Conexión October

Here’s the Conexión Florida article for October.

There have been changes in tourism here along the Northern Gulf Coast. They are subtle, but you may have noticed them all the same. Those changes are going to continue, too.

First of all, remember Snow Birds? They come from the northern states of the USA and Canada, where it gets cold in winter. Traditionally they come to our part of the world for at least part of the winter. It used to be that they would arrive just before, or just after, Christmas and the New Year—and stay between a month to three months. The birds are great for the area because they bring us tourist dollars during what has always been a slow season. They keep many of the restaurants open, and by extension, keep jobs going throughout the year. Many of the snowbirds consider this as much ‘home’ as they do their summer bases up in the north. I once spoke to a couple of winter visitors who said they felt the birds actually lived here, but just spent summer ‘up there’ to get away from the heat!

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Conexión September

Here’s the Conexión Florida article for September.

One of the great things about being in the Tourism Industry is that you work with people who like to travel. So much so, that they often move to take up new jobs, frequently in other parts of the world. As a result—providing you keep in touch—you’ll find that you have friends in many far-flung places. I bring this up because I recently received a newsletter from a lady I had worked with about 18 years ago. We were both working in the United Kingdom at the time, but she is now based in Ireland, and as you know, I’m here in the USA. Anyway, Katherine had written an article called “8 Reasons to Choose a Career in Tourism” and it got me thinking…

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Conexión Florida – July

Here’s the Conexión Florida ‘Let’s Talk about Tourism’ article for July…

About 20 years ago, it was predicted that workplace automation, the rise of the internet, and the ability to work from nearly anywhere would lead to a massive increase in leisure time. And as a result, we would see an increase in tourism worldwide. This was predicted to be good for everyone: more travel, more vacations, and a better-funded tourism industry with well-paid jobs for all… Well, the result has happened, and world tourism is at an all time high. However, the reason for that increase was not really as predicted.

Certainly workplace automation, computerization, and the ‘always on’ mobile Internet have had an effect; but the boom has come from other areas. The rise of the Boomer generation was the first driver. Those born after WW2 through 1964 have come to retirement age across the world. They may not actually retire completely…….

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How the iPhone transformed the tourism biz.

Sitting in tourism planning meetings you hear people say “let’s do what we did 10 years ago. It worked then.” Yes, it would be nice to do the same things. There’s something comforting in that, but a recent anniversary made me think that we just can’t roll back time.

The iPhone is 10 years old. It’s not the only smartphone, and wasn’t the first. But it has, like it or not, become the standard bearer for that kind of device. Not everyone has a smartphone, but enough tourists do that it has brought massive changes.

Just looking at the travel, tourism and hospitality businesses, what has the smartphone changed?

People still use printed airline boarding passes but a huge number use electronic passes. Flying into the US you can use a free app called ‘Mobile Passport’ authorized by Customs and Boarder Protection that allows you to pre-file your information and breeze through immigration and customs. I use it. It’s superb.

Where to stay, eat or what to do? TripAdvisor and similar sites offer peer reviews that people tend to trust over ads by hotels, restaurants or attractions. All in your hand, on your smartphone, now.

Book your accommodation? No problem. On your phone at the last minute to get the best deal. I’ve seen people sit outside hotels using their phone to negotiate and book. Same applies to tours and activities. These are usually booked within 48 hours of arrival and online sites like TripShock make booking easy, and the tickets are on your phone – no paper. All you have to do is guess that the weather will be OK. No guessing, DarkSky or a dozen other apps will give you accurate, hour by hour forecasts.

 

How do you get to where you’re going? Built in GPS with turn-by-turn directions, no matter if you’re driving, walking or on public transport. Traffic reports too – yeh, 98 is still blocked.

Don’t bother to carry a camera. Your phone has a camera that makes yesterday’s versions obsolete. Postcards too. You now share your travels to social media friends the world over and you can post your review of the restaurant you just experienced. In places like Jackaccuda’s you can scan a little flag in your meal and see where and when your fish was caught, and who by!

Don’t want to drive? Book an Uber, from your phone of course.

No transistor radios on the beach anymore. You carry your music library with you, and stream what you don’t own. Oh, movies and TV too.

That’s only scratching the surface. Virtual tours of museums and historic sites; payment from your phone; on line shopping; news, books. Oh, and it’s a phone too!

If those are the changes for tourists, think of the changes for hotels, rentals, airlines, car rentals, attractions, restaurants even, in our area, Charter Boat Captains.

Our tourism experience has changed massively in 10 years. But wait, coming soon, virtual and enhanced reality. I’m excited. How about you?

TALKING TOURISM: The strange things we do while being tourists

This article was first published in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday, July 16, 2017.

I don’t think any of us realize how much we switch our brains off when we’re playing tourist.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently took an overseas trip and did some people watching to see how both I and my fellow travelers behaved when we were being tourists. You should try it, it’s enlightening. I’d suggest that you also notice how you behave yourself, as I don’t think any of us realize how much we switch our brains off when we’re playing tourist.

A number of airports have recently released details of the things that people try to take on flights. Would you believe live lobsters? Yes, apparently that’s quite common. You know how things are when you see that 20-pound LIVE lobster and you MUST take it home? Yep, stick it in your hand luggage.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), one of the things that’s most common to be found in luggage on the Eurostar (the train that goes under the English Channel between France and England) is unexplored World War I ordnance. Apparently people dig them up when visiting the battlefields of Northern Europe and think it’s a.) a great souvenir to put on a shelf at home and b.) perfectly acceptable to carry in baggage on a public train in a tunnel underwater.

There’s also well-documented tales of people trying to check in palm trees, a 10-pound frozen turkey, and bricks. Pairs of pink fluffy handcuffs are also a common find. The mind boggles!

However, it’s the completely innocent items that we tend to forget about. Snow globes? Yes, seems OK as a souvenir, but breaks the rules about the amount of liquid you can take on a flight. How about that fondue set that seemed such a great present for your parents? The little forks that come with it are looked on by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as potential weapons.

Closer to home are the frankly strange things that people do to the condos and beach homes they stay in. Most regular are the visitors who completely rearrange the furniture. I’ve been guilty of a bit of this myself, but always put it back the way I found it. I also heard of one group of guests who moved all the sofas and chairs out onto the beach! You can imagine how that went down with the owners. I’ve also heard of renters turning up with full tool sets so they can carry out their own maintenance and modifications.

Getting back to the airports, have you ever noticed tourists going through security who have been told to empty their pockets, put their electronics in the bin and put all their liquids in a plastic bag, yet then try to carry their phones and a can of Coke through the body scanner? Happens every time I’m waiting in line behind them.

Then there’s the passenger who falls asleep on the aircraft having unplugged his headphones. The cord then drops down between the seat cushion and completely jams the seat mechanism. I’m not saying who that is …

Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to martin@owenorganization.com.

TALKING TOURISM: Match expectations to airline carrier choice

This article first appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday, July 9, 2017.

Delta 1, Transatlantic service
Don’t expect this on every flight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week we started looking at different kinds of airlines and their effect on tourism. There’s always a danger of assuming, just because they fly planes and transport people, they’re all the same. That’s no more true than saying that staying at the Hyatt Regency is the same as a night in a budget motel.

Here along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, we’re served by a number of airlines with different business models aimed at various markets and needs. We each have our favorites and I don’t intend to criticize any of them, just to point out some differences.

Each of our local airports is served by what are termed legacy carriers — American, Delta and United. These three companies are the result of years of consolidation, takeovers and mergers. Each has a huge network of international, domestic trunk and local routes. In many cases, they operate on a hub-and-spoke principal (it’s said, with a smile, that all routes go via Atlanta, Dallas or Houston!). In fact, you may find that your local legacy carrier flight is operated by a contracted “partner” airline. For example, American Eagle, Delta Connection or United Express are all operated by other airlines, but under their partner’s colors; they are different aircraft types and crews than “main line” services. It’s the reason you can expect a whole different experience flying say Destin to Dallas, than you would Dallas to San Francisco, or Dallas to Sydney, Australia.

We also have Southwest Airlines, a popular low-cost airline. They don’t need to support a worldwide network (yet) by funneling business into hubs, and although they do chase business traffic, it’s not their prime market. We’re not served by Jet Blue or Spirit, which also are both low-cost carriers, but all these airlines have different policies for what they provide within the fare, and for what they charge (baggage, food, etc). Of course, the legacy carriers also compete for the budget market, so on their aircraft you may find frills and space, few frills and little space, or no frills and no space depending on how much you paid.

Also flying into the Gulf Coast is Allegiant Airlines. They may be termed a low-cost airline, but it would be more appropriate to call them a leisure carrier. They aim to attract vacationers from predominantly urban and cooler areas and take them to sunny vacation places. Allegiant is more in the model of the European leisure airlines. They’re really a full travel company, selling not just flights, but tours and accommodations, too.

Finally, we have the airlines like GLO, Silver and Contour, which operate smaller aircraft on less-traveled routes, like New Orleans and Bowling Green. They provide a great service for local business travelers and vacationers.

So, we have to manage our expectations and match them to our needs and pocket book, just as we do with our other tourism choices. We should also look at how air travel has transformed tourism, but that’s for another day.

Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to martin@owenorganization.com.

Talking Tourism: Lesser-used facilities open gateways to cheaper travel

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News.

I recently had to take a flight back to England, and this allowed me time to give some thought to the changing face of aviation and its effect on tourism. Air services and airlines have been at the center of the explosion for tourism — not only worldwide, but within the U.S.

To many of us, all airlines are the same and essentially just a way of getting from one place to another. We tend to expect them all to provide the same sort of services and behave in the same way. There are, however, as many different sorts of airlines as there are different sorts of hotels and accommodations. Each matches the particular needs of varying sets of travelers.

For the business traveler, flights at the right time, that are on time and the ability to work while flying are probably more important than price. For the leisure traveler on a budget, price is the most important factor, with fast inflight Wi-fi and lots of leg room worth sacrificing. When I was involved in selling flights from the U.K. to Australia for vacationers, if our advertised price was $5 more than a competitor’s, our phones simply didn’t ring — and that was when the average price was around $1,200. Our lead-in price had to be $499 to get people to call.

I mention all this because a recent entry into the transatlantic flight market is stirring things up. Norwegian Airlines has been a “low-cost carrier” since 2002 and now serves 150 destinations around the world. Although they term themselves low-cost, they emphasize low fares with excellent service. Many in this category of airlines in the U.S. have achieved lower costs by using one kind of aircraft and cutting inflight service, meals and charging for what they term optional extras — like baggage! Norwegian claims instead that new efficient aircraft and a lean operation is their answer. They also fly to some interesting destinations.

For example, they not only fly from Gatwick Airport in London to both JFK in New York and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, but also fly to Stewart International Airport, a lesser used facility 70 miles north of the Big Apple. They fly to Boston, but also to Providence, and not just to Los Angeles, but also Oakland.

By using lesser known gateways, they can keep their prices low. That leads me to think that the Panama City, Pensacola or Destin-Fort Walton Beach airports could be interesting potential gateways for a carrier like Norwegian. They can offer the Europeans low cost airports, fantastic beaches, great weather, access to the northern Gulf Coast, and the whole Southeast of the U.S. In return, that would also give us locals access to European destinations at bargain prices. Someone call the folks at Norwegian Air!

Of course, there are other airline types — legacy carriers, flag carriers, tourist and leisure airlines, main-line services, commuter and feeder lines, intrastate and regional carriers. All have different ways of getting us from here to there. We’ll look at differences in coming weeks.

Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to martin@owenorganization.com.