there is high interest in vacation packages in Spain. However, everybody from
Western Europe is heading down there, and prices will go up," says
Jiří Jelínek, CEO of the Fischer Travel Agency.Is
this year's situation worse than the conditions during the financial crisis in
The two cannot be compared. At that time, people
lacked money, and vacation was one of the first items in their budget they
decided to eliminate. This year, people have enough money because the economy
is doing well and wages are growing. However, the selection is nowhere near to what
it used to be. I think that the entire market for holidays by air will decrease
by at least 10% this year.
your travel agency doing under the present circumstances?
We expect that our this year's turnover will be about
the same as last year's despite the current conditions. The economy is growing,
and people pick different, more distant destinations than those where they used
to fly to in the past. Our advantage is that we offer a broad portfolio of
countries, but travel agencies that only focus on a handful of regions where
people are afraid to go can get into serious trouble.
predict that somebody will go out of business this year?
Certainly not any company from the top five (Editor's note: Exim Tours, Čedok, Fischer,
Blue Style, and Alexandria), but as far as travel agencies further down the
line are concerned, it's hard to tell. It could certainly happen. There is no
doubt that travel agencies whose business relies on holidays in Egypt, Tunisia,
or Turkey, that is countries affected by the biggest drop in sales, will face
Kos Island in Greece is on top of the destinations where the most serious drop
in sales has been registered. What is your explanation?
It has been affected by what's published in the
media. Everybody associates the island with migrants. Even though nearly no
refugees arrived and no problems were encountered there in the course of last
year, interest in Kos as a destination has declined by tens of percent. And
prices correspond to this trend.
countries are taking place of those where holiday-goers no longer want to
There are two trends: there has been an extreme surge
in demand for Spain, especially Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, as well as
other European destinations. However, these are places where all Europeans want
to go, and the high demand is reflected in prices, which are logically rising.
For this reason, there are more and more people who opt for a summer vacation in
destinations that are more distant. For instance, there has been a huge
increase in interest in vacation packages in the United Arab Emirates, and
we're starting to sell holidays on Oman.
high prices make Dubai a destination not everyone can afford. What sort of
tourists fly there?
The high competition among air carriers has pushed the
prices of tickets very low, which means that vacation packages there are about
as expensive as an all-inclusive stay in a five-star hotel in Turkey last year.
That's the current typical clientele for Dubai. In addition, we've found out that
people prefer travelling for shorter periods, such as for a long weekend, but
more often in the course of the year. The fact that clients are attracted by
exotic destinations in the summer, as they are during the rest of the year, is
a new phenomenon this season.
did you realize that the countries where people want to spend their vacation
have substantially changed?
There were some signals already during the last
season, but the new situation became evident in October when we launched
advance sales. There was no interest in countries that used to sell well long
in advance in the past. In response, we quickly started to look for capacity in
other destinations for which demand has been on the rise this year.
say that there will be no last-minute offers this year. Is it only scaremongering?
There will be no last-minute packages for
destinations for which demand exists. On the contrary, there will be
last-minute offers for countries in which customers weren't interested during
advance sales. For example, Turkey will end up being a big hit because prices
there have fallen by more than a half. There is a paradoxical situation in
Germany, as more German tourists will travel to Turkey this season than was the
case last year. Holidays in Turkey have become so inexpensive that people fly
there despite perceiving a certain degree of risk. I think that the situation
in the Czech Republic will be similar.
show that the number of people who buy a vacation package from a travel agency
is decreasing, while, in contrast, there are more of those who buy airline
tickets and accommodation on their own. How do you see the future of your
The travel business is going through a major transformation,
and not everyone might survive. The trend is obvious, and it's up to us to do
our best to offer people better services at better prices than what they'd get
if they organized their vacation on their own. In the last three years, our
firm has invested tens of millions of crowns into various new technologies that
are used on advanced Western markets. Thanks to that, we are able to arrange
vacation packages for duration other than the traditional seven to 10 days.
Since we know that customers want as wide choice as possible, we have several
tens of thousands of hotels in hotel banks (Editor's
note – hotel booking systems not available to the public) in addition to
the roughly two thousand facilities with which we have contractual partnerships.
No other travel agency in the Czech Republic offers such a broad variety of
all that are services that people can procure on their own on the Internet. And
sometimes for less money ...
We are aware that as far as, for instance,
accommodation in large cities is concerned, we'll probably never catch up with
large booking portals, such as booking.com, but we're still quite a bit ahead
as regards accommodation at seaside resorts. Hotels there mainly strive on business
brokered by travel agencies. All hotels we use must be appropriate, must
conform to the design of our portfolio, and must be verified. We have explicit
quality guarantees and compensations for any failure to meet the prescribed quality
standard. When you book a hotel over the Internet and its services do not match
what was advertised, you'll be hard put in trying to claim compensation.
true that you will no longer publish paper catalogues?
We are limiting their quantity considerably since the
vast majority of what we offer is posted on the Internet. But we still publish
them because especially older clients like them and use them to choose their
average earnings in the Czech Republic are rising, it would make sense if
interest in vacation packages were growing as well. Which holidays are
currently more in demand, the less expensive or the more expensive?
Under normal circumstances, the less expensive ones
would be on the rise because average earnings are growing faster among people
in the lower income bracket. They would now be buying holidays in Turkey and
Egypt, but they are not because they're waiting until the eleventh hour. So,
this year will most likely see a higher growth in the segment of more expensive
of the hot weather last year, people were taking their summer vacation in the
mountains. Have you noticed this trend?
There has been a certain growth in this segment, but
nothing spectacular. The Alps are not exactly an inexpensive summer
destination, which means that a lot of people prefer traveling to a seaside
resort, simply because it is less costly.
of the current security concerns, it is expected that demand for holidays in
the Czech Republic will grow substantially. Are you interested in that business
At present, we don't see much potential for entering
the market and providing our own added value; there's not much we can do. So,
the answer is a no. Instead, we will continue convincing Czech clients to
is the future of charter flights in the travel business?
Their numbers will decrease, and it's already
happening now. All you have to do is look at Travel Service, which now offers
most charters as regular flights under the SmartWings brand. In the case of
trips to exotic destinations, we have stopped using charters altogether, and
the decision has proved to be a step in the right direction. I expect that the
trend will be similar with respect to destinations with a shorter flight time.
People mainly want flexibility.
have been rumors among travel agencies that Travel Service's charter monopoly
is less than optimal. Hasn't the time come to find a competitor for the Czech
market? Are you looking for one?
What Travel Service provides is comparable to
services offered by other European carriers; there is no difference. In
addition, they are able to service Moravian airports. In the past weeks, quite
a few people have contacted us with concerns about Air Cairo in connection with
the recent tragic accident of an aircraft owned by the company's parent
company, Egypt Air. However, we do not fly with Air Cairo.
The Czech and German
markets are often compared, and people say that whatever works in Germany will
get to the Czech Republic in a few years too. So, what can we expect?
The trends that can be observed already now: much
higher interest in holidays in exotic destinations. I think that the travel
patterns of Czech and German consumers will converge within the next five years.