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  • Writer's picturePru Goudie

"The stage is set, a golden age of tour operation could be here as soon as 2022"

Chris Rowles, AITO Chairman - AITO Conference, December 2021

by Pru Goudie

The room was full of hope and upbeat energy at the AITO Conference, held this weekend in Leicester where circa 100 AITO members attended, including tour operators, travel agents, travel media and business associates.

Addressing the elephant in the room Chris Rowel, Aito Chairman described "the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and subsequent tightening of restrictions as a result as a “setback”, adding: “One thing that gives me hope is that bookings slowed down but they didn’t stop.”

What were the other key message from our Chairman, Chris Rowels?

Everyone is a 'start-up' business again with a severely reduced team of workers, but with the advantage of up to 40-years experience in the trade

"You are the survivors, you probably know your businesses better now than ever before. You have been able to look at the make-up of your business. You have had the ability to start again with a blank piece of paper.
"A golden dawn is waiting beyond the horizon. But there are challenges to get there. I’m not pretending it will be easy."

Chris Rowles, AITO Chairman

Lyn Hughes, Founder of Wanderlust Media, confirmed analytical search suggested their readers were itching to get going and seeking out unusual places and off the beaten paths.

Chris Haslam, Chief writer for the Times & Sunday Times shared some key messages from their readers

  • The pandemic has pushed the reset button

  • Readers are looking at booking dream trips and bucket list travel

  • Pent up demand and pent up money

  • Upgrades; after so long not being able to travel readers are looking to treat themselves and upgrade their holidays, to choose one hotel over another

  • Readers prepared to pay more for their holiday choices

  • After all the chops and changes made to travel throughout the pandemic, mostly with very little if not zero notice given by the Govt, the love affair of DIY internet holidays is well and truly over. Readers are seeking the protection and the peace of mind and booking their travel arrangements through expert travel agents and tour operators instead

"Readers are adopting the Catholic view of travel" where the flight will always be the sin but it's what you do in that destination that is your atonement".

Chris Haslam, Chief writer for the Times & Sunday Times

Jonathan Bryan, Managing Director of Discover Adventure, specialising in charity trips confirmed there was a real appetite for the long-haul travel such as Kilimanjaro climbs, Inca Trail, Vietnam and Cambodia. "In certain areas of the economy the money and hunger to travel is there" he said. "Companies are reshaping and the consumers are ready to get going" he reported the London to Paris bike ride was attracting large numbers for this summer.

"We might be bruised and battered but we're a heck of a lot better for it" said Jono Vernon-Powell, Founder of Nomadic Thoughts, AITO council member and conference moderator. "Businesses are better as a result and there is a real feeling that there has never been a better time to be in the market. We are very well positioned to pick up as we go forward," he concluded.

Final takeouts:

  • No more sacred cows

  • Many companies with new product offerings

  • Time and opportunity to develop technologies

  • More innovation

  • Customers have witnessed excellent customer service throughout the pandemic and seen the value in this and they're prepared to pay over 30% more for it

Quite a few AITO members have said that as long as travel can happen, a lot feel they could have their best years in 2022. This has got to be good news, moving forward!

AITO – The Specialist Travel Association is a group of unique and specialist travel companies, who collectively provide an unrivalled range of holidays to every corner of the globe. Adventure Travel Networking is a Business Associate of AITO.

New Business Associates of AITO - from left to right

Pru Goudie, Adventure Travel Networking

Steve Rushton, Travel Marketing Systems

Chris Rowles, AITO Chairman

Colin Clark, Jet Logic

Chris Thompson, The Firebird Partnership

The next Adventure Travel Networking Conference & Marketplace will take place on the 3rd & 4th February 2022 as a hybrid event.

Tickets are now available - see more HERE

Pru Goudie, Founder


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