2009 Fall Travel Trends Survey

05.10.2009 In: Vacation rental news

The 7th annual Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders reveals that it is hard, if not nearly impossible, to de-throne the wildly popular domestic and international travel options offered by Las Vegas and Caribbean Cruising even in a tough economic year. With the exchange rate more favorable than at this time in 2008, London has seen a resurgence in its popularity among international destinations while Chicago and Washington D.C. continue to move up in the rankings domestically. The survey includes information from 452 Travel Leaders agents, managers and owners.

It could be that we’re seeing the light at the end of this long dark economic tunnel as more Travel Leaders are expressing optimism on their business outlook than just one year ago,” noted Roger E. Block, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, on the year over year increase to 59.5% from 51.1%. “While overall bookings are down year over year, recent analyses by Piper Jaffray and Citibank suggest the travel industry as a whole may have bottomed out.”

Noteworthy Trends:
• Domestic Destinations: Spurred in part by more attractive hotel rates, New York City supplanted two popular Hawaiian destinations to grab the #3 spot in the fall survey. Also, an upward trend continues in the popularity of both Chicago and Washington D.C. In the past two years, Chicago has moved up seven spots to #6 and Washington D.C. gained eight spots to land at #7. Other notables in the domestic category included Atlanta as the 14th ranked domestic destination – a jump of 10 spots and the debut of New England cruises at #13.
• International Destinations: While the Top 5 in this category held steady, the biggest surprise comes from London. A year after less favorable exchange rates played a role in its drop from the Top 10, London rebounds significantly and regains its footing at #6. On the European continent, Florence and the Tuscany region of Italy gained eight spots in ranking #13. Amsterdam jumped up 10 spots to #18. One of the fastest climbers this year was Hong Kong which raced from #37 in 2008 up to #22 this year.

The following lists display the top ten domestic and international destinations for the remainder of 2009 based on actual bookings (agents were asked to name up to five top destinations they were already booking):

Top 10 Domestic Destinations - FALL % of agents ‘08 Ranking
1. Las Vegas, NV 53.5% 1
2. Orlando, FL 46.5% 2
3. New York City, NY 30.3% 5
4. Honolulu, HI 27.9% 3
5. Kahului (Maui), HI 21.7% 4
6. Chicago, IL 19.7% 10
7. Washington, DC 15.3% 10
8. San Francisco, CA 13.9% 6
9. Los Angeles, CA 13.1% 13
10. Miami/Miami Beach, FL 11.5% 8

Top 10 International Destinations - FALL % of agents ‘08 Ranking
1. CRUISE- Caribbean 56.6% 1
2. Cancun, Mexico 44.9% 2
3. Riviera Maya, Mexico 26.1% 3
4. CRUISE- Europe (Mediterranean) 23.9% 4
5. Rome, Italy 20.1% 5
6. London, England 19.7% 12
8. Montego Bay, Jamaica 14.6% 7
7. CRUISE- Mexico 14.4% 6
9. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 12.2% 10
10. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 11.9% 11

Travel Leaders owners’, managers’ and agents’ personal outlook on their business for the remainder of 2009:
2009 2008
Very optimistic 14.4% 12.5%
Fairly optimistic 45.1% 38.6%
Neither optimistic nor pessimistic 22.3% 29.9%
Fairly pessimistic 14.4% 16.1%
Very pessimistic 3.8% 2.9%

Other Noteworthy Results:

• Booking window: For domestic travel, 61.6% of travelers are making U.S. travel reservations four (4) weeks or less from date of departure. For travel outside of the U.S., 45.8% of international travelers are making reservations eight (8) or more weeks prior to their date of departure.
• Travel Cutbacks: 87.4% of those polled indicated that clients were cutting back on some aspect of their travel; 57.2% indicated clients shortening the length of their trip(s) with a majority citing “2 days” as the average number being cut. When asked the percentage of clients trading down (whether on accommodations, class of airline seat, status of ground transportation, etc), 18.7% indicated that their clients would rather shorten the length of travel than trade down.
• For those indicating business travelers make up 50% or more of their clients, the top strategies business travel clients are incorporating to contain costs and maintain budgets include (157 responses):

1. Enforcing corporate travel policies 70.1%
2. Taking fewer trips 66.9%
3. Flying coach class rather than business or first class 56.1%
4. Driving vs. flying when possible 47.1%
5. Enforcing negotiated programs 45.9%
6. (tie) Advanced bookings of at least 14 days 38.9%
6. (tie) Creative routing for lower airfare 38.9%
8. Shortening trips (traveling fewer days) 35.7%
9. Trading down on accommodations 31.9%
(3- or 4-star rather than 5-star hotel, etc.)
10. Combining trips 30.6%

• For those indicating leisure travelers make up 50% or more of their clients, Travel Leaders experts indicated they’ve been using a variety of tactics to help their clients continue to travel and save money in the process, including (321 responses):

1. Bundled packages (including any all of the following: air, car, hotel, tour, cruise) 79.4%
2. Finding alternative travel dates/times 78.5%
3. Use of known and trusted suppliers 73.2%
4. Cruise vacations 61.7%
5. Use of air consolidators 61.1%
It is interesting to note that “Lay-away programs” are back in vogue and ranked 10th on this list with 19.0%.

• Travel Leaders also indicate their leisure clients are saving money by (326 responses):
1. Staying at all-inclusives 69.9%
2. Using frequent flyers miles 64.1%
3. Being flexible with dates 62.0%
4. Booking only if there is a promotion/deal 54.9%
5. Shortening trips or vacations (traveling fewer days) 51.5%

• When asked to compare overall 2009 travel bookings so far to 2008 bookings at this time last year, the results included:

They’re higher 9.4%
They’re about even 11.1%
They’re lower 79.4%
Due to auto rounding, doesn’t equal 100%