It’s a new year and one that brings new hope for a turnaround in the fortunes of the travel industry, with tour operators looking positively at upcoming trends and taking satisfaction in looking back at marketplace gains in 2011.
At last month’s USTOA conference, for example, tour operators reported that at worst they didn’t lose any ground and many ended the year with significant sales improvements and healthy bookings for 2012. Indeed, its annual membership survey illustrated some pretty significant movement with an amazing percentage of new hires in 2011 and even more planned for 2012—mostly aimed at tech and social media personnel, which are a lot more costly than admin or res services, but in this brave new world of technology, a necessity to streamline operations and increase revenue. They’re also looking at developing more experiential travel to meet the demand of baby boomer travelers who want to do more than just look out the bus window and get on the ground participating in more active and adventurous vacations—the kind they can go home and brag about at the bridge table, as well as hands-on cultural exchanges, gastronomy and wine tours and more people-to-people contact. The river cruise companies are steaming ahead even more so than last year with still more new ships and record bookings. At least two river cruise companies with brand-new itineraries to Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta are already ordering new ships for 2013 even before their first ones have gotten into the water, citing full bookings for 2012. New destinations are popping up, from the Falkland Islands—watch for Recommend’s onsite coverage of that destination in next month’s issue, by the way—and most certainly in Myanmar and probably even more activity in Borneo. Latin America travel is booming with Ecuador, Peru and even Colombia coming out of the gates in 2012 with a fast pace and more booking energy they’ve seen in more than a little while. The big cruise lines, too, even though they’re taking a bit of a break from new builds on the whole, aren’t sitting on their hands by any means. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean, for example, are spending billions making their older ships new again with major rebuilds to bring them more up-to-date with all the bells and whistles their newer ships have brought to the marketplace. And, while the airline scene is still problematic with wobbling fuel pricing, taxes and cranky consumers understandably upset over being nickel and dimed to death, they’re still well positioned to meet global travel demand and are upgrading their fleets with higher quality aircraft even though the price tag is high for the travel consumer. The bottom line this early in the year appears to forecast a much healthier bottom line for the leisure travel industry by the end of the year. Let’s all hope we’re right.
We’ve got a special addition in this month’s issue, the Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide, filled with up-to-date information on what to do, where to stay, what to see, and where to eat in all of the cities Delta serves in all three of those exciting regions. To complement the guide, Delta is holding a readership contest based on questions from within the guide and will distribute 50 tickets in a drawing from among all contestants who provide 100 percent correct answers. Those tickets will be valid to any destination featured within the guide and if you want to take a companion along, Delta will offer a 75AD certificate in conjunction with the winning itinerary. So get those entries in today. Still another bonus—for those of you who have not yet signed on to our Aruba Certified Expert Specialist Program, you’ll want to do so now because The Travel Institute is awarding 4 CEUs to every agent who successfully completes the course. Go to edu.recommend.com and get registered now.
Check your mailbox for the 2012 Official VISIT FLORIDA Specialist Program: Destination Weddings & Honeymoons—another must for your 2012 to-do list. This specialist program takes an in-depth look at this lucrative niche market, providing insight into best destinations, top hotels and resorts and regional offerings throughout Florida. Visit edu.recommend.com/florida weddings to complete the course.