Travel Leaders Survey: Agents Upbeat on 2014

barry liben
Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben

The single, hottest destination trend in travel is European river cruising, according to Travel Leaders Group's 2014 Travel Trends Survey. European river cruising landed in the top five international destinations for the first time -it ranked 21st just three years ago - the group says. The overall top domestic and international destinations for the coming year are Las Vegas and Caribbean cruises, respectively.

This year’s survey results also reveal that 85.7 percent of agents indicate that 2014 bookings are on par or greater than this time one year ago and 94 percent of those surveyed state client spending will be the same or higher in the coming year.

The good news mirrors an earlier survey by the United States Tour Operators Association. For 2014, nine in 10 (93.3 percent) of active tour operator members anticipate a growth in sales in 2014 with nearly two-thirds of members (59.6 percent) “optimistic” and forecasting a “boom year” with growth anywhere from 7 percent to 10 percent or higher.


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RELATED: Survey: USTOA Looks at Travel Trends for 2014

Travel Leaders reports that based on bookings-to-date for 2014 and conversations with clients, 94 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents surveyed say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2014. That percentage is up over 2013 (92.2%) and 2012 (91.3%) in terms of those saying clients will be spending more than the previous year.

The survey is based on actual booking data and  was conducted November 11 - December 14, 2013. It includes responses from 1,358 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with those affiliated with Travel Leaders Group’s Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders Corporate, Tzell Travel Group and units.

“If Europe could find a way to create additional scenic rivers, the travel industry – and, in particular, our agents – would be sending even more clients on European river cruises. Demand is definitely outpacing supply even as major river cruise lines build more ships. The continued success of river cruising is just one of many positive stories heading into the New Year,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben

“Just yesterday the Federal Reserve said it would be reducing its stimulus program because of the improvement in the ‘labor market.’ Ninety-four percent of our agents indicate that clients will be spending the same or more on travel in 2014, which certainly correlates to government statistics in that a significant number of people are quite confident and comfortable in spending more of their discretionary income on travel in the coming year,” Liben said.

“Also exciting in our results are the unique destinations that are starting to gain a foothold with our Travel Leaders Group clients as the ‘next great’ place to visit,” added Liben. “At one time, Burma seemed off-limits due to its former government. But since its peaceful transition in 2010 to a civilian reformist government, this still relatively isolated nation is really opening up to tourism, and a growing number of American travelers are responding to its truly exotic allure.”  

Findings from the Travel Trends Survey include:

Top “Up and Coming” International Destinations: Travel Leaders Group agents nationally indicate the following as the “up and coming” international destinations within Europe, the Pacific, Asia/Southeast Asia and Central/South America. 

  • Europe “Up and Coming”: Croatia (25.6%), Iceland (14.8%), Turkey (13.6%), Czech Republic (12.1%) and Portugal (12.0%).  Last year Iceland was fifth on this list with 9.9%. Delta Air Lines began serving Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik in 2013 and will resume service for Summer 2014. 
  • Pacific “Up and Coming”:  New Zealand (30.1%), Tahiti (16.9%), Fiji (13.0%), Bora Bora (11.5%), and Australia – Queensland (5.9%).  New Zealand continues to capture the public imagination through high profile films. the survey notes. Last year Fiji was second on the list and Tahiti was third.  The survey notes that if Australia wasn’t broken out by state, it would be second behind New Zealand with 18.1%.
  • Asia/Southeast Asia “Up and Coming”: Vietnam (38.0%), Burma/Myanmar (11.9%), Maldives (11.4%), Seychelles (8.6%), and Indonesia (7.4%). Last year the list, in order, was: Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, and Malaysia. With Burma gradually opening to more visitors, including through river cruise options, it has increased substantially in popularity.
  • Central/South America “Up and Coming”: Peru (17.6%), Brazil (16.8%), Panama (16.3%), Ecuador and Galapagos Islands (16.0%), and Argentina (12.2%). Peru is increasingly on more “bucket lists” thanks to Machu Picchu, while Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Last year the list, in order, was Ecuador and Galapagos Islands, Panama, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.

Top Destinations: U.S. and International Based on Actual 2014 Bookings:

Top Domestic

  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Orlando, FL
  • Maui, HI
  • Cruise - Alaska
  • New York City, NY
  • Honolulu, HI
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Cruise – Hawaii
  • Los Angeles, CA

Top International

  • CRUISE - Caribbean
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • CRUISE - Europe (Mediterranean)
  • Rome, Italy
  • CRUISE - Europe (River)
  • London, England
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Paris, France
  • Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya, Mexico
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica

Personal Favorite Destinations:  Travel Leaders Group agents were asked to identify their top personal favorite domestic and international destinations.


  • Maui, HI
  • Cruise – Alaska
  • New York City, NY
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Orlando, FL


  • CRUISE – Europe (River)
  • CRUISE – Europe (Mediterranean)
  • CRUISE – Caribbean
  • London, England
  • Rome, Italy

A majority of agents (83.0%) were  optimistic in their personal outlook on  business in 2014.

Travel Leaders also recently moved its Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program forward by shifting into Module Three. Module Three concentrates on tours and packages, with curriculum content provided in part from three program sponsors: Delta Vacations/MLT, Funjet Vacations and the Globus family of brands, Travel Leaders reports. When completed, student participants could potentially be placed into a Travel Leaders Group agency.

RELATED: Travel Leaders of Tomorrow Enters Module Three


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