NEW YORK—Tourico Holidays has reported an 8% overall increase in U.S. hotel bookings in 2016, compared to the prior year, and an additional 6.5% increase through the first 18 weeks of 2017. A significant harbinger of positive news is the influx of Chinese travel, with U.S. inbound hotel bookings up by 67.5% year-over-year in 2017.
“The activities, landmarks and trending destinations that the U.S has to offer to travelers play a large role, along with China’s booming economy,” said Lauren Volcheff Atlass, EVP, global sales and marketing for the wholesale travel brokerage company. “Chinese travel has been particularly strong in recent years since the 10-year multiple entry visa for Chinese citizens, which made it very easy for Chinese travelers to visit the U.S.”
Other countries have also increased their U.S. hotel bookings in 2017—Brazil, rising 23.5% YOY; Canada, up 19% YOY; Australia, gaining 9% YOY; and the United Arab Emirates, soaring 60% YOY.
Atlass also attributes the uptick in U.S. bookings to the merger of Tourico Holidays with Hotelbeds Group, expanding the travel wholesaler companies’ footprint in the North American market. Tourico Holidays partners with travel suppliers such as hotels, attractions, cruise companies and others to then broker rates and inventory to a global client base such as traditional tour operators, point/mile redemption and packaging channels.
“In 2015 and 2016, Tourico Holidays did another global expansion, adding offices in China, Australia, France, Italy and more. Additionally, we added more manpower to our already great global sales team. These talented individuals did a great job driving more business to the U.S. We are now integrating with the Hotelbeds Group, which will allow our partners, and therefore our business, to access even more product and services in the near future.”
You would think that the U.S. travel industry, in general, would be taking some hits as portions of President Donald Trump’s travel ban takes effect, stringent immigration policies are in view, as well as economics and other world concerns impact the industry. But, Atlass says it’s nothing more than chatter at the moment.
“International clients have in fact branded this ‘the Trump effect’ and do discuss it with our global sales team. However, the numbers are inconclusive as to whether there is a real impact or not. For instance, Tourico is still seeing incrementing numbers of tourists coming from other parts of the world,” she said. However, there are new avenues of business development. “Growth will come from two areas: One being new products, such as activities and cruises. For instance, some cruise lines already have Chinese-targeted sailings—language and food will be all Chinese—which will open up the China source market for cruise over time for global destinations. Second will be source market-based, ranging from continuing developing markets such as India and China as well as new markets.”
Taking the pulse of the hotel industry, Atlass sees a strong prognosis overall. “For instance, for the first time in years, Hawaii and San Francisco are a bit soft. While it might be a rough 2017 for them, think about all the people who can finally afford to go there. This will be new business that will drive repeat business into the future for these two amazing destinations. Overall, 2017 is looking to have double digit growth for Tourico into U.S. hotels.”
Atlass advises hoteliers to use the data to their advantage to better cater to the markets that are propelling the positive U.S. inbound bookings.
“The wholesale space is a bit of an unknown to many hoteliers, but it is a rapidly growing space that can help them reach source markets and business types they can’t reach on their own,” she said. “For instance, a major airline can’t partner with just one chain for reasons of global footprint, but a hotel can partner with that airline via Tourico Holidays. The current political climate means it’s more important than ever to get on-sale via a distribution channel that will provide you with incremental business while protecting your rate.”