Written by 11:06 pm Travel

#BTColumn – Serious aviation and tourism implications

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the creator(s) don’t represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Gavin Eccles

Aviation and tourism are also known as being, ‘two-sides-of-the-same-coin’, meaning that they could differ of their vision, but one will not be without the opposite.

Back in 2019, based on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, there have been roughly 1.4 billion tourists, of which, around half travelled by aviation. Without good connectivity, can destinations really have tourism?

The pandemic threw-back the philosophy of domestic tourists, and, new holiday experiences were coined – ‘stay-home and ‘staycations’.

America and China witnessed a large surge in domestic tourism, and, during 2020, the fastest growing airport on the planet was Bozeman International airport in Montana.

The explanation being, tourists were fleeing to the national park, and, not cities, and, an airport near the Yosemite National Park, which, was having a couple of flights a day, impulsively was with slot restrictions.

Domestic tourism will not be going to go away, but, as countries re-open, and, we learned to live with COVID-19, aviation and tourism are strongly back on the agenda.

In Europe for example, capability traffic from northern Europe to southern Europe is definitely above pre-covid levels.  The strength of the low-cost airline recovery and rebuild of carriers equivalent to Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air is seeing unprecedented demand for tourists to fly south for much-missed holidays on the beaches of Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Is tourism really back? 

Airline capability is one a part of the jigsaw.  Putting planes back within the sky has been easy but, having staff to fulfil all these routes, and, airport personnel to administer all this ‘new traffic’, is one other story. One must support demand generation also.  Getting load-factors on planes back to pre-covid levels of 80 per cent (90 per cent of the low-cost carriers) is the challenge now for the tourism boards.

Re-building the vision and storytelling of ‘why visit?’. And, with all crises, one also can say, we’ve opportunities.  New source markets for destinations can now be considered, as, the challenge we’ve all faced is that, going back to what we used to do will not be in our minds.

Key time for tourism boards to have a look at who was visiting pre-COVID

With which airlines, from which cites, during which periods of the yr, etc?  And, as some countries should not open for outbound travel, China, and, with the war in Ukraine, Russia outbound, what could also be alternatives.

The likes of Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives were very heavily depending on Chinese and Russian tourists. Looking back pre-covid will not be an answer. And, for the remainder, let’s use this pause to re-set, and, re-look at who we wish to our destinations.

From which markets?  Then study connectivity, and, can the tourist reach us?  From which cities, and, with which carriers?  With this at hand, it’s time for the tourism board to take the place on the table with airlines and airports and construct route connection business cases.

To essentially put to the provision that we’d like to work together to drive such potential, and, how we are able to support the efforts each financially with incentives and campaigns, to, institutional support to the carrier that we’re working in partnership for tourism and route development.

Airlines and tour operators have modified their business models

What else we’ve witnessed with the pandemic is how airlines and tour operators have modified their business models. Pre-COVID, aviation was very much focused on corporate/business travel, and, find out how to make high prices and yield with the front-end of the aircraft.

As business travel will not be rebounding so quickly (as we proceed the Teams and Zoom philosophy), many airlines are really developing their leisure proposition. Take Lufthansa for example. Through the pandemic they’ve launched a new leisure airline, that is targeted on each short-haul and long-haul destinations.  Eurowings Discover is the new name, operating Airbus A330 aircraft on long-haul routes (Barbados and Montego Bay within the Caribbean are being served) which have been learnt from the parent (Lufthansa).

This enables Eurowings to now position to the travel trade in Germany that we’ve a leisure arm of Lufthansa available, that, can deliver your holiday needs.  Fly Lufthansa for business to New York, and, Eurowings Discover to your holiday destination. What this has really proved is that the normal airlines are picking-up on the new leisure travel trends, and, not sitting back hoping that corporate
travel will return.

Dynamic-packaging

For tour operators, that, for a few years had followed very much a totally integrated vision; whereby we own the travel agency, the aircraft, and, the hotel that you simply stay in.  In essence, the strategy had been to accumulate all areas of the tourism chain, from booking to sleeping.

Nonetheless, because the pandemic has hit the revenues, such a vision has been challenged, and, we’re seeing many big tour operator groups selling their assets, and, working with what we now call, ‘Dynamic-Packaging’. Somewhat than owning the provision chain, let’s just own the client.

And, by owning the client, they arrive to our channel to book a vacation, that, may now include a Eurowings Discover flight (where we’ve signed a volume-contract on seats), reasonably than having all the prices, and losses, of owning our own airline.  In conclusion, this new dynamic model gives the operator more flexibility to work with airlines and tourism boards to develop new and exciting projects, and, may also help with challenges equivalent to seasonality.

Bringing this back to the Caribbean. 

How can the destinations work a more in-depth relationship with their airports, and, to instigate new discussion and conversation with airlines? How can changes in the provision work in favour of the destinations?  Through the forthcoming CARIBAVIA Conference in St. Maarten, a concentrate on pushing for the creation of air service organisations that allow for the islands to attract together the tourism boards, the airports, in addition to the hotel and attractions corporations to actually debate and discuss three key questions:

1. Which source markets will we imagine may also help construct our tourism offer in the subsequent five years?

2. From these markets, which cities/regions will we imagine can sustain our offer?

3. To whom will we then must refer to (airlines and tour operators), that may work with us to deliver our tourist levels?  Returning to the opening discussion, tourism and aviation are really the identical side of the coin.  Behold people who think otherwise….

Gavin Eccles is a Professor of Aviation and Tourism on the Universidade Lusofona in Lisbon, Portugal with a 25-year experience in marketing and strategic management within the airline, airport, hotel and tourism sectors. He has been consultant to Tourism Authorities in Barbados, UK, Portugal, India, and China. He has assisted British Airways, EasyJet, Hainan Airlines, Jet2, Eurowings, American Airlines, United Airlines, Tui Travel, Thomas Cook, Der Touristik, Meridien and Marriott Hotels. On the CARIBAVIA Conference, June 14-16 on St.Maarten, he’ll present a keynote titled “Aviation and Tourism: Cases and Best Practice And Implications for the Caribbean”, in addition to a workshop “Bringing Tourism Boards & Airports Closer Together”. (www.caribavia.org).

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