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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WTM: Exploding home rental industry set to undermine accommodation sector

by Ian Mcintosh in London

World Travel Market in London kicked off with the usual report highlighting latest trends uncovered after surveying 2000 holidaymakers and industry execs. Most surprising was the news that the decision by mums and dads to rent the spare room for extra cash has reached the stage where it could undermine the entire accommodation industry.  With more than 10 million nights booked in 192 countries, Airbnb is now the world leader in travel rentals. Experience comfort and hospitality of locals from ₤49/day, the site explains. Have a look at

The good news is that optimism is taking off in the travel industry with 9 out of 10 senior execs saying prospects for 2014 look promising. The only real downer is taxes. Years ago the British Government latched on to a wonderful little cash cow called air passenger duty (APD) which started out at five quid and now is as much as 300 – with more increases mooted for 2014. This three tiered tax is biting hard, with travellers beginning to avoid long haul flights. The industry is hoping it will be reduced but the Government is currently raking in two billion pounds – so don't hold your breath folks. The survey showed 39 per cent of UK holidaymakers will only consider short haul holidays following the rise expected next year.

The post-Olympic Games scene in the UK is the cause of more celebration because capacity to London has increased - bucking what happened in cities like Sydney and Beijing.

Looking at the aviation scene almost half of the execs surveyed believe London will lose its position as a major global hub even if capacity is increased. While debate continues over a third runway at Heathrow, airports like Dubai continue to expand and astonishing new projects are in the air like Turkey's decision to complete a six runway airport by 2017 making it the biggest in the world.

On a personal note I have just visited Turkey and judging by the huge crowds waiting to get through immigration and the complete lack of assistance to English speaking travellers (we needed a visa) they have a very, very  long way to go. The other aviation topic discussed was the introduction of a no frills business class. It seems Jazeera Airways, a budget carrier based in Kuwait, is leading the way in this regard – but let's face it British Airways and Cathay Pacific have offered premium economy for years. Even so, we were told 87 per cent of travel execs say no-frills business class will be adopted globally.

Asia is next tourism hotspot with China number one followed by Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.

All of you guide book lovers will be interested to know that six out of 10 holidaymakers still use a guidebook while on holiday and 43 per cent use social media to contact home while on holiday. It seems phone roaming charges have annoyed Europeans as much as Australians – so much so there is talk these charges will soon be banned within EU countries. The might of Trip Advisor was highlighted in the survey with 27 per cent of holidaymakers saying they trusted recommendations from this source over suggestions from their own family.

It seems Brits are increasingly taking kids away after school holidays to get a better rate – despite a 60 quid fine. And it is not just a problem in the UK. A journalist said the issue is being taken so seriously in Norway that students lose points on their grade card.

Finally a bit of fun: "Who would you like to sit next to you on your next flight"? Half of those surveyed wanted to sit next to Kate Middleton and baby George. The other half, William, was not as popular along with Victoria Beckham. She rated 10 per cent while David was right up there on 26.

Ian McIntosh is Australia's Travel Tutor.

Image: The Australian stand at World Travel Market

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