Tour operators anticipate more Europe business in 2006

Tour operators who sell travel to Europe are bullish about 2006 based on the way business is going, according to a survey conducted by the European Tour Operators Association.

The ETOA polled 100 of its 150 tour operator members who were in attendance at its Hoteliers Marketplace in London.

These were 100 of the top professional buyers, very informed people, said David Tarsh, managing director of Tarsh Consulting, and the public relations manager for the ETOA.

Sixty-four percent project 2006 business will be up more than 10% from 2005, while 31% expect business to be the same. Only 5% expect it to drop 5% to 10%.

Culture (42%) and history (28%) are the main reasons people travel in Europe, the operators said. Nine percent of tour operators said the attraction is the scenery, 5% said their customers travel in Europe because they feel secure and 16% said its because its easy to get to.

Client spending is a wash, they said; 63% said it hasnt changed, 15% said clients are spending less and 22% said clients are spending more.

Forty-nine percent said terrorism is the biggest threat to European tourism, and 30% said terrorism was their greatest business concern. Twenty-six percent said containing costs was their biggest business concern, and 22% said epidemics.

When it comes to online business, the biggest concern of nearly 60% of the operators is search-engine optimization. Twenty-two percent named bonding for dynamic packages and 11% said Web site return on investment.

On the subject of European Union laws, a third of respondents said that the biggest headache is the Tour Operators Margin Scheme, which regulates the way in which the value-added tax (VAT) is applied to travel in the Europe. The scheme makes it more difficult to make a profit on European tours if an operator is based and taxed in Europe, operators said.

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