Paul Wilke, a senior business leader at Visa, came by Travel Agent's office to share some news about how travelers are spending their money these days.
First off, he said, inbound travel to the U.S. is up 12 percent over 2009, with three states (New York, California and Florida) seeing tourists spending billions of dollars. International tourism spending to the Gulf Coast, however, was down 65 percent due to the oil spill.
Still, Wilke said, the tourism scene in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida might not be as dire as predicted. People recognize that destinations need tourism dollars to recuperate, he explained, and they don't shy away from helping. He noted that convention travel is increasing in New Orleans.
For outbound travel, Mexico and Canada saw the greatest numbers (not surprisingly), but travel to South Africa also spiked thanks to the World Cup. During the games, daily spending was up 80 percent over 2009, and he expects numbers to rise in the coming years. "People saw South Africa for the first time," he said, and many of them got "new ideas of what Africa holds as a destination."
In general, Wilke said, Visa is seeing a slow-and-steady increase in both general travel and luxury travel, with the latter increasing somewhat faster than the former. "People are more informed about where to go and what to expect," he explained. He also noted an increase in booking by travel agents: "People have more information, but they're not able to convert that information into action without help," he opined. As such, "they're going to their agents with more knowledge than before."