An Abundance Of Caution

Since Press Today broke the story in Canada that ITB Berlin 2020 was cancelled, there have been a number of significant developments.

  • PATA has cancelled its annual summit set for the end of this month.
  • IATA is asking governments around the world to suspend slot rules through to October 2020
  • ACTA has surveyed members to find out more about the impact of COVID-19 – and it is definitely having an effect.
  • IPW 2020 is the good news, with a top official indicating that it’s “on track” and “it’s all systems go.”

But let’s start with the cancellation of ITB Berlin which was set to get underway this week.

A spokesperson for ITB told Press Today — which broke the story in Canada on Feb. 28 — that: “Due to the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health has decided to cancel the ITB Berlin. “

The ITB spokesperson explained that: “In addition, the responsible public health department of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf of Berlin has greatly increased the requirements for holding the event on Friday evening. Among other things, the authority ordered: Every trade fair participant must prove to Messe Berlin that they do not come from the defined risk areas or have had contact with a person from the risk areas. These conditions cannot be implemented by Messe Berlin.”

Rumours about the cancellation began circulating most of last week after Messe Berlin GmbH indicated, in a terse statement on its website, that it was “currently coordinating with the public authorities at federal and state level on how to proceed with regard to ITB Berlin 2020 and COVID-19.”

Organizers had also confirmed earlier last week that “due to the current spread of the coronavirus in Europe, the organizer expects lower visitor numbers at ITB Berlin. Please understand that due to the dynamic situation, we are currently unable to make any statements about concrete visitor numbers.”

Commenting on the cancellation, Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH, said: “With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries, ITB Berlin is of outstanding importance for the global tourism industry. We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our guests, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we look forward to the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020, which has now become necessary.”

The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Messe Berlin Wolf-Dieter Wolf explained: “In their now 54-year history ITB Berlin and Messe Berlin have never before experienced a comparable situation. We would like to thank all exhibitors and partners around the world who have supported ITB Berlin in the past days and weeks, and look forward to continuing our trusting cooperation with our partners in the market.”

And visitBerlin CEO Burkhard Kieker commented on the cancellation announcement, observing: “Messe Berlin has decided to cancel this year’s ITB. The decision has been taken against the background of the public health department stepping up measures to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. In cancelling the ITB 2020, those responsible are reacting to current concerns among parts of the general public and in the travel industry.”

Kieker continued: “This is the first time the ITB has ever been cancelled – and it is indicative of the challenges which the coronavirus poses for the travel sector. Berlin and its hosts regret the cancellation, but understand the necessity even though as yet there have been no COVID-19 cases confirmed in Berlin. We are hopeful the situation will improve as soon as possible.”

PATA – Cancels Annual Summit in UAE

In a letter to PATA members, PATA’s CEO, Dr. Mario Hardy has announced the cancellation of the PATA Annual Summit 2020 that was scheduled to take place from March 31 to April 3 in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates due to the evolving dynamics of the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and follwoing “much discussion and deliberation with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) and the PATA Executive Board.”

Hardy writes: “The safety and well-being of our members, industry colleagues and local communities is fundamental in our mission in acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific region. With this in mind, we had come to this tremendously difficult decision.”

PATA’s CEO says in his message that: “We are extremely disappointed in making this announcement; however, we have been closely monitoring this continually developing situation and believe that it was best that we made this decision in a clear and timely manner.”

And Hardy continues: “All of us at PATA were excited to welcome all members and delegates to Ras Al Khaimah, and our discussions and meetings with the host ensured us that this would have been a successful event would it not have been for the current situation. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce that RAK TDA has agreed to host the PATA Annual Summit 2021 and dates for next year’s event will be announced in due time.”

The messages indicates as well that for those delegates that have paid the registration fee or purchased tickets for the PATA Foundation Charity Dinner, you have the option of transferring the registration fee and/or the Charity Dinner ticket fee to the PATA Annual Summit 2021 or receive a full refund.
And for our members inquiring about the PATA Executive Board, Board, and Category and Advisory Committees, as well as the Annual General Meeting, further details will be communicated in the coming weeks.

Hardy observes that: “t PATA, we continue to encourage all industry stakeholders to remain calm but stay vigilant and take proper precautions as necessary. Most importantly, we ask that you get your information from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local authorities. During times such as these, it is vital to gather all proper facts and information before measuring an appropriate and responsible response.”

And he concludes: “We will continue to provide any updates as necessary and, as always, we are here to offer all of our members and industry colleagues our support and assistance as needed during this difficult time.”

IATA – Wants Slot Rules Suspended

IATA is contacting aviation regulators worldwide to request that the rules governing use of airport slots be suspended immediately and for the 2020 season, due to the impact of COVID-19 (the Coronavirus).
Around 43% of all passengers depart from over 200 slot coordinated airports worldwide. At present, the rules for slot allocation mean that airlines must operate at least 80% of their allocated slots under normal circumstances. Failure to comply with this means the airline loses its right to the slot the next equivalent season. In exceptional circumstances, regulators can relax this requirement. The COVID-19 crisis has had a severe impact on air traffic. Airlines are experiencing serious declines in demand. Including:

  • A carrier experiencing a 26% reduction across their entire operation in comparison to last year.
  • A hub carrier reporting bookings to Italy down 108% as bookings collapse to zero and refunds grow.
  • Many carriers reporting 50% no-shows across several markets.
  • Future bookings are softening and carriers are reacting with measures such as crew being given unpaid leave, freezing of pay increases, and plans for aircraft to be grounded.

IATA says that given these extraordinary circumstances as a result of the public health emergency, the collective view of the airline industry is that the application the 80% rule during the upcoming season inappropriate. Flexibility is needed for airlines to adjust their schedules according to extraordinary demand developments.

Already, regulators have been waiving the slot rules on a rolling basis during the COVID-19 crisis primarily for operations to China and Hong Kong SAR. However, given the recent further outbreaks this is no longer contained to the Asia markets. Without certainty that these waivers will continue for the summer season (or winter season in the Southern hemisphere), airlines are unable to plan ahead sufficiently to ensure efficient rostering of crew or deployment of aircraft.

Suspending the requirement for the entire season (to October 2020) will mean that airlines can respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity levels, avoiding any need to run empty services in order to maintain slots. Aircraft can be reallocated to other routes or parked, crew can have certainty on their schedules.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: “IATA research has shown that traffic has collapsed on key Asian routes and that this is rippling throughout the air transport network globally, even between countries without major outbreaks of COVID-19. There are precedents for previous suspension of the slot use rules and we believe the circumstances again calls for a suspension to be granted.”

As a result, de Juniac continued: “We are calling for regulators worldwide to help the industry plan for today’s emergency, and the future recovery of the network, by suspending the slot use rules on a temporary basis.”

And he concluded: “The world is facing a huge challenge to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while enabling the global economy to continue functioning. Airlines are on the front line of that challenge and it’s essential that the regulatory community work with us to ensure airlines are able to operate in the most sustainable manner, both economically and environmentally, to alleviate the worst impacts of the crisis.”

ACTA – Track COVID-19 Impact

In a survey of its members to find out more about that impact of COVID-19, ACTA found that the virus is most definitely having an effect on the travel industry, with results revealing that consumers are concerned not just about Asia but in particular about cruising and about travel in general.

As well, the member survey also found that clients already booked want to cancel, change or just reassurance

Of clients already booked for future travel, 56% of agents reported clients were looking for reassurance about whether to travel, while 27% reported clients wanted to cancel, and about 17% reported clients wanted to postpone, change date or destination.

In terms of what trips clients are looking to cancel or change, Asia cruises and Asia river cruises topped the list, with Caribbean Cruises next and Europe bookings close behind, but there were a large number of requests to change or cancel the Caribbean and Mexico as well. Smaller numbers of requests to cancel or change were also received for U.S. destinations.

Future sales slower than normal for Asia cruises, cruises in general– and Europe

When it comes to future booking patterns, 87% of travel agents said Asian cruises are slower than normal and 85% said Asian river cruises are slower than normal.

58% of agents reported Europe cruise sales are slower than normal and 47% reported Caribbean future cruise sales are slower than normal.

On the flip side, the majority of agents (over 50%) said that future bookings were normal for the Caribbean and Mexico, the U.S., Central & South America and Europe (non-cruise).

The survey had a total of 401 respondents from across Canada. About 57% of these agents work in storefronts; 21% are home based with host agencies; 11% are corporate travel; about 7% call centre and about 5% wholesaler.

ACTA is continuing to monitor the situation.

IPW 2020 – All Systems Go

Following the cancellation of ITB 2020, Malcolm Smith, the general manager of IPW, indicated in a messages to IPW delegates that “While IPW is several months away, we’re presently on track to host an outstanding event in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 30-June 3.”

Smith made it clear that: “It’s “all systems go” and planning for all scenarios is well underway. Registration is strong from both domestic and international attendees.”

He also pointed out that: “U.S. public health and security officials, as recently as [Feb. 28], have been clear in stating that the threat of COVID-19 in the United States remains low. We will continue to follow the guidance offered by these leading health authorities and be guided by the most up to date information available.”

Smith continued: “Any alternative decisions will be informed by expert advice. We aim to react properly to this current situation, but not to overreact. Our concern is for all who are affected by this health challenge, and we are hopeful for a swift resolution that keeps travelers to and within America safe and secure.”