A chance to thrive in today’s uncertain times

By Lois Pasternak, Editor/Publisher, Travel Markets Insider

As TMI prepares to celebrate our milestone 20th anniversary in business, my overwhelming impression for the coming year is one of — uncertainty.

On the surface, some numbers are extremely promising. I have just returned from the Seatrade Cruise Global event where top industry executives are enthusiastically predicting that more than 25 million people will cruise this year — and with forward orders for new ship builds topping $50 billion over the next ten years, this increasingly important travel retail market promises great opportunities for the future.

The Caribbean, too, is celebrating record tourism arrivals in 2016, with growth above the global average.

Latin America, after several years of dismal economic performance, appears to be recovering, and the improvement is reflected in better travel retail sales.

But geopolitical issues beyond our control can seriously wipe out advantages, particularly in light of the unsettled environment in the United States right now.

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald probably summed up the industry’s biggest fear: “The only thing that stops our industry is people’s inability to travel. As long as the world stays open to travel, we’ll do fine. If the world shifts to closed borders that would be a problem.”

Whether one is gleefully celebrating what is called the “Trump Effect” — a soaring stock market and removal of restrictive regulations — or bemoaning the “Trump Slump” blamed for a precipitous fall in tourism arrivals in reaction to travel bans, the fact remains that incoming travelers are nervous.

International tourists also have other destination options than to visit an unwelcoming U.S. Tourism to Canada just hit a 14-year high, for example.

From an internal perspective, both travel retail operators and supplier companies continue to consolidate, with independent distributors looking for ways to partner and work together with other companies to better compete. Many tell us that tighter margins are the new reality.

Looking ahead, I am sure that the always resilient travel retail business will find ways to adapt to whatever the future delivers. Every prediction sees world tourism only growing, and if we can keep travelers shopping along the way, we should thrive.