dict sales patterns. Clients are “buying down” — Holland America instead of Regent, a veranda stateroom
instead of a penthouse, five nights at the luxury resort
instead of seven or three instead of five.
Signature members are aggressively marketing. Ones
who are online with compelling all-inclusive, value-packed products like Mexico, Club Med and cruise
vacations are harvesting new business. Agencies that
continue to market, conduct client appreciation events
or upscale product presentations are enjoying moderate
It’s not all doom and gloom. The hand-wringing
owner waiting for the phone to ring will not, sadly, survive this harsh business climate. But agencies that adapt,
innovate, embrace technology tools and nurture clients
will emerge stronger, more nimble and more resilient
CEO, Continental Airlines
I’m real happy fuel prices are down. The $100-a-bar-
rel drop in oil saves us billions, and provides a cushion
against the falling economy.
The economy concerns me; it’s not clear that we understand where it’s going. But my biggest concern is oil
going back up. I always worry about oil going up.
We’ve slowed deliveries from Boeing, but we have a
number of 737s coming next year. The credit markets
are an area of concern. This is the tightest I’ve ever seen
We took our domestic capacity down this past fall.
We’re not planning any more cuts, but we’ll always
watch capacity and monitor demand. Through the end
of the 2009, I expect we’ll add more routes than we’ll
cut. Frequency is important.
But ultimately, this is a network business. Without
question, the biggest change for Continental in 2009
will come when we move from Sky Team to Star Alliance. They don’t have a strong carrier in New York, and
it will be very complementary. This will set the platform
for the next 10 years. We’re planning on forming a very
close partnership with United.
Regarding fees, we look at what percentage of cus-
tomers uses something. If it’s less than 20%, we consider
adding fees. But meals at meal times? Pillows? No.
And we always look at the routes; these fee decisions
can be route specific. Most customers will say they don’t
like fees, but we didn’t see share shift when we didn’t
have a bag fee and others did.
We’re looking at what can bring customers the best
deals. We just switched the Continental Vacations program to MLT [Vacations] and have seen good results.
Travel agents are a key part of our business. There’s
a perception that the majority of bookings are done
through the Web and that agents aren’t critical. But we
have a large, worldwide network, and travel agents bring
us our highest yielding revenue.
Our strongest and best business customers are assisted
by travel agents.
‘ I always
if 2009 could
be a year when
C ontinental re-
stores base commissions for agents, Kellner declined to comment, saying
that, for legal reasons, “I have to be careful” discussing or
signaling anything to do with future commission rates.]
We have a wonderful team here, and we always grow
our reputation with customers. In tough times, others
may act in ways that aren’t as customer friendly, and we
can take advantage of that. In fact, we’ve seen some of
our best performances in down economies.
CEO, New Orleans Metropolitan
Convention & Visitors Bureau
The No. 1 thing on the minds of my peers is the
length and duration of this recession. We’re all accustomed to natural business cycles, but this one has people
We are a little more cautiously optimistic than most
destinations in the U.S. We’re already 7.7% ahead of last
year in meetings and conventions. Ultimately, we may
even be up as much as 9%.
We don’t have the level of the transient business visi-
tation that’s dramatically impacting corporate cities; we
didn’t have that base to lose.
We do expect a softer market for incentive travel. But
our meetings are heavily association based, and those
meetings are still occurring.
The leisure side, for every city, is the great unknown.
Families are making decisions in an environment where
their jobs are less secure, disposable income is down,
value of homes is down, 401(k)s are down. Their comfort zone to buy high-end products is lowered. They’re
looking for real value.
This is the year for travel agents to reassert themselves
through the development of packages. Consumers will
be looking for bargains and real value.
But those who simply discount deeply will not get
enough share of market to make up for the depth of
the discount. Most destinations will be focusing on
preserving reasonable rate integrity, with a focus on
We think that with the reduction in the price of gas,
the drive regional market will become more important.
We already have compelling reason-based visitation for
Mardi Gras, the Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Sugar
This year, we’ll be adding festivals so that we’ll have
one every weekend in August and September. The development of new products that create reasons to visit,
this will be key when times are difficult.
‘ We may
b e up as
a s 9%.’
doing a massive campaign
about being a
tourist in your
own home town.
I think you’ll see this all over the U.S.
Overseas, there is a tremendous excitement about the
election. It has an impact on how people feel about visiting the U.S.
The change in tone has been stunning.
We have an event in Paris that usually brings eight to
10 media and tour operators to a luncheon. This November, we drew 70, and the entire buzz was about the
changes that are coming to America.
It was so profound. Obama represents a multicultural
person. For travel to the U.S., it’s a great image and can
be a positive thing for the rebirth of our international