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Avoya Travel Conference 2018 - Day 2

Today we hear from top travel suppliers.  Here's the report from day two of the Avoya Travel Conference 2018.  Here's what we did on our first day.  Believe it or not we covered even more today.  What a great opportunity to learn from industry leaders. And we thought you'd like to learn a bit as well.

Brett Tollman Travel Corp

Go Astro Travel Sells Travel Corp products like Uniworld, one of the top travel suppliers Brett Tollman CEO of Travel Corp

The CEO of The Travel Corp,  Brett Tollman, was the first speaker.  Travel Corp is the parent of Trafalger, Uniworld, Contiki and many other brands.  He identified three key travel trends including digital transformation of technologies, an increasingly more diverse traveling public and more purpose driven travel (giving back, authentic travel).  In terms of destinations, he sees Italy still as the number one destination with alternatives like Sri Lanka, Columbia and Egypt coming on strong. France is bouncing back while Iceland and Scandanivia are less popular this year due to some over inflated pricing last year.

Travel in general is growing about 4.6% vs general GDP of 3%.  Look for facial recognition in airports and more philanthropic work like Treadright  and sustainable travel sites like too much to ask and me to we.

Ellen Bettridge , Uniworld president and CEO

Ellen reviewed the Uniworld river cruise products with the following highlights

  • Uniworld is debt free and family owned (via Travel Corp and Brett Tollman)
  • Each ship is unique, not cookie cutter
  • Over the next 5 years, each and every ship will become a "supership" which means upgraded suites and dining
  • Unedited feedback from customers are available on Feefo.
  • Two of their ships have hands-on cooking experiences
  • Uniworld will be sponsoring (underwriting) a new show on PBS  by Christine Amanpour.

Mark Conroy - Silversea

Mark, managing director of Silversea, played a couple of great videos like this one emphasizing destinations.  Silversea's small ships focus on over 900 destinations.  They have basically two independent fleets - both luxury: the classic fleet and their expedition fleet.  Here's our post on the Galapagos expedition ship.   Mark noted that there's a total of 8,000 berths in the Luxury category but over 77,000 berths in the premium cruise category. So lots of opportunity for growth and premium cruises move up to luxury.

Steve Simao, VP of Sales, Windstar Cruises

Steve emphasized the fact that Windstar's small ships (300 passengers and less) allows them to reach destinations unavailable to larger ships.  Windstary targets "travelers, not tourists" who are looking for authentic, distinctive and fun cruises (ex:  an on board marina for active guests).  Windstar is starting expedition style cruises with on ship lectures and land expeditions which include zodiacs and kayaks.  They have spent over 70 MM$ in renovations since 2014 with another 20 MM$ this year.

Walter Littlejohn , VP and Managing Director of Crystal Cruises

Go Astro Travel sells Crystal cruises, one of the top travel suppliers Walter Littlejohn of Crystal Cruises

Crystal's ocean cruise lines are getting larger physically but will actually reduce passenger capacity. This makes the ships even more spacious. For Crystal, space is a key element of luxury.  They are also adding a new ship, the Endeavor, which will be a polar class expedition ship with 200 guests and 200 crew.

Walter then spoke about Crystal's 5 new river cruise ships which feature much higher crew to passenger ratio, butlers in all categorizes, high space ratios (only 106 guests vs 150 of most other luxury lines), king sized beds and 7 different categories of excursions.  Crystal is thinking this is defining a new class of luxury within river cruising. They may be right!


Gary Murphy, VP Sales and Co- Owner AmaWaterways


Go Astro Travel sells AmaWaterways, one of the top travel suppliers Gary Murphy of AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways is nearing 96% capacity factor for it's ships while discounting much less than in the past.  Gary emphasized AmaWaterways innovative ship designs, new dining options, the best internet on the river, new wellness programs and more excursions than others in the industry.  He made an interesting point about not being all inclusive (like Uniworld).  The goal is to be immersed in the destinations, not to keep you on the ship.  For example, when in Cologne Germany, you should be drinking a Kölsch beer in town, not your favorite gin and tonic on board.  Why pay for others to drink?

AmaWaterways now offers 54 wine cruises (which continue to have very favorable feedback) and will be delivering 3 new ships by 2019 including the new AmaMagna.  This ship will dramatically increase public space and cabins. For example, the dining room will be sized for 235 people even though the ship has a capacity of 196. Finally the AmaMagna will offer a Golf program unique in the industry.

Jeff Anderson, Avoya 2025

Jeff is an Avoya VP and discussed a bit about where Avoya will be going over the next few years.  He indicated that sales are up 20% over last years record breaking numbers.  Avoya will continue to focus on their platform which includes suppliers, Independent Agents and travelers and is bound together with technology and relationships.  We'll be seeing more technology to enable improved efficiency and sales.  With over 1000 agents in the Avoya network and over 400 million dollars in annual sales, Avoya is strongly positioned to build on a very successful travel platform.

CLIA - Cruise Line Industry Association, Charles Silvia

This is a trade group of travel companies, including travel agents and top travel suppliers.  While most of the discussion was focused on professional credentials associated with membership there were some interesting facts:

  • In 2017 there were about 26 million cruise passengers
  • 72% of mass market and premium customers had a postive experience with a travel agent
  • 93% of luxury cruisers had a positive experience with a travel agent
  • Out of 15,000 member agencies, only 29 were invited to be Premier members.  Avoya is one of those agencies

Vicki Freed, VP of Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is one of the world's top travel suppliers Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed

Royal Caribbean provided great entertainment Mo5aic put on a great show

While Royal Caribbean is clearly is one of the top travel suppliers, Vicki is an influential travel industry veteran. Vicki didn't even talk about Royal Caribbean.  Instead she spoke about successful selling.  But later that evening, Royal Caribbean sponsored the evening's entertainment - an a capella group called Mo5aic (pronounced mosaic).  They were fantastic and just came off one of RCCL's ships in Spain.  There could not have been a better promotion for Royal Caribbean than hearing this group.  It was a clear message that Royal Caribbean has first rate entertainment.

Lori Goldspiel, VP sales Azamara Cruises

Azamara defines itself as destination immersion that goes to less traveled destinations due to the smaller sized ships.  They define today's luxury traveler as wanting:

  • Experiences
  • Exclusivity
  • A human connection
  • Authentic and localized

They accomplish this with hiking, bikes on board, shopping with the chef and Azamazing evenings.

Their target market is empty nesters with 40% of clients from the US, 40% from Europe and 20% from elsewhere.  By 2020, they plan on adding land extensions including African Safaris with Mikado and Australia based tours by A&K.  These are two quality operators which should really enhance Azamara's offerings.

Celebrity, Keith Lane

Keith emphasized:

  • The Edge, Celebrity's new ship with lots of cool features like table-mation and the floating restaurant.
  • Revitalization of 9 ships ($400 million by 2023) including upgraded staterooms
  • The new Celebrity Flora, custom designed for the Galapagos

Interestingly, 87% of their clients book flights with Celebrity on Choice Air (which requires no deposit for air through 2018.)

Summing it all up

Wow!  Lots to take in.  Here's some take aways:

  • The breadth of products offered is truly amazing. From land to cruise; Ocean to River; Mass market to luxury;  mega scale to human scale.  From some of the most popular and iconic destinations in the world to some of the most unique.
  • Growth:  Everyone spoke about the growth, both in the travel industry as a whole and their individual segments.  Lots of new investment!
  • Trends: Technology, expedition ships and experiential travel
  • Giving back:  Several speakers spoke about how their companies are giving back to the community.  Makes us proud to be part of the travel industry

It's great to hear from the CEOs, Owners and top VP's of the world's top travel suppliers.

Here's a link to Day 3 of the Conference.

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