The past few weeks have been hugely challenging for those of us working in the UK outbound travel industry, with the impact of further terrorism, travel bans, gloomy politics and economic insecurity taking a heavy toll on an already underwhelming marketplace.
The devastating effects of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka for example, have, in addition to the human misery, had an enormous knock-on effect on the island’s tourism industry.
Following FCO Travel Advice warning against ‘all but essential travel’, we at Nomadic Thoughts have had to cancel all bookings to Sri Lanka up until the end of the summer. Although the effect on us is minimal in comparison to the devastation of our local suppliers’ businesses, we too have had to return tens of thousands of pounds on bookings.
The balancing act between trying to support our local suppliers while taking responsible action as a tour operator, has been challenging. On top of this, we have had a number of clients abandon their proposed trips to Egypt in the last few days, following reports of the tourist bus attack in Cairo, even though the Foreign Office is yet to alter their travel advice.
Despite the recent terrorism incidents in Indonesia, Belgium, Jordan, Holland, Egypt, Australia, Morocco, Kenya, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, it is heartening to see that today’s travelling public are aware of the very low statistical chances of being involved in such incidents, as highlighted by Derek Moore (AITO Chair) and myself in a recent AITO Press Release.
But financial pressures are still high, as illustrated by heavyweights’ Thomas Cook and TUI recent profit warnings, which bring into question their business models’ longevity. If this wasn’t enough for the travel industry to bear, the Pound has just crashed to a five-month low, at the same time many of this month’s mainstream package holiday prices have been slashed by 50%.
And of course, another hot staycation-summer could add to the already heavily reduced outbound holiday bookings.
With all this in mind, you can imagine that my response to a recent request by a famous international sportsman for a villa holiday for his wife, child, parents and uncle (near a gym with hire car) in return for “sharing social media snippets”, was less than enthusiastic.
To a tour operator painfully aware of the desperate need for income through tourism in many global destinations, it is unthinkable that someone so wealthy should ask for something from people often struggling to make ends meet, in return for anything except hard cash.
Additionally, it is difficult to see how the holiday posts of someone in the top 0.1% of the nation’s income bracket can assist the thousands of followers who may not inhabit the same bracket. Does this international sports star, whose expertise is on a sports field, seriously think their lack of ‘travel influencer’ expertise could assist anyone?
Far more reasonable would be a well-planned match up with a travel company wishing to promote their chosen sport’s holidays. This would, however, involve considerably more forethought, energy and commitment than a few poolside Insta snaps.
In the meantime, on the basis that today’s staff working in, promoting and caring for Sri Lanka’s hotel and villa market are going to struggle eating a tweet, I’ve included various villa photos, which I believe look all the more inviting for the notable absence of influencers.