While there is a definite upward trend in the average cost of airfare for select geographic destinations, that has not had an adverse effect on overall bookings, Travel Leaders Group reports in its 2013 Fall Travel Trends Survey.
The survey reveals that 85 percent of the 946 Travel Leaders Group U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents polled indicate that overall travel bookings are the same or higher than last year at this time (compared to 80.9% in 2012).
As for cruise booking trends, Travel Leaders Group says 84.4 percent of those polled indicate bookings are on par with or better than 2012 and, with respect to river cruising, there is an increased interest in Continental Europe, Russia and the Mississippi River.
“We are seeing a 6.2 percent increase over last year in the number of Travel Leaders Group agents stating that the average cost per airline ticket they are booking for Hawaii is $1,000 or more, and an 11.3 percent increase among those saying airline tickets to Europe are averaging $1,300 or more,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.
“Some of that cost may be ‘perks’ that business and leisure travelers are willing to pay for – such as extra leg room. In addition, more than eight out of every 10 agents surveyed indicated that their bookings are equal to or higher than last year. So, clearly American business and leisure travelers are not scaling back. Perhaps they have adjusted to the ‘new reality’ of airline pricing, because the demand for travel is robust,” Liben said.
“Also, value and price are distinctly different items, and our agents work with each client to determine what will ultimately offer them the most value for their travel dollar,” added Liben.
“When looking at cruising trends now and into 2014, we see that nearly 70 percent of agents who book river cruises are already booking vacations for 2014. River cruising continues to be one of the hottest trends in the travel industry and, with Europe and Russia leading the way in terms of increased bookings, any increases in airfare costs are not deterring consumers," Liben said.
Average Cost of Airfare for Select Geographic Destinations
· Domestic (Continental 48): When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients within the (U.S.) Continental 48?” 67.5% of Travel Leaders Group agents selected $300-499, while 17.9% indicated $500-599. (In 2012 the percentages were 73.6% and 12.6% respectively.)
· Alaska: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Alaska?” 64.1% of agents stated $600-899 as compared to 59.3% last year.
· Hawaii: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Hawaii?” 51.8% of those polled indicated $700-999 as compared to 56.3% last year. It should be noted that 28.8% selected “$1,000 or more” in this year’s survey.
· Caribbean: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to the Caribbean?” 47.6% of Travel Leaders Group agents selected $500-699 while 19.5% indicated $700-799. (In 2012 the percentages were 52.4% and 15.4% respectively.)
· Mexico: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Mexico?” 53.5% of agents polled indicated $400-599 as compared to 61.3% last year. An additional 21.3% indicated $600-699 in this year’s survey.
· Europe: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Europe?” 42.4% indicated $1,300 dollars or more (compared to 31.1% in 2012), while 46.2% of agents indicated $1,000-1,299 as compared to 53.3% last year.
Of those respondents who identified that 50 percent or more of their clientele is made up of leisure travelers, Travel Leaders Group asked its agents a series of questions about cruise bookings.
· An overwhelming majority book cruises (95.9%) and, of those individuals who book cruise vacations, 85.9% indicated that they book river cruises.
· When asked about 2014 river cruise bookings, 18.0% indicated they are “Very strong,” 16.8% indicated they are “Strong” and 12.8% indicated their bookings are “Somewhat strong.” Less than a third (31.6%) indicated they have yet to book any river cruises for 2014.
· When asked “For your 2014 River Cruise bookings, where are you seeing an increase in bookings?”the top responses included: (1) Continental Europe, (2) Russia, (3) Mississippi, (4) China, and (5) Vietnam.
· When asked to compare overall 2013 cruise bookings so far to 2012 at this time last year, a majority(56.9%) indicated that their cruise bookings are higher and 27.5% indicated that they are the same as compared to a year ago.
These results are part of the larger 2013 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group from August 5 - August 25, 2013, in which 946 travel agent experts 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 Vacation.com units participated.