27 NOV 2018: Nine and a half years. More than 250 columns later. It’s been an enjoyable ride writing for TravelIndustryToday.com readers through my two columns, The Ryall Report and The Spa Scene. My initiation in the world of column writing began with a bang. My first column on the collapse of Conquest Tours generated a range of responses from industry players and readers. Rather than retreat I credit the editor, Jen Savedra, in sticking by me. I knew then I could have her support and hopefully provide a new perspective on the industry through my columns.

Any columnist worth their salt does not want every reader to agree with their point of view. The columnist just wants to be read! If it provokes a thought or response from the reader, then you’ve struck writer’s gold. If they possibly change their mind that isn’t the goal, but you hope at least they now have another view.

COLUMN UPROAR

My first Ryall Report column on the collapse of Conquest Tours elicited both praise and scorn from different readers. Welcome to the world of column writing! When the column was published, I wasn’t expecting the level of response. Those in the industry at that time know Conquest Tours was one of the largest tour operators in Canada and offered numerous packaged tours to Florida, Vegas, Mexico Caribbean and other destinations. They generated huge passenger volumes. At the time Errol Francis was the CEO of Conquest Tours. I had always admired him when he was with Canadian Holidays and he was a proven leader in the travel industry.

Unfortunately, when Conquest Tours stopped operations he was nowhere to be seen. A CEO should be front and centre as the company shut down affected thousands – employees, travel agents, suppliers, and the consumer who were on Conquest trips at the time. I still stand by my criticism of Francis in that column almost 10 years later. A CEO should face the music and explain to staff, industry and consumers what they are doing to remedy the situation.

On the other front, I saluted former TICO Registrar and President Michael Pepper. TICO was left with a massive mess from the Conquest Tours collapse. The late and outspoken Bruce Bishins, president of ARTA Canada, begged to differ and was highly critical of my column.

Hours later after the column appeared, Bishins sent out a press release to its members and media taking issue of my criticism of ARTA and for him critical of TICO’s efforts in repatriating consumers from their trips. Welcome to column writing Chris!

With this tumultuous beginning I thought to myself – wow, I’m no longer writing for TravelIndustryToday.com! A one column columnist career. Fortunately for me, the editor Jen Savedra thought otherwise. She supported me and the column and just said, keep writing and telling it like it is. I will always remember that.

CONNECTING WITH READERS

When you write more than 250 columns there will be columns that resonate with readers and ones that don’t.

I was gratified to see a column on how the travel industry has ignored travellers with a disability elicit a good response. This travel segment has been neglected for decades, yet it represents a significant travel market. Whether the disability is physical or mental, everyone should have the opportunity to travel. I heard from many people both in the industry who said it’s time airlines, hotels, restaurants, and tour companies provide more accessibility.

Too often hotels will set aside a couple of guest rooms available for people with a disability. And that’s it. The restaurant, pool and other facilities may be inaccessible without assistance. It is deplorable the minimal advances that have been made in the industry especially hotels. What is encouraging is in recent years some travel agents now specialize in assisting people with disabilities for their leisure and business travels.

WHAT’S YOUR NICHE?

In the past ten years, agencies specializing in niche travel segments have done well. This has been a topic of many columns for agents to position the agency or themselves as an expert in a niche market. These niche markets have seen huge growth the past decade: honeymoons/destination weddings, golf, girlfriend getaways, multigenerational travel, art tours, adventure travel, volunteerism, and my passion, spa and wellness travel.

The role of the travel agent has evolved over the years and its more an advisory role than administrative and ticketing role to the internet and technology. Agents who embrace technology, social media and specialize set themselves apart from the competition. It still comes down to two main things for a client – trust and knowledge. Build those and you will always have a business.

BEYOND THE NORM

Through the two columns I hope I have opened the eyes to look beyond just the typical destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, US and the western European destinations. They are all great destinations but also discover the fascinating cultures, attractions, people and landscapes of lesser known destinations in Africa, Asia, South America, Gulf region, Eastern Europe and the less travelled Central American region.

Traveller safety is important and always respect Canada’s foreign affairs travel warnings. In many cases, they go over the top. Don’t be afraid to travel and promote destinations such as Central America. Some of these impoverished nations heavily rely on tourists. It’s inexpensive and they can deliver a wealth of unique travel experiences. Go beyond the norm and seek out new travel experiences.


THANKS FOR READING

I have had the pleasure of travelling to more than 80 countries around the world. All the money in the world cannot duplicate the fantastic and exhilarating experiences and most importantly the incredible people I have met.

I’m grateful I have had the opportunity to share some of those travels in the two columns. Travel is the best education in the world. I have had the privilege to express my opinions and experiences through the two columns for almost 10 years. I will be no longer writing the columns as my career is always evolving in various directions and time to move on. I thank the editor for all her support and the opportunity these columns have given me with a forum to communicate with readers and explore issues important to the industry and consumers.

I hope in the future to occasionally contribute an article and I like to thank all the readers out there for your comments and feedback both through this column and when you have contacted personally or spoken to me at functions regarding the columns. Keep reading and keep travelling!


A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:

I thank Chris for his valuable contribution to Travel Industry Today. He has been a valued contributor and friend, and played a large role in making us the success we are today. We wish him all the best in his new endeavours and look forward to future articles.

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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