The adage says that if it happens once, it’s a fluke. Twice, it’s a coincidence. Three times makes it a trend.
And four, five, six times or more? A fad? Trendy? Repetitive?
Whatever it is, the travel industry is caught up in a sudden wave of freebies, discounts and incentives offered by everything from specific destinations to airlines and cruise lines.
Hong Kong, which recently lifted its strict COVID-related travel policies, is open for business again and has an airline agreement. Well, more than an “offer” – it’s free airfare.
Have you ever wanted to visit Hong Kong? https://t.co/36nEzEVgJZ
— TravelPulse (@TravelPulse) October 7, 2022
A region in northern Italy has a bargain train ticket. Cruise booking rates have become so cheap, and incentives like free drinks and excursions, that a story recently circulated about some people booking back-to-back weekly cruises just to turn off power and other utilities to save. in invoices.
So TravelPulse asked our trusted travel advisors to weigh in on what seems to be trending in recent weeks.
“It’s an interesting question,” says Kelly Nadir, travel agent and owner of New Day Travels in California. “Suppliers are trying to attract those who are still hesitant to travel but can’t pass up an amazing offer.”
Stephen Scott, a luxury travel consultant at Pro Travel International in Chicago, also said supplier issues are driving some of this trend of deals and incentives.
The suppliers of all kinds that they are dealing with is basically considered a “perishable product,” Scott noted.
“So if a room doesn’t sell on the departure date, it’s a lost sale. Your revenue management teams can look ahead to see if there are open spaces that aren’t apparently being filled at pace,” Scott said. “As a travel agency, we don’t have that kind of restriction to deal with. We can simply sell another product, or another date, and it doesn’t affect us in the same way. So they can be offering promotions, but where and when is the key. They can try extend the wave season. I would if I were them after such a rough period.”
Emerald Cruises has decided to kick off the wave season early with a new promotion. Since the wave season starts in January in the New Year, it’s a pretty early launch here for Emerald Cruises, but that’s where the industry is right now.
In the case of Hong Kong, for example, Scott said, “You can’t take into account the competition from non-cruise destinations that are now open and have even greater demand.”
Nadir of New Day Travel agreed.
“Providers in the regions that haven’t had the success that the bigger, better-known sites have, are trying to get into the travel frenzy,” he said. “They don’t want to miss the opportunity to make long-term connections.”
That would explain the recent incentive by officials in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in northern Italy. Officials in the area are offering to reimburse the train fare to travelers to the area who arrive via the Trenitalia line and book at least two nights of hotels in cities such as Trieste and Udine.
But the region is not as well known as many other areas of Italy.
“The name of the region is long, hard to pronounce and often overlooked, but it should definitely be on everyone’s radar,” says Robin Locker-Lacey, owner of New York-based Melange Travel and travel specialist Italy and France “As one of the less visited regions, it’s a perfect destination for those who want to avoid crowds, mingle with the locals and see a unique part of Italy that tourists usually skip.”
If the destination decides to follow up on the train travel offering with something extra, Locker-Lacey said there are plenty to choose from. A marketing campaign could include something for history and culture buffs, sure.
“They will find a lot of famous art, museums, Roman ruins, great architecture, castles and UNESCO World Heritage sites,” he said. “Culinary itineraries can be filled with vineyards, drinking the fine white wines of Fruili and dining, with the unique cuisine of the region. The proximity to Austria and Slovenia greatly influences the food, so expect to find pork, especially Prosciutto San Daniele.
Spain is another country that is expanding its free train travel deals, but it’s not just destinations. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is bringing back its popular “Kids Cruise Free” promotion, just one part of the industry sales going on this fall.
“If you’re looking to book a fall vacation, you’re unlikely to find better value than at sea,” industry watcher Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of online cruise site Cruise Critic, told The Points Guy. seeing some really amazing deals right now from the Pacific to the Atlantic.”
Airlines have also launched a barrage of offers and incentives. In addition to fare sales, Delta Air Lines, for example, announced a new home-to-airport shuttle service. But cruises may be the best deal right now.
“In my opinion, airfare is a terrible cost right now for most destinations. European destinations may be offering those free perks to help offset the big sticker costs that travelers see right away on the plane ticket,” he says. Ryan Doncsecz, Groups Manage at VIP Vacations.
Doncsecz said that until recently cruise lines were adamant about requiring vaccinations or lots of COVID testing, requirements that have only recently been lifted. But before that, the ships had trouble getting the rest of their regular market to sign up for a cruise.
“While word of mouth and promotions are spreading very quickly about the new ease of travel via a cruise ship, I know the word is taking a little longer for the general consumer,” Doncsecz said. “I also think that the nightmare news that was widely circulated a few years into the height of the pandemic may have scared travelers away from returning to these types of trips. The combination of seeing ships unable to dock, hearing about how easily it can spread the covid-19 on board, as well as a disturbing number of covids before and during travel tests, have really hurt the cruise industry as a whole.
Hence the need for sales and incentives in what has become a catch-up game.
“I hope it will also recover, and these low rates may soon be a thing of the past,” Doncsecz said. “However, as we continue to close in on 2022, there are huge current savings and ‘deals’ can often be found in the cruise market for travelers looking to get away. Fingers crossed demand doesn’t see costs going the other way anytime soon.”
It remains to be seen if this current bullish trend will continue into 2023 for the entire term, or if things will go back to just the occasional freebie here and there.