook. Nevertheless, consumers’ assessment of current conditions was less favorable as employment concerns continue to weigh heavily. Consumers remain apprehensive about the future and, overall, are about as confident today as they were a year ago (August 2009 CCI = 54.5). The Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index also posted a slight uptick in August, but this too remained well below levels seen during the prior six months. The data indicate a slowdown in the pace of growth that will last into 2011 but that outright declines in consumer spending are unlikely. Nonetheless, consumer finances remain weak, and any additional erosion could quickly reduce consumer spending even more.

Further, Gallup’s most recent discretionary spending data (for the week ending August 29) show essentially no improvement from a year ago. Even the well-to-do aren’t immune. “A lot of people who are in the lower-income affluent & from $100,000 to $250,000 & – have dropped out of the luxury market,” says Pam Danziger, whose firm Unity Marketing regularly surveys the top fifth of income earners in America. “They’re back to the middle class.” Most economists expect economic recovery to continue at a similarly weak pace through the rest of the year and some have even upped the prospects of a double-dip recession to 30-40 percent.

Airlines Turn a Profit in Second Quarter

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger traffic worldwide grew 9.2 percent in July, reflecting a slowing of growth seen earlier (June +11.6%), but still reaching a level 3 percent higher than pre-crisis levels of early 2008. A July capacity increase of less than half the demand growth (5.1%) pushed load factors higher. IATA says it is clear that the recovery has entered a slower phase but has been faster than anticipated. But, the pace of recovery is expected to slow towards the end of the year.

Reflecting increasing demand, 47 major airlines worldwide reported a cumulative $3.9 billion net profit for the second quarter, reversing the $900 million net loss in the prior-year period. North American airlines earned $1.74 billion in the quarter to lead the world’s regions, turning around from a $514 million deficit in the three months ended June 30, 2009. A $2.5 billion profit is anticipated for global airlines in 2010.

Capacity is starting to return as aircraft have been ordered or taken out of storage. Some say there is even a threat of excess capacity but published schedules suggest capacity growth will remain in line with demand. IATA reports that passenger fares have not rebounded in line with volume. Economy fares on average are 5 percent below early 2008 peaks and premium fares remain some 20 percent below.

In the U.S., airline revenues grew for the seventh consecutive month in July (+20%), passenger demand fell slightly (-1%) and there was a 17 percent increase in the average price to fly one mile, according to the Air Transport Association (ATA). Recently, the ATA released its 2010 Economic Report – When America Flies, It Works, reporting that the air sector remains fragile and its outlook for profits uncertain.

On top of these ongoing financial pressures, airlines are being hit with increasing landing fees, facility rentals and passenger taxes from airports struggling to survive as well as facing depressed passenger demand. Further, Americans’ general displeasure with the airline industry continues to haunt airlines for a fourth straight year, with 41 percent viewing this sector negatively and 30 percent viewing it positively, according to Gallup. Asked to rate 25 business and industry sectors, Americans gave the airline industry a net rating of -11, putting it toward the bottom of the pack. One reason – all the new fees which have proven highly unpopular.

In the face of such uncertainty, airlines continue to introduce new sources of ancillary revenue, such as an Express Seats option (coach passengers can pay for the roomier bulkhead seats or those closest to the front and be among the first to board), as well as increases in bag check fees and fees to transport unaccompanied minors. They are also attempting to raise fares. According to American Express Business Travel’s North America Business Travel Monitor (BTM), overall airfares rose substantially during the first half of 2010 to the highest levels since the first half of 2008. Mid-year international and domestic airfares increased 8 percent and 9 percent, year-on-year, respectively. Carlson Wagonlit Travel North America forecasts that domestic and international coach airfares will increase 3-5 percent in 2011. Domestic first- and business-class pricing, however, is expected to decline 2-7 percent while international business and first classes increase 3.5 percent and 4-6 percent, respectively.

U.S. Travel Outlook Dashboard
U.S. Travel Outlook Dashboard
U.S. Travel Outlook Dashboard
U.S. Travel Outlook Dashboard

To view the monthly data for these and other current indicators click here.

Hospitality Industry Results Increasingly Positive

In July, hotel demand continued to be well above 2009 levels (+9.0%), and signs of room rate recovery had begun (average daily rate +1.3%), especially in the higher end of the market. Five top markets experienced increases in revenue per available room (RevPAR) of more than 15 percent: Oahu Island, New Orleans, Detroit, New York and Denver. This improvement continued in August. During the week ending August 21, the industry’s occupancy increased 8.2 percent, the average daily rate (ADR) rose 1.5 percent and RevPAR increased 9.8 percent. In the coming months, Smith Travel Research (STR) expects to see more balanced RevPAR growth as operators begin to accelerate room rate growth. STR also expects stronger performance in the extended-stay market. The main reason for this is that extended-stay room construction was the lowest in 15 years at the middle of 2010 and it is heading lower.

Hotels continue to look for creative new ways to spur weekend and leisure business, such as an offer by hotel companies such as Kimpton Hotels and chains run by InterContinental Hotels Group to reimburse guests for the checked-baggage fees charged by some U.S. airlines.

Hotels are also reporting resurgence in group and business guests. According to InterContinental Hotels Group, its group and corporate business rose 10 percent in the first half of this year. The Rubicon Perspective reports that committed business on the books for the current quarter through the first two quarters of 2011 is now up 4.6 percent versus the same time last year. Group commitments are up 5.2 percent, while the business segment (which Rubicon considers to be weekday guests booking retail or negotiated rates) is up 10.7 percent. ADR is improving as well, albeit far more slowly than desired.

STR has updated its forecast again to become even more positive, projecting the hotel industry to end 2010 with increases in most performance measurements: supply (+2.2%), demand (+6.6%), occupancy (+4.4%), ADR (-0.1%) and RevPAR (+4.3%). “Room rate growth trajectory will determine the magnitude of recovery,” said Mark Lomanno, president of STR. “We’re still a little bit worried about the ADR part of the equation. The industry is currently facing a lot of challenges, and there are all kinds of pressure on that ADR number: the OTAs, and still rebounding group business to name just two.” STR projects the following for the hotel industry in 2011:
supply (-1.1%), demand (+2.5%), occupancy (+1.4%), ADR (+3.9%), and RevPAR (+5.3%). PricewaterhouseCoopers has revised its forecasts in similar ways. Colliers PKF Hospitality Research forecasts that the average U.S. hotel will achieve a 2.3 percent increase in net operating income during 2010. This follows a 37.8 percent cumulative decline in profit experienced from 2007 through 2009 and is the first annual uptick in forecasted net operating income since 2007.

Just as the lodging industry has begun to recover, it is being hit with yet another challenge. Beginning October 1, per diem lodging rates in 310 of the 378 so-called nonstandard areas (higher-cost areas where federal employees most frequently travel) will decline, according to the General Services Administration (GSA). For federal government employees visiting places like New York City, where lodging per diems will shrink by as much as one-third, in Chicago and Las Vegas where they will decline 21 percent for part of 2011, and in Boston where per diems will fall 18 percent, it could be tough to find affordable hotel rooms. GSA calculated these per diems based on hotels’ ADRs from April 2009 to March 2010, which was the heart of the recession when rates were at their lowest. With rates now beginning to stabilize and projected to rise in 2011, these lower per diems will likely not be sustainable and will put additional pressure on both hotels and on government travelers. U.S. Travel is engaged in trying to correct this situation with the federal government.

Business Travel Continues to Fuel Industry Recovery

Airlines, hotels and car rental companies in the United States all reported good to excellent results as business travel hit a more sustainable stride in the second quarter of 2010. Data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation show an increase of nearly 22 percent in worldwide travel agency sales during the first half of 2010, reflecting 7.5 percent more domestic transactions and 11 percent more international transactions when compared to the same period last year.

The exhibition industry, however, continues to struggle. The Second Quarter 2010 CEIR Index marked the ninth consecutive quarter of underperforming the previous year, down 1.4 percent. Measures of net square feet and revenues continued to decline, but at a much slower rate. Net square feet of exhibit space sold showed a decline of 3.0 percent, with exhibitors declining 3.0 percent. While overall declines continue, the exhibition industry is not performing as badly as it did in 2009 when it had its worst year ever, declining 12.5 percent. Optimistic indicators included a 4.5 percent increase in attendance. It is anticipated that slow growth will continue through 2010 with the fourth quarter of 2010 and first quarter of 2011 likely to show the beginnings of a true recovery for the exhibition industry.

After a tumultuous 24 months, the meetings industry seems to be on the mend, according to travel buyers, 60 percent of whom said they feel the meetings market is stable, according to the latest poll by Maxvantage’s (an alliance between American Express Business Travel and Maritz Travel). Much greater shares of buyers are now reporting that it is more challenging to find available meeting space and harder to negotiate lower rates than did last year. Good news for travel suppliers but bad news for meeting planners and the companies they work for.

Virtual Could Overwhelm Future Meetings Market

Other new developments will also continue to challenge the meetings segment of our industry. A new study by Bernstein Research concludes that “telepresence” or virtual meetings could replace 70 percent of internal travel and 10 percent of external travel over the next 10 to 15 years, leading to an aggregate reduction of 21 percent in corporate travel spending. The U.S. telepresence or virtual meeting market could be worth $30 billion in 10 to 15 years. According to Forrester Research, 17 percent of U.S. business travelers have used either videoconferencing or virtual presence in the past year to reduce their business travel, and 48 percent expect their employers will have policies in place by the end of this year for the use of videoconferencing and virtual presence to reduce demand for business travel.

Leisure Travel Posting Mixed Results

According to the results of Ypartnership’s just-released 2010 Portrait Of American Travelers, the U.S. leisure travel market has finally stabilized. The average American leisure traveler took an average of four trips during the past year and spent more than $3,500 on travel services, and the research suggests that the industry can expect a modest increase in demand in the year ahead. But “value” will remain in vogue and consumers have developed a “new resourcefulness,” allowing them to accommodate many of the unexpected constraints on their travel spending and adopt new shopping/staying techniques so they can satisfy their desire to travel for leisure but in a more affordable manner. This new resourcefulness has altered travel behavior in several interesting ways. Fully eight out of 10 leisure travelers now identify “the ability to check the lowest fares/rates” (83%) and the “lowest price/rate guarantee” (82%) as the two most important attributes in a website that promotes travel services. And a remarkable one out of seven (14%) has purchased a travel service as a result of getting an unsolicited e-mail.

But this nascent recovery in leisure travel seems quite vulnerable. Rural arterial vehicle-miles (a measure of non-local highway travel) remain soft (up less than 1% through June), although Amtrak continues to show strong performance (see Dashboard). In addition to benefiting from increasing business travel, Amtrak reports that third-quarter sales of its vacation packages were up 51 percent from a year ago.

Travel agents report that those postponing vacations last year are making modest vacation plans this year. But with it has come a new level of austerity as vacationers seek frugal ways to get away by juggling their finances, taking shorter trips, visiting less expensive destinations and even staying with relatives. The National Park Service, for example, expects about 285 million visitors this year, and visitor numbers at parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Death Valley are running above levels a year ago. Special offers and incentives are continuing to be offered by hotels, resorts, cruise lines, etc., to attract the more reluctant leisure traveler of today.

AAA projected that Labor Day holiday travel would increase 9.9 percent this year over last, with 34.4 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home. But some were skeptical as to whether hotel performance would follow those traveler increases predicted. Reserved occupancy for the Labor Day weekend was up 3.6 percent, according to Rubicon. And, TripAdvisor®’s annual Labor Day travel survey found that 28 percent of Americans expected to travel over that holiday, down slightly from 30 percent one year ago. And Hurricane Earl didn’t help, causing leisure travelers along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Maine to cut short their end of the summer season vacations.

The TripAdvisor survey also looked outward to travel during the next few months, finding that 86 percent are planning leisure trips this coming fall, compared to 73 percent that said they took trips last fall. Nearly half (45%) plan to spend more on travel this fall, while 41 percent expect to spend the same amount. One-third intends to spend more than $3,000 on fall leisure trips. Traveling in the fall is getting more popular with married couples in the 55-plus demographic, according to a recent study by Ruf Strategic Solutions for Travel Guard North America.

Destination Performance Mixed As Well

Nevada industry reps are guardedly optimistic about this year, reporting clear signs of improvement – visitation is up and sales tax, one of Nevada’s main revenue sources, appears to have reversed a more than four-year slide. Convention bookings remain strong, with convention room nights for 2011 about 20 percent ahead of pace. But gaming revenue, Nevada’s other major revenue source, is less certain. For those looking to attract the gaming market, you might check out a new customer segmentation model developed by Market Metrix. The purpose of this model is to identify critical behaviors and trends of casino customers that will help casino management better understand and connect with their target customers.

In Orlando, Walt Disney World recently reported that its attendance has slipped as it cuts back on discounts. Attendance fell 2 percent during the three months that ended July 3 and occupancy at Disney World hotels dropped eight percentage points to 83 percent. But some of that lost attendance is being offset through higher average prices. Per-capita spending inside Disney World’s four theme parks climbed 3 percent during the quarter; per-room spending in its hotels rose 4 percent. Elsewhere in Orlando, the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter in mid-June – said to be the hottest opening in Orlando this year – has reportedly given many of the area’s hotels and resorts a much-needed summer business lift. The number of visitors expected in Orlando in 2011 is forecast to increase 3 percent compared with this year, according to Global Insight.

New Orleans seems to be heading in the right direction after having its tourism industry crippled by Hurricane Katrina five years ago. The number of visitors to New Orleans – a city in which 35 percent of jobs were reliant on tourism before the storm – dropped dramatically in the weeks and months that followed. Today, New Orleans isn’t quite back to what it once was, but tourism is said to be on the rebound. In 2004, the year before Katrina, slightly more than 10 million visitors came to the city and spent close to $5 billion dollars. In 2006, the year after the hurricane, the numbers dropped to 3.7 million visitors. Last year, despite a nationwide recession and cutbacks in corporate business travel, the number of visitors to the city edged back up to 7.5 million. These tourists, in turn, spent $4.2 billion – just below the pre-Katrina peak.

And, of course, many destinations along the Gulf of Mexico suffered tourism losses this summer because of the BP oil spill. For example, in Beaches of South Walton on Florida’s Gulf Coast, summer occupancy was down 30 percent, and in Alabama’s Dauphin Island, 90 percent fewer people booked summer rentals compared to last summer. June was particularly bad when, for example, lodging receipts tumbled nearly 40 perent and retail sales fell 22 percent in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Similar losses were expected in July. Other communities had deceptively high occupancy rates because BP and federal officials were stationed nearby. They may have filled the hotels but were not spending money in other attractions and retail establishments like tourists do. Further, although the BP well has now been capped, some destinations in the Gulf Coast region may still be suffering from misperceptions, fueled once again by yet another oil platform explosion that threatened further damage as well as re-igniting concerns among potential visitors about the area’s potential vulnerability.

Two surveys conducted by Ypartnership on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA clearly demonstrate these misperceptions, reinforcing VISIT FLORIDA’s argument that the state needs more money from the British oil company BP PLC to continuing promoting the fact that most of Florida’s coastline is untouched by oil. Interestingly, in the face of this crisis, Florida relied on social media, mounting a PR blitz to show beachgoers that Florida’s surf had been spared an oily disaster. On May 11, about three weeks after the spill, the state tourism agency launched a marketing campaign, using the same social media tools that the media used to spread information about the spill. VISIT FLORIDA created a website called Florida Live to provide real time information about how the spill was – or wasn’t – affecting the coast. It increased their website traffic by 46 percent compared to the same time last year, and bumped up its Facebook page traffic about tenfold – now the site has more than 8,000 fans. U.S. Travel synthesized the good online work of state tourism offices affected by the oil spill with creation of the portal site, giving travelers a one-stop source on news from this region.

Activity Trends

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is reporting some optimistic signs. A total of 13.4 million people cruised on CLIA lines in 2009, up 4.8 percent more than 2008. Two-thirds (8.9 million) embarked from U.S. ports. But to achieve these numbers, cruise lines offered attractive fares and other incentives, reducing cruise lines’ total gross revenue by 11.4 percent. The North American cruise industry continues to expand its presence throughout Europe, a source of new passengers. And cruise lines are reporting positive statistics for 2010 and beyond, citing improved revenue yields for the first time since 2008, strong booking volumes for the second half of the year and the effectiveness of cost-control measures.

Interestingly, as the cruise industry continues to shake out, some U.S. ports will benefit and others will lose. The hardest-hit U.S. cruise markets are on the West Coast, such as the ports of San Diego and Los Angeles, but also others like Norfolk, Virginia. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, Alaska’s two largest cruise operators, have significantly reduced their Alaska capacity. Some ships are being redeployed to Australia and New Zealand to tap new markets and create new itineraries. Others will go to Europe. But several U.S homeports are doing well, such as Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades (homeport of the world’s largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas), Miami, Baltimore and Galveston.

And, as travelers plan their trips, there seems to be a move back to traditional travel agents by some who are becoming increasingly frustrated by travel websites, according to Forrester Research. The number of travelers who would consider using a traditional offline agency increased 26 percent in 2009. Further, 15 percent fewer travelers enjoy using the web and the number of online travel hunters who believe websites do a good job of presenting travel choices has dropped to one in three as more travelers believe their business is taken for granted by websites.

As leisure travel continues its rocky recovery, it will remain challenged by our entrenched work ethic and reluctance to take off vacation time. As explained by John de Graff, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time, U.S. adults who receive only an average of 13 vacation days per year, typically leave three days unused. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are approximately 153 million employed Americans, meaning that each year an average of 459 million vacation days are going unused in the United States. A recent survey suggests that close to half (45%) of working Americans let hard-earned time away go to waste in 2009; furthermore, three-quarters (78%) anticipate leaving as many as 10 vacation days on the table in 2010. Why? Many say coordinating schedules with family and friends is too difficult (51%) or they are not able to afford a “real vacation” (40%). Others admit it is less about personal situations and more about work-life being too busy to enjoy time away (47%). While consumers express pessimism towards the possibility of a work escape, adults who choose to go on vacation feel reconnected with the family (53%), more productive and positive about their jobs (34%), as well as the health benefits of being rested and rejuvenated. You will find more Benefits of Travel data and resources on U.S. Travel’s website.

International Inbound Travel Continues to Contributes to Trade Surplus

International inbound travel is on the mend. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international visitors spent an estimated $11.1 billion on travel to and within the U.S. during the month of June – $1.4 billion more (15%) than was spent in June 2009 – marking the sixth consecutive month of growth. International visitors have spent an estimated $64.6 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date (January through June), an increase of 7 percent compared to the same period last year. During that same period, Americans have increased their spending on outbound international travel only slightly, spending nearly $50.6 billion abroad year to date (up 2%) – resulting in a $14.0 billion trade surplus for travel and tourism.

But problems remain in some of our key inbound markets. Mintel says the U.K. holiday market will take five years to recover. Value Added Tax (VAT) increases and higher fuel costs will make holidays from the United Kingdom more expensive, which could cause a further dip in the market. Overall spend on overseas holidays is forecast to rise by 17 percent over the next five years, which is significantly more than from 2005 to 2010, but the rise will be driven by higher holiday costs. In constant price terms, expenditures on holidays will decline by 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2015. Overseas city breaks and holiday homes are the two markets that would be most affected. While beach and family holidays will continue to dominate the market, more diversification will be seen in holiday types. Niche products/destinations will see the fastest growth, according to Mintel.

So, How Do We Reach ‘Em?

Social network advertising is getting renewed attention in 2010. Ad spending on social destinations in the U.S. will reach $1.7 billion this year and cross the $2 billion mark in 2011, according to eMarketer. The company driving most of the growth is Facebook, while MySpace is diminishing in importance. Twitter, which finally launched its ad business earlier this year, captured less than $50 million in ad spending in 2010 but its potential in 2011 and beyond could be substantial.

According to the PhoCusWright Consumer Technology Survey, users of social networks, micro-blogs and mobile early adopters are significantly more likely to use the Internet to select their leisure travel destination. But, despite advanced mobile devices like the iPhone making headlines almost daily, the majority of travelers are not using their phones to visit travel-related mobile websites or make travel reservations – not just yet. Further, travel reviews were found to have a significant impact on booking decisions, and, for now, are cited as influential more often than any other type of social media, but their location and content have an effect on how influential they ultimately are. The most popular methods for online travelers to share their leisure travel reviews, however, involve “technologies” that are rarely mentioned these days – in person, phone and email.

And mobile applications are proliferating rapidly. According to Ypartnership/Harrison Group, nearly a third of all cellphones in the U.S. now are so-called smartphones (Web-enabled devices that make surfing the Internet for information easy for people on the go). And nearly 20 percent of travelers have downloaded one or more travel-related applications to their smartphones: 47 percent of these have used GPS functionality to find their way to a destination, 46 percent have searched for flight updates, 29 percent compared airfares or hotel rates, 18 percent booked air travel or lodging, 15 percent viewed virtual visitor guides, and 11 percent downloaded and/or redeemed coupons. Watch for U.S. Travel’s new report Use of Mobile Travel Services by Destination Marketing Organizations, to be published soon. The report reveals significant use of mobile social networks by destination marketing organizations and high ratings for their effectiveness in meeting organizational goals. However, the survey on which the report is based also finds a need for better understanding of mobile travel services and how they can be used for marketing purposes and, most importantly, how best to measure the return on investment on such services.

Four Months and Counting

Now more than halfway through 2010, the economic picture is still a bit fuzzy and a nudge one way or the other may result in either a fairly robust or only “so so” 2010 for the travel and tourism industry. The remaining four months will help determine how we view 2010 from the perspective of 2011. But from whatever lens one is using, we should applaud ourselves for surviving 2009 and taking advantage of lessons learned in 2010 as we approach 2011.

Last Chance to Save Money When You Register for Marketing Outlook Forum!

Time marches on and we are now less than two months out from our 2010 Marketing Outlook Forum (MOF). This year’s dynamite program – an event that you won’t want to, and really can’t afford to miss – will be held in Las Vegas, October 26-27 and will be followed by the Travel Marketers Continuing Education Workshop, brought to Forum delegates once again free-of-charge by the Acxiom Corporation. The Early Bird deadline is Friday, September 10, so register today! In this very uncertain environment, the market intelligence, expert analyses and forecasts, marketing insights and networking opportunities with your peers and industry leaders make this the one must-attend event this fall. I look forward to seeing you there!

Dr. Suzanne Cook
Suzanne Cook, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor, U.S. Travel Association and
General Manager, Marketing Outlook Forum

Rural Poll Report from UNL

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

This may give us as B&B owners some insight into the travel and tourism industry.\

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