Why tourism and aviation partnerships are vital for business

Insight from the World Routes Tourism Summit in Chengdu, China.

The panel at the World Routes Tourism Summit, moderated by Alfredo Gonzalez, vice president of sales and global development, Visit Florida, highlighted the need for collaboration between aviation and tourism. The number of tourism delegates has continued to rise at Routes events, with almost 200 in attendance in Chengdu.

Expanding a route network is always on the radar in aviation, but without tourists to fill your planes, it could prove difficult to be successful. This was the key point Alfredo Gonzalez, vice president of sales and global development, Visit Florida made while moderating a panel session at the Worls Routes Tourism Summit in Chengdu, China, highlighting the need for collaboration between the aviation and tourism industries.

The number of tourism delegates has continued to rise at Routes events, with almost 200 in attendance in Chengdu and Gonzalez, the self-proclaimed pioneer of toursim delegate attendance at World Routes, knows the value of good airline relationships and both direct and indirect flows considering how Florida has been able to position itself as an incredibly desirable destination to Chinese travellers despite their lack of a direct service.

Partnerships are crucial, which the mixed panel of tourism authority representatives, airports and airline delegation all represented. Trevor Sadler, chief executive officer, interCaribbean Airways; Arik De, head of commercial, AirAsia X Berhad; Khalil Lamrabet , director - aviation business development, Dubai Airports; Lennart Johansson, director leisure tourism & airport and airlines collaboration, Gothenburg & CO; Andrew Cowen, chief executive officer, HK Express made up the second panel of the day.

One of the questions put forward asked how Gothenburg, a secondary city within Sweden, were able to create their partnerships. Lennart Johansson said: “We are a bit of an underdog.” Work is put in place to ensure the right level is being dealt with; be it at a governmental level or destination level.

Trevor Sadler of InterCaribbean made their case by stating “the little guy is nonetheless as important as the big carriers” as they operate 30 seat carriers to connect the Caribbean. It was also stated how it is key for each of the islands to distinguish themselves in terms of their personality.

This is part of a strategy for tourists to consider visiting more than just one island; to put forward the idea of staying on to visit multiple islands. As the relationships within the islands has improved, so has the attitudes when it comes to tourism. It promotes the ideal of ‘splitting the pie’ when it comes to travellers rather than trying to take it all for yourself.

This plays into the biggest advantage of an LCC which is one way pricing. With the option of one way pricing, it opens the door to staying on in a country and exploring. It’s valuable for tourism authorities as in many cases, travellers may not be aware of secondary destinations. This is helps to spread out the ‘visitor load’.

Arik De of Air Asia X debunked the myth of the ‘low cost carrier’ – that a ‘low cost’ and a ‘high cost’ carrier doesn’t really make any sense. It was disclosed that when Air Asia X enter a market or destination, the long-haul carrier stimulates the market by a staggering 175 percent.

The carrier has more than 40 widebody aircraft, and more on order, and are not being exclusive when it comes to new routes. De said no destination dream is small enough, and if there is viable reasoning for flying there it can be considered. Their new service to Mauritius is “out of their comfort zone” but due to the great partnership in place, the service will run from next week.

One thing Air Asia X can offer is the invaluable marketing they can provide given their position within the ASEAN market of 700 million people. De states a financial package is important for partnerships but the key thing is being able to work together.

Khalil Lamrabet of Dubai Airports believes partnerships between tourism boards and airlines are fundamental for his business. He said, “It’s about making sure there is a value added to the airlines and to the passengers.”

Partnerships with the airport are not restricted to incentives, there is the opportunity of being the ‘window to Dubai’ by showcasing at the airport. Traffic is split roughly evenly down the middle, with 50 percent connecting traffic, and 50 percent origin and destination.   

With emphasis on joining airlines, airports and tourism authorities, will there be more fluid partnerships between all three in the future? Lamrabet believes support from both sides minimises the risk factors, and airports and tourist destinations are better placed for business.

Andrew Cohen believes there is an awareness issue within Asia, with many people not knowing where to go or what to do when they venture to the region. He encourages tourism authorities to get on board with the technology at hand to make the most out of their partnerships, and to be talking to more network planners about route planning.

The importance of tourism authorities can be highlighted in Gonzalez’s closing remarks, that tourism has the ability to make dreams come true. “Tourism and airlines is the future of working together – no one can do it alone.”

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