Nine for 2009: How is the travel industry facing up to what looks like a tough year?

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The Independent Traveller sought the views of nine key players

Willie Walsh, Chief executive of British Airways

Destinations for 2009?

St Kitts in the Caribbean, to which we start flying on 10 January; Rio de Janeiro, where we now operate non-stop flights; and Buenos Aires, to which we fly daily (via Sao Paulo).

How will travel change this year?

We know from research that many travellers are prioritising their holiday over other spend, even in these hard economic times. However, they expect to get much more out of it. They want more of an experience and to get off the beaten track – to try something new and come home with great memories. We're also expecting to see a larger number of people opting to offset their carbon emissions when they book with us. Customers are looking to manage the environmental impact of their travels.

In terms of the industry, we'll see a lot more consolidation, and we expect that more airlines will go out of business. All travel companies will be fighting to ensure that they keep their customer base and bring in more business where they can.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

People like to protect their holiday budget and, in this difficult economic climate, may appreciate a break even more than usual. The Government's efforts to provide a fiscal stimulus to the economy may help.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

People should have freedom to travel where they want. The world is full of intriguing destinations, but for those who want to stay in the UK, we have lots of domestic flights, too.

Where next for you?

Chicago – it's one of the few cities I've yet to visit.

Caroline Noble, UK director, Opodo

Destinations for 2009?

Lima in Peru has seen a massive increase; it has grown by 83 per cent in the last 12 months. Peru is a very affordable destination, it's very diverse, you've got lots of history and there's unbelievable scenery. We have also seen a massive growth to some mid-haul destinations such as Bulgaria – flights into Varna are up by 67 per cent – and also Oman is up by 79 per cent.

How will travel change this year?

I think customers will become even more prudent about their spending, and they will probably take less frequent trips and really focus on one major family holiday. I don't think customers will sacrifice that one holiday, no matter how tough the economy gets.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

Yes, because we have already seen travel prices fall dramatically, and I think it will be difficult for the airlines to reverse that decline. We are hopeful that prices will remain fairly competitive, and the fuel surcharges will come down, making it easier for people to travel. I think our customers are probably reconsidering their travel plans and not taking such frequent trips but going somewhere a little bit more adventurous where they can actually afford to have a good time once they are there.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

The UK has got some fantastic places to visit, and I think we will see more Europeans coming here because they will be getting more for their money, but I still believe that our customers will want to travel abroad.

Where next for you?

I'm going to the US for a few days, and then on a cruise around the Caribbean.

Stephen Wood, Executive editor of 'Condé Nast Traveller' and ski correspondent for 'The Independent Traveller'

Destinations for 2009?

The campsite, the youth hostel and the house swap, for obvious reasons. My wife desperately wants to do a house swap, offering our very desirable Hampstead Garden Suburb home for something even better in Brooklyn. So, if anyone from Brooklyn happens to be reading this, you know who to call!

How will travel change this year?

I think there will be less of it; people will go shorter distances for shorter periods. There's a financial logic to going to new destinations in Eastern Europe, where the pound is still worth a bit of money, but I can't really see things changing. The motivation for going on holiday is to flee the British climate.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

We have to be able to afford to. We get four or five weeks holiday a year; what are we going to do with the time off work? Stay at home?

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

Travel here has improved so much in the past five years that it's now perfectly possible to visit much of the country and eat really well and stay in very good hotels. I think of the Hotel du Vin chain as being emblematic of this: its hotels are extremely nice and not fantastically expensive. It's a joy to turn up in a provincial UK town and stay somewhere really nice, compared with the old chain hotels that we used to suffer.

Where next for you?

My next trip will be to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, which just shows how out of touch I am with reality. It's a long distance away, and I will be spending my time looking at very expensive hotels. It's "work", of course – but in a place of spectacular natural beauty.

Mark Tanzer, Chief executive, Abta

Destinations for 2009?

With the euro where it is, anywhere that's outside the eurozone benefits. St Lucia is getting more flights and there's the cricket tour, which always gets people over. And the Kenyan tourist board is apparently anticipating an "Obama bounce"; I know the bookings are quite strong in Kenya at the moment.

How will travel change this year?

People will be looking for value for money, which doesn't necessarily mean the cheapest holiday. People are looking at more all-inclusive holidays so that they're insulated from outside costs, such as restaurants etc. I don't know if people will travel less to the eurozone, but they may spend less when they get there. The travel industry needs to keep coming up with innovative products and value for money.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

Yes, because even staying at home costs money; the cost of travel is actually the difference between what you would spend at home and what you would spend when abroad. I think the holiday industry has developed some very good- value products, so I'm confident that people will continue to travel.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

The infrastructure isn't really there to take care of everybody who wants to have a summer holiday in the UK. So there will still be people who are travelling abroad.

Where next for you?

Slovenia – it sounds like a really attractive country.

Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain

Destinations for 2009?

Big events to look out for in Britain are the Homecoming, which has a full programme of activities scheduled in Scotland; the Cotswolds has been awarded the title of Britain's Rural Capital of Culture 2009; and South Wales is warming up for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

How will travel change this year?

Tourists will redouble their efforts to ensure that their holidays deliver the holy grail of a fantastic experience at a value-for-money price. Holidays are an integral element of modern life, and while some consumers will be re-evaluating their holiday budget, the majority will still holiday. Online user-generated content will continue to grow in importance as a source of recommendations for places to go, stay and eat.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

Exchange-rate trends mean that Britain offers great u ovalue for money for US and eurozone citizens looking to get the most out of their funds. Our research indicates that holiday purchases are the last to go. People are more likely to cut back on the high-frequency, low-value items such as food, opting for own-brand supermarket products, for example.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

Yes. It is a great opportunity for the tourism industry to remind Brits what they are missing out on.

Where next for you?

Gloucestershire.

Pete Tyler, Managing director of Neilson

Destinations for 2009?

Travel to the non-eurozone will be key. Turkey is going to be big for that reason. Greece, despite having the euro, still has a big pull because it's still very good value. I think people will look at travelling close to home, too.

How will travel change this year?

People are more cost-conscious but they are still spending. That said, they are being more selective. I don't think there's such a thing as a cheap holiday because people want a good holiday, they don't want to compromise. People need to think about with whom they spend their money, which means properly bonded companies.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

Unfortunately, there will be more people without jobs, but those with jobs will do very well because of low or non-existent inflation.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

No. We have been travelling for years and it's important to keep doing it.

Where next for you?

I'll be trying our new Beachplus centre in Turkey. There's tremendous value in terms of doing things, being active, and having a good time, as well as coming back with good memories.

Lyn Hughes, Editor–in–chief andpublisher of 'Wanderlust'

Destinations for 2009?

Ecuador: the Galapagos will be in the spotlight because of the Darwin anniversary [2009 is the bicentenary of Darwin's birth]. However, mainland Ecuador blows people away, too. Where else can you get rainforest, volcanoes and coast in such a small area? Cuba: go now before it changes irretrievably once the American blockade is lifted and it turns into Miami. And I've never known anyone come back from Iran disappointed – it's certainly one of the friendliest and most interesting countries I've ever been to.

How will travel change this year?

People who are really passionate about travel will continue to travel. However, the economic climate will hopefully be the death knell for the worst excesses of the British holidaymaker, and for the thoughtless weekend-breaker who doesn't even know in which country they've landed on their low-cost flight.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

It will be a great time to travel, as the focus will be on good value as never before, with offers and extras abounding.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

We should all appreciate the UK more anyway. We have some of the world's best marine life around our waters, some stunning national parks, and countless secret corners.

Where next for you?

I'm torn between Sudan, because I know nothing about it; Laos, because it's always very highly rated by our readers; and Tenerife, because I hear it is surprisingly beautiful, with some of Europe's best walking.

Mandy Nickerson, Managing director, Bales Worldwide

Destinations for 2009?

Egypt, because it is representative of really good value for money, and everybody in the UK knows about Egypt. India, despite what happened in Mumbai: the Indian Tourist Office and hoteliers are working very hard to ensure that they deliver to people's expectations, and I think that it is going to offer very good value for money next year. And Madagascar: the new film hits the younger generation, and Madagascar has done a lot to improve the infrastructure and the levels of service.

How will travel change this year?

I'm really hoping that we are going to have a lot of the "sod it" factor. I think that people are going to do more life-changing things than they have ever done. That might be imposed on them because of their jobs changing, or because of their savings dwindling – people often need a catalyst for change.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

Yes, because for a lot of people their work time is stressful, and with everything going on they need something to look forward to.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

There are beautiful places in the UK: I went to the Scottish Highlands a couple of years ago. You feel in different world there.

Where next for you?

Climbing Kilimanjaro with five girls, and I'm booking for me and my husband to do the Annapurna Trek in Nepal in November.

Justin Francis, Managing director of Responsible Travel

Destinations for 2009?

Jordan, because it's good about preservation of cultural heritage and its ways of life. Mozambique is getting stronger and stronger. It's emerging as a top-class honeymoon/luxury beach resort in the same bracket as St Lucia or Mauritius. There's lots of interest in Cuba, and I think what's driving it is the feeling that Castro hasn't got much longer and things will change dramatically once he has passed away.

How will travel change this year?

People will protect their one main holiday of the year, but they will sacrifice or trade down other holidays that they might have been planning. Another ramification of that is that people are not going to take chances with their main holiday. We are going to see people going back to the classics, the "best in category" holidays. So, if it's hiking, best in category are Nepal and Peru.

Will we be able to afford to travel in 2009?

A lot of people in Britain never take a holiday and we should not forget that. I think it's a dangerous delusion to assume that people will always take holidays; it's PR spin that comes from big tour companies. But I do think that there is a truth that we value our holidays enough that most of us will still take one good break.

Shouldn't we just stay in the UK?

I think the United Kingdom has the potential to do really well. I say it has the potential because I don't think it should take it for granted. The UK is not, bizarrely, the cheapest of places, even though it is right on our doorstep, so to speak.

Where next for you?

I would like to go to Scotland with my wife; it's part of my pattern of taking more holidays closer to home. We'll take the sleeper train up to the Highlands, which I think is a lovely way to travel.

Simon Calder's Nine trips for 2009

Austerity tourism: that is what many of us will practise this year. Fortunately, my overseas travelling began in the 1970s, when practically every British tourist was on a shoestring, so having a holiday on next to nothing is standard practice. Here is where I hope to go in 2009, and why, and how much I intend to pay.

1. The city break

Where? East Berlin

When? January

Why? I was there 20 years ago this month, a time when no one expected the Wall to be gone within the year. I want to get just a whiff of the bad old days, and celebrate the new freedoms – including travel.

How much? Making full use of the cheap deals on German railways, I intend to pay no more than £100 for travel, and stay in the Generator - an old East German electronics factory that is now the cheapest hostel in town.

2. The literary pilgrimage

Where? Dumfries

When? January

Why? Robert Burns's 250th birthday. In Dumfries, where Scotland's national poet spent the last few years of his life, the festivities kick off on 25 January, when Burns Light on Burns Night celebrates his life with lantern processions, live music and entertainment.

How much? The flight from Stansted to Prestwick on Ryanair, and a train from Kilmarnock to Dumfries should come in on the right side of £70 return.

3. 400th anniversary of place which inspired 'The Tempest'

Where? Bermuda; Shakespeare's play takes its cue from the storm that blew an English crew to the island.

Why? The Atlantic archipelago is celebrating 400 years of permanent settlement this year, and to mark the event, a series of performances of 'The Tempest' take place from 25-28 February at the City Hall Theatre; visit bermuda2009.bm.

How much? Since Zoom was doomed, British Airways is the only airline; spending BA Miles could be an option, given the high fares for cash.

4. Cultural event of the decade

Where? Athens

When? March, with luck

Why? The full opening of the New Acropolis Museum (00 30 210 924 1043; newacrop olismuseum.gr/eng), a spectacular creation by the Acropolis that will bring the glories of ancient Greek culture alive for the 21st century.

How much? Aegean Airlines is looking good value from Stansted to Athens at around £120 return, with frills.

5. Going wild

Where? The far north of Scotland

When? March

Why? Twelve blissful hours of daylight in a place where a pound is still worth a pound, and the scenery is priceless.

How much? I have already bought a return trip on the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston to Inverness for £58 – transport and a bed for the night included.

6. The ski trip

Where? Somewhere in Scandinavia

When? April

Why? The Swedish and Norwegian currencies have barely changed against sterling – and there is a near-guarantee of good snow in early April.

How much? Remains to be seen, but I reckon £600 should cover everything for a week, assuming a bottle or two is bought at Gatwick duty-free.

7. The bargain basement package

Where? Anywhere in the Med

When? Early May

Why? This is the time to pick up the best deals on package holidays.

How much? I shall consider it a point of principle not to pay more than £200, including flights and accommodation.

8. The cheap summer holiday

Where? Poland, and specifically the resort of Gdynia

When? In the last two weeks of August, the sea and sun are warm, and the Scandinavians and Germans have gone home (because their school year starts earlier).

Why? The pound has sunk against the zloty, but it still represents superb value for money.

How much? Reckon on £100 per person for flights, and £100 a day for a family of four, which includes board and lodging.

9. 200 years since Darwin's birth

Where? Galapagos Islands

When? November, when flights are cheap and the weather in Britain is gloomy.

Why? Darwin's visit on board The Beagle inspired his theory of evolution; a modern-day trip will bring you face to face with sea iguanas, flightless cormorants and giant tortoises.

How much? South American Experience offers tours to the islands starting at £1,799 per person for a week, including flights and most meals.

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