Cuba ranks among the top “up and coming” destinations in the Travel Leaders 2015 Travel Trends Survey, the group reports. Normalizing relations with Cuba and reducing travel limitations will release pent-up demand and will boost Cuba as a popular destination.
The Travel Leaders Group survey also reveals a major shake-up among the most popular U.S. destinations heading into 2015 as Alaska cruises have dethroned Las Vegas as number one in a contest that includes Orlando, Maui and New York City.
The hottest destination trend in travel last year – European river cruising – now ranks number four on the Top International Destinations list, just behind Caribbean cruising, Cancun (Mexico) and London, respectively.
The survey also reveals that 96.5 percent of travel agents surveyed state client spending will be the same or higher in the coming year and 85 percent of agents indicate that 2015 bookings are on par or greater than this time one year ago.
Based on actual booking data, the survey was was conducted by Travel Leaders Group from November 11 - December 8, 2014, and includes responses from 1,226 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents.
“For the past a decade and a half, Las Vegas and Orlando have jockeyed for the top spot in our survey. So what we are seeing – even if mere tenths of a percentage point separate our top four destinations – is a seismic shift for American travelers in 2015," said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.
“Internationally, while Caribbean cruising leads the way, Europe is drawing in Americans in the highest numbers we’ve seen this millennium. Eight of the top 15 international destinations this year are ‘across the pond,’ including London (#3), European river cruises (#4), Rome (#5), Mediterranean cruises (#6) and Paris (#7)," Liben said.
"From a travel industry perspective, our travel agents have never been more optimistic," Liben said, noting that nearly 98 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents state they are positive or neutral on the outlook for their business in the coming year.
Based on bookings-to-date for 2015 and conversations with clients, the survey notes tar 96.5 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents surveyed say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2015. That is up over the responses for 2014 (94.0%), 2013 (92.2%) and 2012 (91.3%).
Up and coming international destinations within Europe, the Pacific, Africa, Asia/Southeast Asia and Central/South America include:
Europe “Up and Coming”: Croatia (25.2%), Greek Islands (21.0%), Iceland (17.8%), Czech Republic (10.3%), Portugal (8.8%).
Last year the top up and coming destinations in this category were: Croatia, Iceland, Turkey, Czech Republic and Portugal, respectively.
Pacific “Up and Coming”: New Zealand (30.4%), Bora Bora (11.3%), Tahiti (11.3%), Fiji (9.8%), and Bali (7.2%).
Last year, the top up and coming destinations in this category were: New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Bora Bora, and Australia – Queensland.
Africa “Up and Coming”: South Africa (41.0%), Kenya (11.2%), Morocco (10.6%), Seychelles (9.1%), and Tanzania (9.0%).
Previously, there was no category for up and coming destinations in Africa, so Seychelles was grouped into Asia/Southeast Asia.
Asia/Southeast Asia “Up and Coming”: Vietnam (27.5%), Thailand (22.8%), Burma/Myanmar (11.2%), Maldives (9.3%), Cambodia (5.2%), and Philippines (5.2%).
Last year, the top up and coming destinations in this category were: Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar, Maldives, Seychelles, and Indonesia.
Central/South America “Up and Coming”: Costa Rica (30.5%), Peru (11.2%), Ecuador and Galapagos Islands (10.2%), Cuba (9.4%), and Belize (7.9%).
Last year, the list, in order, was Peru, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands and Argentina.