Travel industry not invited to Y2k's big party : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Travel industry not invited to Y2K's big party

LISA WRIGHT, Toronto Star

TORONTO (CP) - The year 2000 is fast approaching - it's just six weeks away - but a lot of people won't be flying anywhere to celebrate.

Though the travel industry expected its busiest time ever because of millennium parties, most Canadians have decided to stay home for the holidays.

All the major tour operators are experiencing huge drops in Christmas and New Year's bookings despite the fact it's usually their best season.

Also, Air Canada will have just three flights in the air when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, including Toronto-London, Toronto-Frankfurt and Montreal-Paris.

The Montreal-based airline usually has up to 30 overnight flights in the sky at any given time but it can't fill the seats Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.

"I can't honestly tell you the reasons why. We're just working on the assumption that people would rather be home," said Air Canada spokeswoman Laura Cooke.

Part of it is the undeniable hype over the Y2K computer bug and fears that planes might fall from the sky or that travellers may find themselves stranded in another country with no electricity, phone and other basic services.

But Canadians also have their backs up: The vacation package prices were astronomical this year because the industry intended to cash in.

For instance, Signature Vacations usually offers special New Year's rates of $89 US a night at all the brand-name Las Vegas hotels because it books in bulk to get the best deals.

But when the hotels announced their prices at the beginning of this year, they were asking for more than $600 US a night for New Year's Eve packages - and full payment at time of booking.

Consumers wouldn't go for it.

"Many moons ago, at the beginning of 1999, there was an incredibly buoyant feeling about the Christmas and New Year's travel season," said Martha Chapman of Signature Vacations, Canada's largest vacation package company.

"But it's not turning out to be the bonanza everyone in the industry thought it would be."

The tour operators responded this month to the drop in demand by slashing prices and offering deals, including some allowing you to bring two children along free on some Caribbean and Mexican destinations.

"It's very unusual to have widespread Christmas and New Year's packages on sale in mid-November," said Jill Wykes, vice-president of the North American Leisure Group, which owns Sunquest Vacations and Alba Tours. "It's an indication that there's still a lot of inventory out there."

All destinations are affected, operators say, particularly one- and two-week vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America - the tour groups' bread and butter.

Sunquest and Alba Tours are also noticing this year that the three Caribbean cruises they offer are more popular at New Year's than Christmas.

Tour operators report strong sales for most of January and say March break is booking up fast.

"We're almost sold out for March break already," Wykes said. "People who are not travelling over Christmas are looking forward to March."

Sales on January packages are up 18 per cent at Signature, Chapman said.

The airlines and tour operators refuse to divulge just how bad traffic and sales numbers are, compared with last year. But they all say the drop is dramatic, particularly when charter airlines that have the lock on sun spot destinations have all cut their capacity.

Royal Airlines, Skyservice and Canada 3000 reduced the number of planes they fly by a total of six. And the Canadian tour operators they work with estimate they have sold about 20 per cent fewer seats.

Despite last-minute selloffs, the industry doesn't expect the situation to change much.

"There's some deals to be had out there, but I don't think we'll see much movement before Christmas," said Brent Carnegie, vice-president of marketing for Conquest Tours.

Air Canada has cancelled almost half of its Jan. 1 flights and 27 per cent or 177 of 658 flights Dec. 31, affecting both international and domestic destinations.

Canadian Airlines is to announce next week how many flights it will cut since it too is experiencing a weaker holiday season.

"There's this peculiar pressure on people of wanting to do something special this holiday season and not knowing what to do," said Ron Pradinuk, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents.

"There's also some Y2K fears about what will happen if you get to some foreign country and the power doesn't work in your hotel. It's going to be interesting to see what last-minute decisions are made out there."

) The Canadian Press, 1999

-- Homer Beanfang (, November 24, 1999


Maybe it would have helped the travel industries' bottom line more if Kosiken and Garvey had booked a 2 week jaunt to say, Italy or Mexico, instead of the token "midnight flight". Surely they both deserve time off for their hard work and forthrightness to the public.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (, November 24, 1999.


I love it!!! Absolutely!!!

My daughter is an officer in a travel agency. Their company is for sale. She is freaking. Didn't expect it.

YET! She is planning to fly to Vegas for the big shindig out there, National Guard and all....

I think the younger generation believes in computers more than us older people.

Also, yahoo is through the roof today on the stock market. Headed for an all time high......interesting times we live in.

-- LindaO. (, November 24, 1999.

Taveling in winter, on a major holiday, is a real pain in the butt anyway, even w/o potential computer problems. Maybe folks are just getting savvy. Lots of people got stuck in airports last year, because of bad weather, technical screw-ups, whatever. It gets old.

-- staying home (watching@ballgo.down), November 24, 1999.

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