Executive View Gail Grimmett Tzell

Six executives from six sectors of the travel industry  hotel, cruise, aviation, tours, retail and destination marketing  are making assumptions about the year ahead as they plan for 2017. The interviews were conducted by Travel Weekly editor in chief and senior vice president Arnie Weissmann. 

Gail Grimmett

President, Tzell Travel Group, Protravel International and Elite Travel Division

As it pertains to leisure travel or luxury leisure travel for 2017, we are cautiously optimistic that it's going to be a strong year.

Gail Grimmett
Gail Grimmett

We had a bit of a slowdown during the back half of the year due to the election, but that's very typical, and we're going to see continued economic growth almost across the board in 2017, thanks in part to a continued strong dollar.

I understand the Brexit piece is still the big unknown, but I don't think it would cause any kind of economic crisis in Europe or even within the U.K. In fact, I still think that we're seeing some nice rebound in Europe, as well as continued growth in Asia, continued growth in the emerging market.

I know Brazil and Argentina have had their economic challenges, yet we're still seeing travel going there. The interesting thing about Latin America is they stay fairly insular with their own economic challenges, and a lot of the things that happened externally to Latin America don't impact them as much.

People were concerned that China was slowing, but the bottom line, it's still growing.

We're seeing some pretty hot destinations, and they're continuing to sell well into the next year: Iceland, Scandinavia, Croatia. Italy, even southern Italy, like Puglia, is looking strong for us. Travel patterns change for many reasons. Part of it might be people looking for safe havens, but I also think that there's been more service added to those destinations as well, so when you have more supply, you can take on more demand. I think it's a combination of both.

And we continue to see some strength on the luxury cruising side. Some of the newer ships  the way that they're laying out the ship, the way that the rooms are laid out, what they're offering in terms of amenities  it's very appealing.

In other products, like airline business class, things are continuing to evolve toward what the luxury traveler wants. Experiential travels continues to remain strong. Whether that's health and wellness trips or adventure trips, any types of trips where people can focus on experiential opportunities.

As for Tzell, Protravel International and Travel Leaders in general, one area we are working on collectively in 2017 is technology, and not only providing tools that help our agents create a better experience for themselves or help them do their jobs better but also the opportunity for us to create technology that our clients are looking for. We've got a really strong technology team in place and some nice projects on the horizon.

And from my standpoint, we're going to continue to look to recruit new talent into the industry.

When you look at my last three roles at Delta before coming here, quite frankly they were like turnaround roles. What I love about Pro and Tzell is that these are companies that have such strong foundations and legacy, yet there is a lot of opportunity for us to be able to grow the business and for our agents to grow their business. I wouldn't have seen that from the outside. Now that I'm inside, my passion continues to grow every day.
We have great partnerships among the airlines. It's not just a matter of us serving our own clients but we're really helping serve their customers. In some instances, we're even an extension of the airline, particularly in times of irregular operations. The partnership among airlines and the TMC community is a key partnership. I think that's going to continue.

As much as I read about suppliers wanting consumers to book direct, the bottom line is that you can't have everybody direct. The amount of cost that would add to the business is significant. If something goes wrong, none of the airlines are set up to have every passenger call them.

We watch direct-booking initiatives very carefully. Our partners continue to show they have a lot of respect and value what we deliver, and I think we need to continue to show that we play a very significant role in the success their business.

CORRECTION: Part of Gail Grimmett's title was incorrectly left off an earlier version of this report. She is also president of Protravel International.

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