As global tourism numbers dwindle, one organisation is putting tourism authorities in front of airlines in a bid to change the way the industry works.
At this year’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, the Routes Development Group (RDG), organiser of the annual World Route Development Forum (World Routes), held a workshop in which tourism authorities could discuss the benefits of their role in the development of new air services. The workshop was an exercise in helping tourism authorities promote their destinations to airlines and to discover how airline route planners could satisfy and even stimulate tourism demand for a region. The event was such a success that the opening day of World Routes in Beijing, September 13-15 will host the Routes/PATA Tourism and Air Services Summit which will give tourism authorities and airlines the chance to find out more about the destinations they serve and more importantly, which ones they should be serving.
“In these challenging times when business travel is being particularly hit hard, airlines are focusing on leisure travel to sustain revenues and route profitability,” explains RDG tourism development director Gerard Brown.
“Increasingly, airlines are seeking new leisure destinations to serve and who better to convince them than a tourism authority. Conversely, as visitor numbers continue to fall at an alarming rate, tourism authorities need to start promoting their destinations to airlines.”
“Historically, tourism authorities have neglected the aviation side of tourism development. Their approach has, in many cases become stale and dated,” explains Brown. “But there are signs that the more pro-active tourism authorities are definitely becoming more interested in aviation and working their way up the supply chain. Previously they would leave the responsibility of promoting their destination to airlines, with their airports but in many cases the relationships with their airports are not necessarily strong.
British Airways newly announced routes are a case in point explains Brown. “BA’s new schedule is very tourism focused. There is a new Las Vegas service from Heathrow, The Maldives and Sharm El Sheikh three-times a week from Gatwick and several new Caribbean flights. Many other airlines are also launching flights that seem to be more tourist destination-led than ever before and this is due to the decline in passenger numbers. The hands of tourism are very much behind this.”
So why has it taken airlines and tourism authorities so long to come around to a new way of thinking?
“Airlines are asking tourism authorities to help them as the current trading conditions are really hurting the world’s airlines,” explains Brown. “Airlines have had the luxury of the airports doing all of the running in the past – now they are having to be a little more pro-active and the balance is shifting slightly.
“The Middle East is seeing healthier visitor numbers compared to the rest of the world, but most of these are transit passengers and the Middle East is not the travellers’ final destination.
“More tourism authorities are now realising that their competitors are not only their immediate neighbours, but they are starting to look at where in the world the traveller is ending their journey.