For industry giant Vacation.com, the kickoff of 2013 has been met with nothing short of success. Travel Agent met with Vacation.com execs on Monday, February 25 in New York City during the group's annual news conference, where we were briefed on the organization and the travel industry heading into the new year.
"January and February leisure bookings are strong across all categories and we expect that trend to continue throughout the year," says John Lovell, president of Vacation.com. "Also, we continue to see a changing tide in which the cruise industry is turning away from Europe as a source market for cruising there and focusing more on sourcing North American consumers."
On the flip side, Lovell reports that Vacation.com is seeing the North American consumer buying air tickets to Europe, despite the economic uncertainty. In 2012, the skyrocketing airfare to Europe took the U.S. market by surprise. Come this year, U.S. travelers have accepted the reality that these prices are not coming down, and if a trip to Europe is on the horizon, these airfares are just obstacles that are going to have to be overcome. "In fact, five of the top 10 international destinations our members are booking for 2013 are European destinations," Lovell adds.
The top international destinations that Vacation.com members are booking are Caribbean Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Cancun, Rome, River Cruises in Europe, Punta Cana, London, Montego Bay and Paris.
A closer look at deep water cruising trends reveals that contemporary cruises are showing strong performance for the third quarter and summer bookings, and yields remain steady. Lovell notes that premium cruise bookings and capacities both show double digit, YOY increases and a renewed interest in Europe. Luxury cruises are also positioned for strong growth this year.
Land-based vacations are rebounding strongly, as well, specifically with escorted tours to Europe and growth in resort and beach vacations in the U.S., Caribbean, Hawaii and eastern Mexico.
In terms of Vacation.com as a business entity, the company burst into 2013 following a tremendous year in 2012. The company turned heads with its 14th International Conference held aboard the Oasis of the Seas, bringing together more than 1,200 travel agents, supplier partners and industry professionals. The conference launched a variety of new products and programs, from the new Agent Universe agent web portal, to the CruisePRO cruise booking tool and e-Engagement Retargeted Marketing. And they aren't stopping there.
"Look for more enhancements to come in 2013, as we continue to improve our products," says Lovell. "We will continue to bring our members the tools they need to be successful while providing our supplier offers front-and-center with our members."
Coming March 1, Vacation.com is going to launch a new exclusive segment to its membership program: The President's Circle. The President's Circle will represent the top 165 agencies within the Vacation.com membership community. This will be qualified based on behavior, sales and engagement within the Vacation.com community. Members will be entitled to a series of significant benefits, similar to, but even more exclusive than, the Inner Circle members. All agencies are welcome to qualify for these circles. Some of the benefits will include executive sales support, a President's Circle/Inner Circle portal in Agent Universe, and exclusive training opportunities.
Agency owners wishing to learn more can visit www.joinvacation.com.