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Ray Roberts of Travel Impact 14/08/2007 [0]

We are all poorer for the absence of Americans

I recently met some Swiss hoteliers who bemoaned the on-going lack of group business from the USA. Over the past few years, similar discussions on reduced American turnover have brought reactions from UK group organisers that include applauding the lack of American competition for space, while exhibiting no sympathy for adversely affected European suppliers. I find this very short-sighted.
Our business is cyclical. If Switzerland features regularly for a couple of years, our clients will eventually find it less appealing as they look for variety and move their groups elsewhere. Through our leaner trading periods with their country, we expect and need our Swiss suppliers to continue to invest in maintaining and improving their products. Otherwise, our clients won’t find the expected quality and range of product when they re-focus on Switzerland in a few years’ time.
This isn’t about increased competition for space, nor about higher prices due to suppliers enjoying boom times. It’s much more about having a healthy pool of quality hotels maintaining and improving standards, so our clients have more and better choices when they next consider Switzerland.
Although other destinations are similarly affected by the continuing downturn in American-derived turnover, Switzerland is particularly note-worthy because of its perception as politically stable, clean and, above all, safe - which made it a favourite for American corporate groups. None of this perception has changed, unlike American buying patterns.
Americans used to avoid overseas travel in their election years, but with terrorism and security worries, plus a weak dollar, it seems elections no longer pose the greatest threat to trans-Atlantic corporate tourism.
Corporate groups form an important revenue stream that helps fund product renovation and renewal. If the current trend of our American cousins reducing their group business into Europe does not reverse, we should all be as worried as Swiss hoteliers.



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