A very Happy New Year to all and judging from some of the input we received at last month’s USTOA Annual Conference and Marketplace, 2011 could very well be a happy year indeed. In fact, many of the tour operators and destination entities we spoke to were quite happy with 2010, as well. Many of the tour operators with Latin America were particularly pleased with 2010 sales and looking forward to even better sales this year with Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama all posting good sales with lots of optimism over 2011 bookings, as well. Colombia, too, is coming up, with Brazil on the fast track, as well, despite the visa problems that’s driving USTOA Latin America operators a little crazy. Asia tour operators, too, were optimistic, now that China is coming back after a couple of disappointing years and Asian river cruise companies are practically ecstatic with the way the Mekong River cruises are selling. See our 2011 Asia Travel Planner in this issue, where we’ve highlighted a host of Asia product from culinary and shopping tours to luxury India product, not to mention eco-adventure product in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Northern India, Taiwan and The Philippines, as well as Asia river cruising in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Borneo. Viking River Cruises, which started its Mekong River product this year chartering with Pandaw River Cruises, sold out its entire 2011 charter allotment of 800 berths in just 30 days, resulting in another charter agreement for 2012. AMAWaterways is launching its second Mekong River ship this year after the successful bookings it’s had since it brought its first AMA Mekong ship in the fall of 2009. Plus there are at least two other North American river cruise companies that have completed charter agreements with Pandaw for 2012 and will undoubtedly be making those announcements early this year. Speaking of Pandaw, this is a fast growing Asian river cruise company that’s starting to make a name for itself in the North American marketplace. It’s a luxury product in the most unlikeliest destinations such as Vietnam and Cambodia, Myanmar and Borneo, with a focus on maintaining its goal of delivering a genuine colonial-style river cruise on its new, but period-style river ships. The itineraries in Myanmar and Borneo are truly unique and will pretty much guarantee your clients a truly remarkable vacation experience. Check it out in our Asia River Cruise feature in this month’s 2011 Asia Travel Planner.
As long as we’re talking about the USTOA, they recently released their 2010 “World’s Best Destinations List” in nine different categories. In the “Adventure, Soft Adventure” category, Costa Rica topped the list with New Zealand coming in in second place. In “Architecture,” Italy took 55 percent of the vote, with Spain coming in at 30 percent, while France won the :Art & Culture” category with more than 50 percent of the vote, edging out Italy, which got 40 percent. The “Entertainment” numbers were a surprise with New York bowing to London as the first place winner with Rio de Janiero coming in third. In the “History” area, Egypt was the front runner—no surprise there—with the U.K. second and Israel third—now that was a surprise. “Romantic Occasions”? Italy knocked off France by 10 percentage points with 50 percent of the vote, while New York, Hong Kong and Italy were in a tight heat in the “Shopping” category, with NYC edging out Hong Kong by about 3 percent and Italy coming in third at 25 percent. In the “Walking Tours” category, Italy led the pack with U.S. western national parks coming in second ahead of Prague. Finally, in “Wine, Dining & Culinary Experience,” Italy was far and away the big winner with 45 percent of the vote, followed by France at 20, Spain at 13 and Napa Valley at 12. We’d be interested in your take on those numbers.
Break out the calculator and the horse liniment, it’s time for our luxury & spa issue with our take on those travel products throughout the world. In the meantime, have a great read.—Rick Shively