LOTUS Coronavirus update (27.03)
ABTA offers current members six months free membership
From 1 July 2020, all ABTA members will be given an immediate 50% discount on their full year ABTA membership subscription for 2020/21. Payment of the 50% subscription will be deferred until 2021, and will be split across two payments, to be collected on 1 January and 1 April 2021.
Government decision on refunds expected next week
Travel Weekly reports that the UK government’s decision on whether to suspend the consumer refund rules of the Package Travel Regulations is not expected until next week.
The decision by the Department for Business (BEIS) remains in the balance following a meeting of ABTA, the CAA and officials of BEIS and the Department for Transport (DfT) on Thursday.
ABTA has warned the government of “mass failures” and “an industry-wide collapse” if the PTR requirement to refund consumers for cancelled bookings within 14 days is adhered to.
1. London City Airport
The Times reports that London City Airport, the 12th busiest in the UK, shut on Wednesday night to commercial and private aircraft until at least the end of April.
Staff at London City will still be employed and the airport will be offered to the government "to support the national effort" against Covid-19 and could be used by the military in the coming weeks as it is near the Excel centre, which is being converted into a makeshift field hospital.
2. Other UK Airports
- Teesside and Carlisle have closed
- London Southend airport will only open between 4.30pm and 9.30pm three days a week
- Gatwick and Manchester have closed the vast majority of terminals and consolidated operations
- Bournemouth, Cardiff, Glasgow and Norwich airports are now being used by airlines to park their aircraft
- Reuters reports that Heathrow Airport expects its cargo movements to rise by 53% next week as it receives more medical supplies and equipment to help tackle coronavirus. Travel Weekly reported that whilst Standard & Poor has lowered Heathrow’s credit rating, the airport insists that its financial position remains robust with its chief financial officer saying: “’we’ve taken steps to reduce our cost base and reorganise our operation which will help us keep Britain’s hub airport operating and protect vital supply lines throughout this crisis.”
Rafael Schvartzman, IATA regional vice-president for Europe, said that other airports would close in coming weeks. It is estimated that European airlines will collectively lose £63 billion this year — a 46 per cent cut in income.
Fines fail to stop term time holidays.
In a surprising non-virus travel story, The Times ran a front-page splash outlining how a growing number of families have been taking children out of school during term times. A record number of parents are taking their children out of school for cheaper term-time holidays after realising they can get away with just a £60 fine. The number of fines issued rose last year (2018-19) to a record 333,400, up from 260,900 the year before. A decade ago, the number was 25,000.
- USA The States is now the epicentre of the pandemic and has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world. The Times says that with more than 85,000 cases, the rise has been fuelled by large outbreaks in New York, New Jersey and California but there are cases across 50 states. President Trump, has however, said that he expects the American workforce to return to work “pretty quickly” [by Easter]. The statement came as a record 3.3 million people filed claims for unemployment in the US last week beating a previous record of 695,000 in October 1982. US Treasury secretary predicted unemployment in the US – close to record lows only last month – could reach 20%. The Trump administration is pushing through a $2tn stimulus package that includes payments to taxpayers as well as bailouts for hard-hit industries to mitigate Covid-19’s impact. But, says The Guardian, the money will not head off a huge surge in unemployment.
- China Focus Travel Partnership reports that the domestic airline network is up, and running and international routes are ready to be implemented when markets open up. James Kynge from The Financial Times reports that as China recovers, Beijing is sending out masks and ventilators to alleviate the humanitarian crisis around the world and examines whether the country that has been delivering a third of global wealth over recent years can rescue the world’s economy as it did following the 2008 financial crisis when it injected a $590 billion dollar stimulus package which restored global growth. Kynge says that a new stimulus package depends on how quickly China can bounce back from the slump in the first quarter. At the moment, recovery looks measured with only some sectors growing right now. However, economists predict that there will be a sharp snap back during the second quarter of the year which would generate demand within the rest of the world. Kynge doubts however, that China is able or willing to provide another global stimulus because of the debts incurred from its previous efforts.
The Chinese-based marketing agency Dragon Trail reports this week that their Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an teams are now working from the office, and domestic tourism attractions have reopened around the country.
Their research has shown that while some Chinese consumers remain very cautious about resuming travel, others are eager for it and has outlined how understanding which demographics are going to travel first, and how the crisis has changed travel plans and priorities, is key to marketing during the recovery period.
Bank of England Survey Report. A panel survey conducted after 17 March reports that every industry sector in the UK has been badly impacted by the virus with 97% of survey respondents saying that the virus was a major source of uncertainty (Brexit at its peak caused a similar level of concern for 58% of panellists at its peak).
Retail, travel and hospitality and car dealerships have had the worst of it, where companies are “halting investment plans and retaining cash buffers”. With every sector affected, many are “cutting hours and asking staff to take unpaid leave”.
“There has been a sharp decline in spending on consumer services and non-food goods, which intensified following official advice to restrict travel and social interaction,” the Bank said.
TTG’s Business Support Live Session – 27 March
Travel Trade Gazette has launched a new weekly interactive session to help travel professionals find answers to their business questions. TTG’S group editor, Pippa Jacks, was joined by experts from The Travel Trade Consultancy and Kemp Little solicitors to discuss the latest updates on the government’s coronavirus business support measures and discuss the credit note/refund challenge that many travel businesses are struggling with.
Key discussion points included:
ABTA has been lobbying the UK Government to relax the Package Travel Regulations so that travel companies won’t need to fulfill the current requirement to provide customers with a full refund within 14 days.
ABTA has said they won’t pursue any travel company who is not complying with this specific Package Travel Regulations rule. It was also discussed that the merchant providers follow the lines followed by Mastercard and Visa and they have said they’ll follow the rules when endorsed by the government.
The panel discussed advice for agents and operators on what to say to customers around this issue. It was suggested that they should advise that the Package Travel Regulations were not drafted with a worldwide travel shutdown in mind and that this is an unprecedented situation which no one has had to deal with before. They also recommended that travel companies should proactively communicate to customers that they are looking at the Package Travel Regulations and awaiting government advice. They warned that not updating customers on the status could lead to further frustration.
It was also discussed that when rebooking travel for 2021 agents are seeing sizeable price increases from suppliers for the same holiday. Pippa Jacks commented that she expects agents will see more of this as travel companies to try to recoup lost monies. It was advised that under the Package Travel Regulations, where a substitute package is offered if the price is higher this can be passed on to the customer (this also applies if the cost is lower). However, the panel warned that passing on higher costs will put customers off accepting the substitute package and by law they can insist on the full refund. So, the panel discussed that although it is acceptable legally to pass on the higher cost, this is likely to see further pushback from customers so from a commercial perspective it is best to keep price hikes to an absolute minimum.
The issue of airlines issuing rebooking vouchers was discussed and the panel noted that they are aware that easyJet are issuing vouchers that can be transferred to another name and felt this was an indication that other airlines will follow suit.
The new taxable grant for self-employed workers and the business interruption loan scheme were also discussed in detail.
Media consumption habits
Brits are currently consuming more broadcast news than they normally would, a new survey from broadcast media agency Markettiers has found. The research of 2,000 people reveals that viewers also want to hear from industry experts. It revealed that:
• Over 3 in 5 of us (61%) are consuming more than our average daily news-based broadcast media at the moment.
• Each hour, a quarter of Brits are tuning into news-based broadcast media programmes or bulletins (27%)
• The top reason for those increasing their listening and viewing habits of news-based broadcast media is the pace of reporting & knowing they will receive fast updates as new events occur (45%), followed by the ability to listen to expert guests– medical and industry (42%).
• Nearly 3 in 5 Brits (58%) feel the BBC are currently behaving as if they have a duty of care to listeners and viewers in their reporting/programming at the moment.
• 41% of Brits would you like to hear more from industry experts across broadcast media programming at the moment
Destinations marketing update
Skift reports that 80% of destinations have reduced or postponed marketing spend in the US, but there are strong arguments to ensure that brands should keep their profile high during downturns, even if it means tweaking the message. Skift showcases five campaigns that it believes are not only tonally appropriate — but generous, inventive, and genuinely uplifting – with none explicitly encouraging bookings for now.
Visit Portugal’s ‘Can’t Skip Hope’ video highlights the current situation with its first few words: “It’s time to stop.” The sweeping vistas inspire a visit to Portugal in the future but is not sales-y.
Britain is known for its culture. Visit Britain has focused on literature, theatre and history during the crisis on its social media feeds. In addition to content that essentially says “we can’t wait to welcome you again soon,” the DMO has also been posting ways to engage with British culture right now. There are also calls to action with each post, from crowdsourcing tracks for a Spotify playlist of iconic British music to inviting followers to explore the filming locations featured in The Crown and Harry Potter.
Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau
Philadelphia’s DMO has launched a “Philadelphia from Home” webpage, which features ways to interact with the city’s offerings from home, which it’s promoting across social media. A Facebook Live from the Philadelphia Zoo and recipes for a famous Philly Cheesesteak are all ways would-be visitors can interact with the destination.
Travel Saint Lucia
The Caribbean destination is inviting followers to experience the destination via Instagram Live, with its “7 Minutes in St Lucia” campaign. It kicked off on March 26 with a seven-minute streamed yoga practice in view of the famous Pitons volcanic spires. Other activities include a cooking class, a dance party, and a guided meditation. The offerings slot into the kinds of things many people are doing anyway while in social distance mode — cooking and working out — which means it feels less sales-y and more generous.
Discover Puerto Rico
The Caribbean Island is inviting its followers and would-be visitors to a virtual getaway, with salsa classes, cocktail making, and cooking. As Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean told Skift last week, the DMO shifted from a “visit now” approach to a “visit later” one a couple of weeks ago, with the goal of keeping the destination top of mind for future visitors.
Top Tips for Creating evergreen content to inspire clients
TTG has examined what website content travel companies should be creating to inspire clients to travel once recovery is in sight.
Ali McLean, founder and managing director of tour operator The Aurora Zone recommends evergreen content, meaning content that doesn’t date.
Tucan Travel Marketing executive Emma Nelson says: “We are ensuring we have the right inspirational content ready for when the time is right”. The Experience Travel Group has a fun Travel Toppers card game (loosely based on Top Trumps) that gives scores to destinations for wildlife, culture, best beaches and more and has also created content from stories from customers from their past trips.