Mr. Bösl, you are the general manager of the Quality Travel Alliance (QTA), with about 9,000 affiliated travel agencies creating an annual turnover of about 5 billion Euro. According to your position you should be well informed about the reservations and sales in travel agencies at the moment. Could you please give us information about the current situation?
Bösl: The current situation is very tense. At the beginning of this year many Far East travelers changed their bookings, but for two weeks now all destinations all over the world are facing the same situation. There is no destination left which is not under the influence of the Covid-19 crisis. But also the airlines, hotels and even tour operators are under pressure.
Well, what do you expect to happen in the near future? There are many countries with only a few cases of people infected by the virus, but nonetheless booking numbers are falling everywhere and customers are worried. How do you explain the difference between the number of infections and the worries created by them?
Bösl: You are right, also countries with just a few cases of infections by the Covid-19 virus are witnessing falling booking numbers. Our customers don´t differentiate between countries with many infections and such with less. Our customers are afraid to travel in a general way. The reason for this is not a fear to get the disease, but to be confined to a hotel or a cruise ship due to a quarantine. This is something the authorities in all destination should consider. In the event of the infection of a single guest they should refrain from confining all guests to this hotel. What our customers fear most is to be confined to a hotel or a ship as a totally healthy person for two weeks.
What should holiday destinations do?
Bösl: What is of uttermost importance right now is to have reliable information instead of sensational news and panic. What we would like to ask of hotels and the authorities in the destinations right now is to keep us informed as good as possible. We want to post all the information given to us on a special service section on our website, were we inform travel agencies about the situation in each destination. This information is controlled by thousands of travel agency sales agents each day which aim to provide their customers with reliable information instead of sensational and partly misleading news. We want to act as a bridge covering the gap between the destinations and their products and the customers. Many agents have been able to answer the questions of their customers using this information. Especially Tenerife has used this opportunity to alleviate the worries of potential guests. We urge all destinations and hotels to use this opportunity to reach out to their potential guests.
What will happen after the end of the current Covid-19 crisis? Do you expect 2020 to become a strong “last minute year”?
Bösl: I hope that 2020 will become a year with strong last-minute sales. But this expectation should not lead us to create just another self-made crisis right after the current crisis by starting to sell our products at radically reduced prices. As far as we are concerned, we would prefer to offer our customers cost free added value opportunities like for instance room upgrades and reductions for Spa departments, restaurants, shows and trips. In order to be able to offer these we are preparing a voucher booklet, and we hope that many hotels will join in this campaign. In short: Instead of selling our products at reduced prices and thus creating profit loss for tour operators, travel agencies and hotels alike, we would prefer to use different solutions which help us to support the image of tours and holidays as a product of value for which customers are willing to pay appropriate prices.
Image Credit: Thomas Bösl © Tourexpi