Travel Leaders Delivers Optimistic Forecast for 2020

Travel Leaders Group CEO J.D. O'Hara delivers the company's 2020 Outlook. (Photo by Adam Leposa)

2020 and beyond is looking good for travel advisors as rising interest in travel – particularly complex, personalized, experiential trips – makes an experienced advisor more valuable than ever to the traveling public, Travel Leaders Group executives shared in their 2020 forecast during an event at the group’s New York City office. 

“Our travel trends survey of consumers told us they plan to travel more and spend more,” said new Travel Leaders CEO J.D. O’Hara. In the study, approximately 37 percent of respondents said that they plan to travel more this year than they did last year, and only 7 percent said that they plan to travel less. Spending is up, too: 52 percent said that they plan on spending more money on travel in 2020 than they did in 2019. 

Rising spending, in particular, is good news for travel advisors, as it tends to drive more consumers to use them. “The more complex and expensive a trip is, the more likely they are to use a travel advisor,” O’Hara said. 

Complexity is also rising as travelers continue to seek out more off-the-beaten-path, personalized trips. 

“It’s about personalization and people seeking out immersive activities,” said John Lovell, president, leisure travel, supplier relations and networks for Travel Leaders Group. “No longer do they just want to stamp the passport – they’re really looking to go to the off-the-beaten-path places.” 

Celebration travel, in particular, will be a hot niche this year, said Lovell. “And then there’s the over-the-top travel,” he said. “It’s more than the bucket-list type items. It’s about, ‘What’s that once-in-a-lifetime event that we really want to do that is over-the-top?’ Those type of trips are where they’re really coming to high-end, expert travel advisors.”

Cruising, in particular, will see strong growth both this year and in the decade ahead. “By the end of 2027, there’s expected to be 100 new ships entering the market,” Lovell said, noting that 30 are set to hit the waves this year alone. That represents a 6.6 percent capacity increase this year. 

As cruising grows, its audience is changing, too. “One of the unique things that we’re seeing is the solo traveler,” Lovell said. “I’m really happy to see the cruise lines are working to price their products more appropriately for people that are traveling solo.” Increasingly, cruise lines are doing away with single supplements, as well as building more accommodations specifically designed for solo travelers. 

The cruise market is getting younger, too, as more Gen Xers and Millennials give it a try – and that, in turn, is driving increased interest in sustainability. According to research shared by Travel Leaders, 44 percent of newbuilds will use liquefied natural gas (LNG), which reduces particulate emissions, for their primary propulsion. One hundred percent of newbuilds will have advanced wastewater treatment systems in place, while 88 percent of newbuilds will have or be configured to use shore-side power. 

“That in turn is driving some of the interest from younger people who are looking at it and saying it’s a great alternative to a land-based vacation,” Lovell says. According to Travel Leaders’ research over 66 percent of Gen Xers and 71 percent of Millennials have a more positive attitude about cruising versus their attitude in 2018. 

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