Top Fall Travel Trends to Watch From Travel Leaders Group

fall foliageNearly 90 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents stated that their overall bookings for 2014 are greater than or equal to this time last year, according to a Travel Leaders Group survey of travel agents based on actual bookings.

While the survey identified Orlando, Florida, and Caribbean cruising as the top domestic and international vacation destinations, respectively, for American travelers for the remainder of the year, European river cruises ranks as the “destination” making the biggest jump on either Top Ten list. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas is the most-anticipated new cruise ship for cruise experts, and international political conflicts – in countries such as Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine – are putting a dent in bookings within those regions, the survey noted. The survey includes responses from 1054 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents.

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“The results of our Fall Travel Trends Survey speak volumes in terms of a key indicator on the confidence many Americans have in their personal economic situation. To have nearly 90 percent of our agents reporting that bookings are higher than, or equal to, this time last year is very positive for our industry and the country,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.  

“With London, Rome and European river cruising in the Top 5 on our international list, it’s clear that Americans travelers will reap the benefits of ‘shoulder season’ in Europe.  Elsewhere in the world, we are keenly aware of how politics impacts travel and constantly work with our clients to find the ideal travel options for each individual and offer peace of mind should our leisure or business travelers need us to change their travel plans at a moments’ notice," Liben said.

Travel Leaders Group travel agents from across the U.S. were asked to name up to five top domestic and international destinations they’re booking for the remainder of the year. Orlando, FL, and Las Vegas, NV, were ranked tops among domestic destinations followed by Maui, HI, and New York City. A Caribbean cruise was the top international destination followed by Cancun, London and Rome. European river cruse scored high, as did a Mediterranean cruise. 

Additional Key Findings

Nearly 90 percent indicate overall 2014 travel bookings are better or the same as 2013: When asked to compare overall 2014 travel bookings so far to 2013 at this time last year, a majority (60.2%) indicated that their bookings are higher and 28.6 percent said that they are the same as compared to a year ago.
Cruise Bookings versus Last Year: When specifically asking those who book cruise vacations about bookings compared to last year, nearly 84 percent stated their comparable cruise bookings are either higher than or equal to this time last year (48.2% said cruise bookings are higher, while 35.5 percent said cruise bookings are on par with this time last year).
Most Anticipated New Cruise Ships: Travel Leaders Group agents were provided with a list of 17 new ocean and river cruise ships that will debut between now and 2016. These cruise specialists were asked to identify which new ships they are most excited about. Agents could select up to three ships and the top responses were: (1) Quantum of the Seas (Royal Caribbean); Viking Star (Viking Ocean Cruises); and Norwegian Escape (Norwegian Cruise Line).

Top European River Cruise Countries: European river cruising continues to be the hottest trend in travel and offers travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in some of Europe’s great cities and towns. Travel Leaders Group cruise specialists were asked, “While many river cruises in Europe travel through multiple countries, what one country do your clients seem most excited about (either pre-trip or post-trip)?” The top responses were France and Germany.

River Cruise Clientele: When asked, “What type of vacation would you say a majority of your river cruise clients booked with you in the past?” Agents responded: Ocean cruise vacation, 37.3%, Land-based vacation 27.1%. A majority of river cruise clients are first-time clients for 18.1 percent of agents and 17.5 percent had previous river cruise experience. 

Political Conflict Impacts Cruise Booking Decisions: International news headlines have included the conflict between Ukraine and Russia for months and it is impacting some travel decisions by Americans. Agents were asked: “With the ongoing strife in Ukraine and Russia, are clients expressing any interest in …”

  • River cruises in Russia – 30.5 percent of those polled indicated there is still interest, while 69.5 percent said there is no interest at this time.
  • Cruise bookings for the Baltic – 42 percent of those polled indicated there is still interest, while 58 ppercent said there is no interest at this time.
  • Cruises with ports of call along the Black Sea – 33.6  percent indicated there is still interest, while 66.4 percent said there is no interest at this time.

Political Conflicts and Impact on Bookings for Egypt, Israel, Kenya and Thailand: Among other political “hot spots” in the world, Travel Leaders Group agents were asked about four specific destinations and how recent events may or may not be impacting bookings.

Israel: When asked, “Have the events unfolding in Israel caused your clients to cancel or delay travel to Israel?” (34.6% of Travel Leaders Group agents said “No,” while 65.4% stated “Yes.”) A U.S. State Department Travel Warning was in effect during the time of the survey (the warning remains in place). Agents were asked about bookings to Israel compared to last year. Over 32% (32.6%) stated bookings to Israel remained steady, while 64.3 percent stated bookings were down compared to this time last year. 

As for Egypt, Kenya and Thailand, 58.8 percent said bookings were down for Egypt, 34.6% for Kenya and 27.4% for Thailand.

Heightened TSA Security for International Flights: Travel Leaders Group agents were asked if clients have been impacted by the new security measures for international flights headed to the U.S., in which any travelers who can’t power on their electronic devices, if asked, will not be allowed to board the plane. Those polled stated: No, not at all (72.7%) and No, but a few clients have asked questions (20%).

Optimism in the Travel Industry: When asked for their personal outlook on their business for the remainder of 2014, an overwhelming majority (95.8%) indicated they are either positive or neutral.


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