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USTOA Members See Up Tick in 2010 Vacation Bookings

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Surpass Expectations for Domestic and International Travel
Decline in “Staycations” Reported

  • 90% say business is up since beginning of year
  • 96% say international travel is up
  • 66% see domestic travel bookings up
  • nearly 80% say staycations are waning
  • nearly 60% say dollar’s value affecting international travel

The U.S. Tour Operators Association reports that 2010 business is up significantly compared to 2009, surpassing expectations. In a recent informal membership poll, 90% of respondents said business is up since the beginning of the year, contrasting with 70% who last fall predicted a turnaround.

“Pent up demand for travel, a somewhat stronger economy, and more discretionary income are some factors fueling the growth in travel bookings,” said John Stachnik, USTOA Chairman. “Business has picked up dramatically since the first of the year, with several record weeks,” said the president of one USTOA-member company, while another noted that “Business is good, demand is strong, volcanic ash not withstanding.”

International travel leads in increases

Sales of international tours, vacation packages and custom arrangements led the way, with 96% of respondents seeing an average increase of 30% over last year.

This surpasses last fall’s expectations, when three-quarters of members predicted international sales to grow in 2010 by slightly under 20%.

The good news also extends into the domestic travel sector. Two-thirds of USTOA respondents report that domestic vacation bookings are up by an average of 33% this year. This improvement tops USTOA member projections: last fall, some 56% of respondents expected an increase of just 10% in domestic travel bookings, while 37% predicted that domestic travel figures would remain unchanged.

Staycations Losing Popularity

With the economy improving, USTOA members are finding “Staycations” — shorter, close-to-home vacations — less popular for 2010. Some 79% of respondents said they see no increase in staycations compared to last year. However, 20% said they are seeing an increase, slightly down from the 25% who last fall predicted that closer to home travel would increase.

Discretionary income is key international factor

While the dollar’s value is helping to fuel the growth in international travel this year, discretionary income holds the key, according to the USTOA member poll. Some 84% of survey respondents see discretionary income as the major factor contributing to the up tick in international travel in 2010. Nearly 60% (58%) said that the dollar’s value is affecting international travel bookings for 2010 -11, in line with earlier
predictions. “The difference is that last year we were seeing a weak dollar, whereas this year the dollar has gained strength against currencies such as the euro, says Stachnik.

Prices remain constant

Some 68% of respondents said that prices for tours, vacation packages, and custom arrangements have held constant since the beginning of the year, while 20% have lowered prices and 12% have increased them. Going into 2010, three-quarters of respondents said they were decreasing prices slightly, with one- quarter citing increases of 6% for 2010.

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