Insight on target for European growth

Insight on target for European growth
By admin

Insight Vacations will target growth in Europe of 30% this year as its managing director spoke of returning consumer confidence and the galvanising effect of the London Olympics.

The upmarket coach operator also reiterated the need to constantly educate agents and in particular of "busting the myth" of coach touring with the younger generation of travel agents.

But Joost Timmer stopped short of suggesting that Insight needed to follow sister operator Trafalgar by reinventing its product and image.

Speaking to Travel Today, Timmer said European sales to date were 30% ahead of 2012, with that growth rate set to continue.

But he admitted the improvement was off the back of a tough 2012 when the Olympics was widely thought to have played havoc with booking patterns.

"The Olympics threw a spanner in the works but 2013 has really bounced back which we expected," Timmer said. "Britain and Ireland is performing particularly well and southern Europe is still strong. We put a lot of emphasis on Spain and Portugal."

While the rate of growth reflects a poor 2012, it also points to a more positive market outlook for the industry.

"In terms of the growth, it's down to the greater focus on product….but in large part it's also a shift in the market in terms of returning consumer confidence. A lot of operators are going well in Europe," Timmer acknowledged. "We are tracking where we want to be. We've already booked the majority of our sales in 2013 so we are pretty confident we'll finish 30% up."

Timmer said "most" 2013 departures are now classed as ‘definite' although he declined to reveal figures.

The exception to the strong sales has been the eastern Mediterranean which "has been a bit tougher" with the ongoing issues in Egypt impacting sales.

Meanwhile, US sales are continuing to hold up after a record 2012 with its central America itineraries working well, Timmer said.

"America has invested in marketing itself more heavily than in recent years and we've seen strong take up of some of our central US itineraries that are a little off the tourist route," he explained. "We had a record year last year but I don't think it has hit its peak because people travel to the east and west and we now are seeing traction in the centre."

Across all its programs, Timmer said he was targeting "significant" collective growth with the sales boom in Europe countering the struggles in Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

"Egypt is tough," Timmer said. "Seasoned travellers are still going and it's a fantastic time to be there because there are very few people."

But sales remain "nowhere near pre-2009 levels".

"We're still promoting Egypt, it remains an important part of our mix," he stressed.

Timmer said the greatest challenge facing the operator, in 2013 and beyond, is the need to constantly educate agents and to dispel the myths surrounding the coach touring sector, particularly with the growing number of younger agents entering the industry.

"We've invested quite heavily in training a lot of new junior agents coming into the industry," he explained. "We do it every year but particularly with young agents it's about busting some of the myths associated with coach touring. It's not just for seniors and you don't spend nine hours each day on a coach.

"Coach touring in that regard has changed a lot. As far as the experience goes it's shifted enormously over the years so our biggest challenge, and one I think that is shared across many coach operators, is to look at ways of dispelling the myths associated with coach travel."

But Timmer insisted it had no intention of following Trafalgar which has fundamentally sought to reinvent its product.

"Where Trafalgar sits is slightly different. Insight sits in the premium to luxury space so we have not ever needed to reinvent ourselves," he said.

More from Joost Timmer in tomorrow's Travel Today.

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