DALLAS -- Travel agents should book Europe tours as soon as
possible to ensure that clients get the vacations they want this
summer. That was the message from tour operators participating in a
panel discussion at the ASTA Tourfest here.
According to operators, early bookings are running high and many
Europe programs show signs they might sell out.
"Europe is booming," John Martinen, chairman of Globus &
Cosmos, said. "Book as soon as possible because at some point
airlines are going to run out of seats."
Gary Murphy, vice president of Brendan Tours, said sales to
Ireland and the U.K. are so high that 25% of his product for 1998
already is sold. With the exception of Asia and Egypt, all parts of
the world are experiencing strong sales, operators said.
Even though economic problems in Korea and other parts of Asia
have driven down currencies, making those destinations real
bargains, Americans seem to be put off by the instability and are
shunning that part of the world, Martinen said.
Some Asia operators reported a 40% drop in business there. Egypt
still is reeling from the terrorist attack on tourists three months
ago, but everywhere else the picture is rosy.
John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours, said New England;
Branson, Mo.; Arizona, and the Canadian Rockies are the strongest
sellers on this continent.
Martinen noted tours that averaged 21 days in the early 1980s
dropped to an average of 17 days 10 years ago. That figure has not
Another trend is the combination of cruises and tours.
Other comments from the operators were the following:Consumers increasingly are using the Internet to research their
trips, then asking their travel agents to find them a tour with a
particular restaurant or hotel they read about on line, Murphy
said. The danger with that, he said, is that the Internet often has
"suspect" information -- more reason for consumers to use agents to
interpret value and offer solid knowledge.More families are taking escorted trips with children, said
Peter McCormack, vice president of Trafalgar Tours.More agents are using their computerized reservations systems
for booking escorted tours. That is a tremendous plus in terms of
savings and efficiency. An added bonus: When agents book through a
CRS, the trip "has been sold and the client puts down a deposit,"
rather than waiting seven days, Murphy said.Tour operators are "rethinking their commissions," Stachnik
said, particularly to consortiums and to agents who do not produce
volume. Operators no longer willing to pay overrides across the
board without actual production.Agents should work closer with national tourist boards,
particularly those that have programs that can generate client
leads, McCormack said, adding that tourist boards often say agents
do not follow up on leads when they are passed along.