All signs point to near-record summer for travel
The unofficial kickoff of the summer vacation season this week found a growing number of people on the move, marking a steady return to travel as the economy recovers and consumer confidence improves.
In fact, if the surveys and forecasts are right, 2013 could prove to be one of the strongest summers on record.
Incentives, promotions, value-adds and a bounty of new apps are also helping to fuel interest in and demand for travel.
Researchers and travel executives are encountering a few surprises as they look into what’s hot, what’s trending, who is traveling and what role price is playing in consumers’ decisions to hit the road or stay home.
For example, John Lovell, president of Vacation.com, said last week that Europe has come roaring back as clients get past their airfare sticker shock.
“Europe is back, and it’s clear that airfares no longer are an issue, as they had been over the past 18 months,” Lovell said. “Consumers see it for what it is. Much like gas prices, consumers were waiting it out to see if pricing would come down. And in this case, they have found that the higher prices are here to stay. It is what it is, and consumers are seeing it that way.”
He added that demand for river cruising is “exceeding expectations,” an observation echoed by Michelle Weller, vice president of sales and customer service for Travel Leaders in Houston.
“Europe became the hot spot in the past month, especially Viking river cruises, which now are sold out,” Weller said. “We have people begging for river cruises in Europe. I’ve got tons of bookings for Europe packages, too, with Paris, London, Italy and the Mediterranean topping the list.”
River cruises are also selling quickly at Travel Leaders in Mesa, Ariz., according to project manager Sarah Nelson.
“This is the first year we’ve noticed an increase in bookings for more than 12 months out,” Nelson said. “We’ve had clients comment that they are less concerned with the economy.”
The agency also has more first-time clients heading for Europe, especially Spain and Italy, than it has had since 2008.
Demand for Europe is reflected in several surveys, as well.
Italy, Spain, France and the U.K. popped up on Ensemble’s 2013 summer survey as among the most popular international destinations for family travel, followed by Mexico, Hawaii and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Italy came out on top in ASTA’s Summer Hot Spots survey as the most popular international summer destination booked by ASTA agents. It was followed by the U.K.
In ASTA’s city rankings, London, Paris and Rome were the leaders in Europe, with Orlando, Las Vegas and San Francisco leading the pack on the domestic front for the 11th year in a row.
“Some things never go out of style,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “A family-friendly destination such as Orlando, and a destination like Las Vegas, with thrills and excitement, are perennial favorites among Americans.”
A survey of more than 1,000 TD Ameritrade investors suggested that prices do not appear to be a stumbling block in summer travel if planning is done carefully.
“While uncertainty remains, there have been good indicators that the economy is getting stronger and Americans are feeling more optimistic,” said Carrie Braxdale, managing director of investor services. “That optimism can fuel spending, so it’s not surprising that so many plan to travel this summer.”
Ameritrade’s survey found that 78% of those polled said they would vacation this summer, with 26% planning to spend more money on their summer travels this year than in the last five years.
In addition to pent-up demand from last year’s softness in Europe bookings, more reasonable airfares this summer are contributing to a growth in European business for Csilla Dali, owner of Chicago-based Global Voyages.
“The airlines are throwing in shoulder season fares during high season,” Dali said. “This is the first time I’ve seen lower fares to Europe during the summer.”
Arvid Olson, owner of Travel Leaders in Palm Coast, Fla., agreed that European airfares “are better than 2012,” and added that “the promotions offered by tour and cruise operators have encouraged clients to book Europe,” as well.
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Source: Gay Nagle Myers (2013). All signs point to near-record summer for travel, Travel Weekly?http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/All-signs-point-to-near-record-summer-for-travel/ published May 28, 2013. Viewed May 31, 2013.