Hot Off The Press
The agents who will stand out from the pack in today’s booming cruise market are those with a brand, says CLIA global president and CEO Cindy D’Aoust.
‘You will earn more if you specialise – be it in river cruising or Asia – but customers need to know what you specialise in, ’ D’Aoust told the 450 delegates at CLIA’s annual Cruise360 conference held in Sydney on Friday.
D’Aoust says the cruise industry has a global economic impact of US$120 billion, revealing the demand for cruising has not only increased 68% in the last 10 years but outpaced land holidays by 20% in the decade to 2014.
If agents want to reap the benefits of these boom times, they should not only build a roadmap of their own futures, but also invest in themselves through training and engage with their customers, D’Aoust advises.
‘Stay one step ahead of your clients – know their milestones. Don’t overwhelm customers with the options. Simplify the process. Know what they want and give them the top choices.’
D’Aoust reveals there were 23.2 global cruise passengers last year, and more than 24 million are projected for 2016 – a figure bolstered by new itineraries and ship design.
Australasia chairman Steve Odell, who opened the conference, compounded the glowing statistics, telling delegates Australian passenger numbers rose 19.2% from 2006. Meanwhile, Kiwi cruisers now stand at 66,152 – a 12.6% hike from 26,510 in the last 10 years.
In terms of growth rate, New Zealand stands before the UK’s 8.8% at 10%, while Australia powers ahead at 14.6%, and emerging market China reigns at 40.3%.
D’Aoust says the Asian market holds tremendous potential and could outpace North America in 10 years, adding the Asia market’s liking for seven to 13-day itineraries is particularly good news for the Australasia industry.
‘You can be excited about Asia – they are interested.’
While CLIA represents and collaborates with agents, Odell assured trade the organisation also busies itself on issues such as the border control levy in New Zealand, dock fees and emissions.
Accordingly, Odell and D’Aoust acknowledge the industry has infrastructure woes, particularly in Sydney – a situation the body is trying to address through its sister trade bodies and government.
Fronting prompting for a new Sydney port east of the Harbour Bridge made during the conference, Jonathan O’Dea MP parliamentary secretary for trade, tourism and major events told trade the Australian government is working on it, but a solution will take time.
‘We want to get it right as there are a range of complex issues and government needs to consult and engage with the right people,’ O’Dea says.
New Zealand’s troubled cruising infrastructure is under the microscope of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). That was the message of CLIA president and CEO Cindy D’Auost who was in Sydney last week for the oprganisation’s annual CLIA Australasia Cruise360 conference. D’Auost says CLIA will work alongside local authorities, government and the Kiwi industry to address issues such as port fees and poor infrastructure in centres such as Auckland.
Around 450 delegates attended the Navigating the Future conference at the Star Event Centre in Sydney.
Ahead of the conference, d’Aoust highlighted that cruising was booming, saying the industry could expect to have about 50,000 new berths on board in the years ahead.
Asia is the market to watch, and it has the potential to outpace North America, she says.
However, D’Aoust says industry players will also see a lot of new destinations in existing top cruise destinations such as the Caribbean.
Rivers will be another growth area, and CLIA advises its data on its much-anticipated river cruising report is ‘not far away’.
D’Aoust says CLIA’s three immediate focus areas are global infrastructure, better collaboration and enhancing the value its members.
Conference highlights included several panel discussions, including one to determine how issues such as ship design and hotel operations play a part in the passenger experience.
Panelists included P&O Cruises president Sture Myrmell, Royal Carribbean International managing director Australia and New Zealand Adam Armstrong and Ponant’s Asia Pacific chairman Sarina Bratton.
Another discussion, featuring industry representatives such as Emirates divisional vice president Australasia Barry Brown and P&O Australia destination director Mike Mihajlov, discussed the challenges of creating the right destination experience for consumers.
The focus also turned to how agents can stay ahead of the game. Social researcher and author Michael McQueen spoke on the Battle for Relevance before joining a panel of cruise industry executives to discuss the needs of consultants.
By Aleisha Moore in Vanuatu
Bauerfield Airport’s runway has officially been declared safe following the completion of numerous short-term repairs late April.
The announcement follows controversy surrounding Air New Zealand’s true intentions for pulling its services from the destination after a recent request by the airline to fly a charter flight full of Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers into Port Vila prior to the completion of repairs. Jason Rakau, chief executive officer of Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL), says he doesn’t wish to speculate on Air New Zealand’s movements but he can assure the industry the runway is now up to scratch. ‘It was about time for it to get done and I think this has been known for a while now. Moving forward we hope that what we have done is good enough and I think that we’ve effectively addressed all of the safety concerns these
The work was done by New Zealand contractor Fulton Hogan, and included service enrichment spray treatment (SEST) application to stop the unraveling of aggregates or rocks from the runway; the milling out and patching over of ruts or dents in the runway; and the application of crack sealing to deal with ageing concrete. Rakau says now that the work is complete and engineers have signed off on it, AVL is inviting airlines to inspect it themselves to ensure their concerns have been addressed. ‘I have met with Virgin Australia and they’ve already done their inspection so we’re just waiting for them to provide us with a report about that. Informally from Virgin we’re hearing we’ve addressed their areas of concern, although an official announcement from them hasn’t been released yet, but we’re expecting that they should be flying back here sometime later in May.’
Air New Zealand is also currently performing inspections.
Following on from the short-term repairs, Rakau says the next step is a more permanent fix with a full overlay of the runway. ‘We’re getting a very strong commitment from the government that this needs to be done so that we can get it sorted once and for all and extend the runway’s life for probably another 10 to 15 years or so. The current works are short-term repair works that should last one to two years, but major works are still in the pipeline and we’re actually in design stages at the moment but an official announcement regarding that should be released by the government some time soon.’
Rakau says that for the time being AVL has made sure that it has acquired the required equipment needed to continue maintenance and monitoring all the concerned areas. ‘Any new cracks for example that arise, we own the machine ourselves and we know how to operate it to ensure that we close all those cracks down, so we’ll have a very vigorous maintenance programme in place to make sure that daily inspections happen and we’re addressing all the areas of concern until the major works get done.’
Trade to help build consumer confidence
Air Vanuatu and Vanuatu Tourism Office hosted twelve travel agents from around New Zealand to the Pacific destination late April in an effort to boost consumer confidence in the New Zealand market. The famil was the first major retail consumer activity since Air New Zealand and Virgin Airways pulled out of the destination earlier this year.
Jonas George, Air Vanuatu, says the famil was an opportunity to give reassurance as well as showcase the destination. ‘The main aim of this famil is bringing the agents over, getting them a firsthand look at the runway to show that the emergency work has been done now, and just to reassure them that it’s safe to fly into Vanuatu at the moment. I think the biggest job for us is getting that assurance into the New Zealand mind frame that they can be comfortable enough and be assured that it is safe to fly into Vanuatu. And it doesn’t matter if they fly with Air Vanuatu or Air New Zealand as long as they have that mentality of safety in mind so that they can make that choice to come back to Vanuatu.’
George is urging the trade to get behind Vanuatu as a destination that relies heavily on tourism. 'Vanuatu is pretty much dependent on tourism, it’s a big money earner for the country as well as offering employment.'
Allan Kalfabun, Vanuatu Tourism Office, says regaining consumer trust is the biggest priority for the destination right now. ‘It’s obviously been a very challenging time for us the last 12 months in terms of Cyclone Pam and also the runway status that made Air New Zealand pull their services followed by Virgin Airways, but it is getting better. Now it’s all about getting that consumer confidence back, obviously we cant compete with Air New Zealand, it’s such a strong brand, so we’ve just got to look at avenues that we can pick pocket and try and convert numbers.’
Kalfabun says the destination is still limited in terms of its inventory following Cyclone Pam, but is excited at the prospect of two major resorts coming back online shortly. ‘Holiday Inn is opening 1 June and Iririki Island Resort will be up and running 6 May, and that roughly equates to 20% of our inventory on Efate so we can’t wait for them to be open again.’
Vanuatu Tourism Office just last week launched a trade website in New Zealand dedicated solely to the New Zealand market including New Zealand prices, specials, market information, self famil programmes, and the $50 trade airfare working with Air Vanuatu.
Re-opening to reveal Iririki’s ugraded look
The ‘new’ Iririki Island Resort & Spa, Vanuatu will hold a grand re-opening event on Friday 6 May. The resort has had over $20 million dollars spent on its facilities, buildings and gardens.
New Zealand’s representative for Iririki Island Resort & Spa, Gaye Wood of Regency Tourism Marketing visited the resort recently and says Iririki’s waterfront and garden farés, villas and apartments have all been renovated, and stocked with new furnishing and linens. ‘New room types have been included to enhance it’s current range, offering new options for couples and families.’
'The new Iririki Spa has been built at the highest point on the island to offer breathtaking harbour views and an extensive menu of luxurious treatments, just right for a spot of pampering. Dedicated massage rooms provide many options; relaxation, deep tissue, Swedish, Hot Stone or rejuvenating foot massages,' says Wood.
The Jewel Casino is within the existing Watermark Restaurant, and will provide hospitality and gaming services including four main gaming floor tables, two VIP private area tables and 20 slot machines. Complementing these will be a jazz / blues adult lounge, VIP Lounge, and karaoke / sports lounge. The casino will include blackjack tables actually in the shallow beach water and a double ended American Roulette.
The resort has converted to solar power, upgraded IT Systems, with wifi access across most of the island and improved transport with a new ferry and island buggies.
Tourism offices in short-haul destinations are keeping a close watch on sharp fares to the USA, saying they are likely to have at least a short-term impact.
However, they are also emphasising that airfares and packages to their own destinations are as competitive as they have ever been.
Jacquie Carson, Vanuatu Tourism Office New Zealand representative, says she is sure the North American fares will have some impact on the short-haul market.
‘These prices will definitely make people think about doing that ‘holiday of a lifetime’ now.
‘However, the prices for short-haul holidays are also pretty amazing at present with some fabulous holiday packages currently in the market with a long-travel period – some through to February 2017.’
Wayne Deed, NZ regional director with Tourism Fiji, says he is ‘naturally concerned’,
‘However, the travel period for the cheapest fares is from 15 October to 15 December onwards, which is not our busiest season for arrivals. That said, it’s obviously generating a lot of interest for the USA and at that pricing it’s definitely in our competitive set of destinations.’
Sally Holyer, international director New Zealand with Tourism and Events Queensland, says the market is probably the most competitive she can remember. But she says Queensland is part of that competitive mix – especially with the entry of AirAsia X and $99 fares between Auckland and Gold Coast.
‘That’s together with all the existing services and competitive fares. The New Zealand dollar is still relatively strong against the Australian and we are still growing out of New Zealand.’
Holyer points out visitor numbers, length of stay and spend out of New Zealand have all shown recent increases.
Meanwhile, Jenny Aitken, country manager New Zealand with Tourism Australia, adds the destination is always working to provide new reasons and value propositions to New Zealand travellers. ‘Competitive situations always exist but don’t change our awareness of the needs and desires of the market here. We certainly don’t take our current volume of 1.3 million visitors for granted.’
Cheap fares, exchange rates cause spike in US bookings
Short life fares, sharper pricing in general and the increased market activity around North American services is leading to spikes in sales and ongoing strong activity – with wholesalers reporting double digit growth to the destination.
House of Travel’s commercial director Brent Thomas says HOT’s air sales yesterday were 40% higher than usual. ‘We’re attributing a significant amount to the release of such strong pricing from American Airlines,’ he says.
‘The intense market reaction to AA’s $799 fares shows just how aggressive their pricing is. While we understand that the $799 is an introductory price, we’re interested to see how such competitive pricing will affect pricing to other Pacific rim destinations, given the perception it may raise in consumers’ minds when planning their holidays.’
Thomas says the New Zealand dollar is increasing even further against the American dollar, rising 4% in the last two days. ‘We’re anticipating this and the extremely competitive airfare ricing will fuel demand for travel to America and Canada.’
Sean Berenson, Flight Centre general manager product, says ‘ever-popular’ USA route has certainly seen a lot of movement in the last six months, with the new carriers entering the market and the marked decrease in pricing.
‘This has helped to drive an increase in interest for travel stateside – already this year Flight Centre has seen almost 20% growth in bookings to North America.
‘The accessibility and affordability has seen a shift in the type of trips Kiwis are doing to the States, with fare prices in line with travel to Asia its now an even more viable option for family holidays and Air New Zealand’s route into Houston has been a popular route for our Cruiseabout customers to access the Caribbean.
‘This shift in travel behaviour has seen a real increase in earning potential with land add-ons and packages, Kiwis are wanting to get out and see more of what the States has to offer.’
Air New Zealand will launch direct flights to Manila in the Philippines from December. The new year round service will operate three times a week using Boeing 767-300 aircraft with a flight time of around 10 and a half hours in each direction.
Air New Zealand chief executive officer Christopher Luxon says the airline expects the service to be popular at both ends of the route. ‘The Filipino population in New Zealand has more than tripled since 2001 and is now the third largest Asian ethnic group, with around 40,000 Filipinos resident in New Zealand. The number of visitors from the Philippines is also continuing to grow rapidly, up more than 20% in the past year alone so we’re anticipating that demand for this service will be steady in both directions.
‘As the only non-stop service between New Zealand and the Philippines, our flight will be quicker and more convenient for travellers than the fastest current option which flies indirect, potentially saving up to two and a half hours each way,’ says Luxon.
Budget airline AirAsia X made its official daily entry into New Zealand yesterday with a promise to form a solid relationship with those at the coalface of the travel trade.
Airline chief executive officer Benyamin Ismail, speaking at a function at Auckland Airport after the inaugural flight, says the company was looking to further bolster ties with New Zealand travel agents. ‘We are a FIT organisation, but we also rely on agents. They will be the winner for us and so we want to be there by assisting them with attractive fares.’
Ismail says the airline opened up around 120 routes for outbound travel through Asia, giving agents a lot more choice for clients using Malaysia as a travel hub – a point hammered home by the airline’s chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
Ismail and the chairman also agreed the airline would be looking to operating services from Christchurch and Wellington, but that would be down the track. ‘By nature, it takes about a year for a route to settle in. So the focus will be on this route for now,’ says Aziz.
Air Asia X will connect Kuala Lumpur to Auckland via the Gold Coast. The initial flight had a 95 percent load factor, and the aircraft was welcomed to the airport with a water salute and traditional Powhiri ceremony.
Minister for communications Amy Adams, chief executive Auckland International Airport Adrian Littlewood, and HE Dato’ Lim Kim Eng, High Commissioner of Malaysia to New Zealand attended the event.
Last nght’s Funds for Fiji event in Auckland illustrated just how much the trade in New Zealand gets behind and supports the nation’s tourism sector, says Tourism Fiji chairman Truman Bradley. He says tourism receipts in total increased by 11% in 2015 from F$1.4 billion to F$1.55b.
‘Tourism is the backbone of the Fijian economy and (visitors from) New Zealand increased in value by 16%.’ Bradley was at the event last night, held at Pullman Auckland.
He says that after the ‘devastating event’ of Cyclone Winston there is devastation in one aspect of Fiji and ‘bula as usual’ in another – the after including most of the resorts and other tourism plant. ‘The New Zealand Government and the New Zealand people have joined together to support the rebuild of Fiji.’
He says events like last night’s, which included entertainment, raffles and silent and live auctions, are important for the recovery. But he also emphasised the need for the trade to keep selling Fiji with confidence. ‘Fiji is booked solid right now because of support out of New Zealand and Australia. And that’s what we need.’
Preliminary figures from last night's fundraiser put the money raised at around $40,000.
An eight-strong professional conference organiser famil has been enjoying the sights of New Caledonia. The group arrived on Friday with Aircalin and stayed two nights at the newly refurbished Le Meridien Noumea. They are presently at the Sheraton Deva for another two nights. While in New Caledonia, the group has visited Duck Island, enjoyed a dinner at Noumea Baie des Citrons and went on a Segway tour. The journey north to Sheraton Deva transformed into an Amazing Race when the group also stopped at a market and supermarket for food for a perfect French picnic at Fort Teremba, explored an ANZAC cemetery and enjoyed a drink organised by Sheraton Deva at Turtle Bay. The famil will also take on a glass bottom boat tour, snorkeling and cooking class.
The USA’s National Parks werre a topic of conversation over breakfast today, with about 40 agents mixing with representatives from the Big Island of Hawaii at Rydges in Auckland. Ross Birch, from the Big Island Visitors Bureau says the breakfast is largely to thank the New Zealand trade for its part in ‘a huge double figure increase’ in visitation to the destination last year. ‘Last year we had a 24% increase out of Australasia and New Zealand played a big part in that. W had a really good year – the hotels are in great shape and all of the activity operators are doing really well.’
A key message in 2016 is that The Big Island of Hawaii is ‘at the forefront’ of the United Sates celebration of the 100th anniversary of its National Park System – giving agents extra opportunities to sell the destination. ‘It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the first 50 National Parks in the United States,’ says Birch. ‘Special tours are being organised throughout the year and it is a great opportunity to showcase everything the park has done over the last century.’
The Big Island has five of the state’s nine National Parks. ‘This is the year to get to them,’ says Birch. He adds that Hawaii’s national parks are particularly accessible for New Zealanders because of the Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines services, plus the improved inter-island accessibility.