Travel Leaders: Despite Zika, Florida Destinations Popular for 2017

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Travel Leaders Group has released the initial findings from its 2017 Travel Trends Survey.

According to the survey, the Zika virus is having little effect on overall bookings to Florida with Orlando maintaining its #1 ranking domestically and Miami continuing to hold a place in the Top 10. Internationally, the “Brexit-effect” is still positively impacting travel to London, which moves up in the standings to #3 just behind Caribbean cruises and Cancun, Mexico, respectively.

Based on booking data, Travel Leaders Group’s survey was conducted November 17-December 9, 2016, with responses from 1,689 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents from the flagship Travel Leaders brand and Travel Leaders Group’s All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders Corporate, Tzell Travel Group and units.

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“Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control announced that Florida is Zika-free, which is good news for many people, including leisure and business travelers. Our travel agents have worked with their clients to educate them and since our survey results are based on actual bookings, travelers are clearly comfortable booking popular Florida destinations such as Orlando – which wasn’t impacted at all – and Miami,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko in a written release. “What our survey also highlights is that the strength of the U.S. dollar is still a driving factor in consumer decisions, and London is a perfect example. So, too, is Paris – buoyed by the exchange rate and travelers’ desires to return to one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

Top 2017 Destinations

For the top domestic and international destinations for 2017, agents were asked to name up to five top destinations they’re already booking:

Rank 2017 Top U.S. Destinations   Rank in 2016
1 Orlando, FL 37.2% 1
2 Maui, HI 36.2% 2
3 New York City, NY 34.1% 4
4 Las Vegas, NV 32.0% 5
5 Cruise - Alaska 29.4% 3
6 Honolulu, HI 20.0% 6
7 Los Angeles, CA 18.6% 7
8 Washington, DC 14.9% 11
9 San Francisco, CA 14.2% 8
10 Miami / Miami Beach, FL 12.9% 10

On December 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) stated that Florida is Zika-free after “no new cases of local Zika virus transmission identified in South Miami Beach for more than 45 days.”
Because of previous travel alerts due to the Zika virus, Travel Leaders Group asked travel agents about their overall bookings to Florida compare to this time last year; nearly 81% of agents reported that their bookings to Florida are on par with or higher than one year ago (22.4 percent stated “higher” and 58.4 percent said bookings are “even”).

Rank 2017 Top International Destinations   Rank in 2016
1 Cruise - Caribbean 37.6% 1
2 Cancun, Mexico 31.2% 2
3 London, England 26.9% 4
4 Cruise - Europe (River) 21.8% 3
5 Rome, Italy 20.5% 6
6 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 17.3% 5
7 Paris, France 15.4% 11
8 Cruise - Europe (Mediterranean) 15.1% 7
9 Montego Bay, Jamaica 14.4% 9
10 Playa del Carmen / Riviera Maya, Mexico 12.5% 10

Dublin, Ireland, has moved up four spots in one year and 19 spots over the past five years to rank #12. Havana, Cuba, jumped 12 places to #49 overall, and among luxury travel agents it is ranked #24. Jerusalem, Israel, soars past 54 other destinations to lay claim to #39 (in a tie with Turks & Caicos). Mexico City, Mexico, moves up 16 places to #43. Paris regains a place in the Top 10 (at #7) after falling to #11 last year to due terrorist incidents. Reykjavik, Iceland, climbs to #33; it was ranked #70 one year ago. Sydney, Australia, moves up six spots to #22.

Top “Up and Coming” International Destinations

When asked for their expert findings, Travel Leaders Group agents nationally indicate the following as the “up and coming” international destinations within Europe, the Pacific, Africa, and Central/South America

  • Europe “Up and Coming”: Iceland (47.3%), Croatia (21.6%), and Portugal (11.6%).
  • Pacific “Up and Coming”:  New Zealand (36.9%), Tahiti (19.4%), and Bora Bora (16.9%).
  • Africa “Up and Coming”:  Kenya (17.3%), Tanzania (14.3%), and Seychelles (13.1%).
  • Central/South America “Up and Coming”: Panama (21.5%), Peru (21.4%), and the Galapagos Islands (14.6%).

2017 Travel Spending

Based on 2017 bookings-to-date and conversations with clients, 94.5 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2017.

  2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Spending more per trip than previous year 46.5% 44.8% 53.2% 52.6% 53.1%
Spending the same per trip as previous year 48.0% 50.1% 43.3% 41.4% 39.1%
Spending less per trip than previous year 5.5% 5.1% 3.5% 6.0% 7.8%

For those Travel Leaders Group travel agents who said clients would spend less per trip, they were then asked whether that is due to the strong value of the U.S. dollar and being able to book the same level of travel at a reduced price. More than 59 percent of travel agents who participated said “Yes” lower spending is due to the strong value of the U.S. dollar. 

2017 Bookings and Outlook

Comparing your overall 2017 bookings so far to your 2016 bookings at this time last year, which is true?

Response 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
They're Higher 37.8% 44.4% 48.1% 48.1% 45.7% 39.5%
They're About Even 45.1% 40.8% 36.9% 37.7% 36.4% 40.8%
They're Lower 17.2% 14.7% 15.0% 14.4% 17.9% 19.7%

What is your personal outlook on your business in 2017?

Response 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Optimistic 81.1% 83.2% 83.7% 83.0% 78.7% 78.8%
Neither optimistic nor pessimistic 15.8% 13.6% 14.2% 14.2% 16.0% 17.3%
Pessimistic 3.1% 3.2% 2.1% 2.8% 5.3% 3.9%

Source: Travel Leaders Group