North America: Eyes on 2016

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Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. (Globus Gamily of Brands)
Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. (Globus Gamily of Brands)

Tourism across the U.S. and Canada is booming, with new tours, hotels and attractions adding to its allure. Plus, we’ve got the Centennial celebration of the National Parks Service coming up in 2016, which to you translates to more booking opportunities at these local gems. No question—North America offers an array of popular tourism destinations.

visitors by the numbers
The numbers for destinations across North America speak to this popularity. According to reports from NYC & Company, New York City reached an all-time record 56.4 million visitors in 2014. The city’s hotel sector reached 102,000 hotel rooms in 2014. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Visit California’s most recent travel report notes that California’s travel industry expanded for the fifth consecutive year in 2014, after the 2007-2009 recession, with an increased room demand of 3.9 percent.

According to the 2015 Las Vegas Year-to-Date Executive Summary, in September 2015, 3,544,505 visitors traveled to Las Vegas, marking a 6 percent jump from prior year in that same month.

In Florida, Visit Orlando announced earlier this year that more than 62 million guests visited the city in 2014—marking a record for the U.S. travel industry, distinguishing Orlando’s position as the most visited destination in the U.S. And Miami and the Beaches, according to information provided at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s 2015 Annual Meeting this past October, saw a 5.4 percent increase in overnight visitors during September 2014 to August 2015, and during that time the destination welcomed 15.1 million overnight visitors, up from the 14.2 million visitors over the same period for the previous year. No doubt, the demand is there and travel suppliers are responding.

4-1-1 on tour operators
The big focus next year for tour operators offering North America itineraries is the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration.

Case in point, Globus—which, incidentally won several awards in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards—is showcasing two GoParks! Tours that mark this occasion. For the celebration, Globus is offering a 103-day Centennial Celebration: 100 Days of GoParks! itinerary, which visits 35 National Parks, as well as the new 10-day Southern California with Death Valley & Joshua Tree National Parks vacation. Travelers can take part in local experiences such as spending time with an Amish family; touring the Gloria Ferrer wine caves; or touring the Antelope Slot Canyon with a Native American guide.

In Canada, Collette has added new tours such as the 7-day Canada’s Winter Wonderland (starting at $1,999 pp dbl), highlighting the province of Alberta, where guests stay at two if its historic hotels—The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and The Fairmont Banff Springs. Guests travel from Edmonton to Jasper, choose between a snow shoe trek and an ice walk through Maligne Canyon, and go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride before sitting by the fire enjoying hot cocoa and roasting marshmallows.

Mayflower Tours has added four new tours featuring North America destinations, including The Great Volcanoes of America’s West ($2,229 pp dbl), a 9-day itinerary that takes guests to nine volcanoes. Guests also tour along the Columbia River Gorge and view Multnomah Falls, pass volcanic Mt. Bachelor and visit Crater Lake National Park and glacier-capped Mt. Shasta, plus spend a day at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

hotel intel
Many hotels are opening across the region, but we’ve picked a handful we think you should definitely keep an eye on. Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Florida opened its doors this past September offering laid-back elegance via a Jimmy Buffet-style showcased in every nook and cranny throughout the resort; room rates start at $259 per night. And in early 2016, the Melia Costa Hollywood will make its debut in Florida.

The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, expected to open summer 2016, offers 1,000 guestrooms and suites—reservations are now open.

The MGM National Harbor, expected to open the second half of 2016 in Maryland on the Eastern shore of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, features 234 guestrooms, 74 suites, including two Presidential Suites, a 3,000-seat theater, 12 restaurants, and 125,000 sq. ft. of gaming.

Caesars Palace Las Vegas revamped the hotel’s original tower, the Roman Tower, and renamed it the Julius Tower. This 587-room tower welcomes its first guests on Jan. 1, 2016 with rates starting at $149 per night. Also in Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is currently renovating its guestrooms and suites, with final completion set for spring 2016. Last month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts added the SLS Las Vegas to its Tribute Portfolio and coming next year is the conversion of the hotel’s LUX Tower to a W Hotel. Additionally, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has debuted 46 new high-end suites—15 Executive Suites and 31 City Studios.

In Canada, the 404-room Hotel X on Toronto’s Waterfront is set to open spring 2016 featuring 46 jr. suites and 39 suites, plus two Presidential Suites; it’s the only property located at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Additionally, in fall 2016 the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver opens.

theme park updates
Many of the popular theme parks in the U.S. are adding new rides, attractions and dining establishments in 2016 contributing to the allure of repeated theme park visits. Here’s a sprinkling of what’s new:

• Busch Gardens Tampa
Cobra’s Curse, a new spin coaster with a 70-ft. vertical lift opens in 2016.

$2 increase for general admission tickets bought at the front gate.
• Canada’s Wonderland

Skyhawk opens in 2016, allowing riders to take control of their own cockpit as they maneuver through 360-degree turns and engage in multiple inversions at 135 ft. in the air.

Flying Eagles, a 2-person plane glides 28 ft. above ground allowing each rider to control their ride experience.

• Disneyland
Disneyland Resort’sDiamond Celebration runs now through Sept. 5, 2016, offering guests after-dark shows in celebration of the 60th anniversary.

The “Star Wars”-related experiences, Season of the Force, started last month.

Soarin’ Around the World opens in 2016, taking guests on a digital experience of the world’s most unique natural landscapes.

“Frozen”-inspired Stage Musical, a theatrical performance of the movie, debuts in summer 2016.

• Disney World
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is undergoing the largest expansion in the park’s history. In 2016, the park will transform after dark with new nighttime entertainment featuring live performances, floating lanterns, water screens and animal imagery.

A Star Wars Launch Bay interactive experience, a new Star Tours Destination—The Adventure Continues—and a newly
re-imagined Jedi Training Academy is set to open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s the addition of an 11-acre Toy Story Land.

Disney Springs (the former Downtown Disney) will be completed in 2016, providing guests more shopping and dining such as the Frontera Fresco offering gourmet Mexican cuisine; Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine featuring farm-to-fork options;  and STK, a modern steakhouse with a lounge ambiance.

Soarin’ Around the World opens at Epcot.

• SeaWorld San Antonio
Discovery Point—the hub for three of the park’s animal interaction programs, including Beluga Bay, Sea Lion Shallows and Dolphin Lagoon—opens spring 2016.

• SeaWorld Orlando
Mako, a new 200-ft.-tall coaster, is set to open in 2016.

General admission prices purchased at the front gate increase to $99 for adults and $94 children 3-9.

• Universal Orlando
Skull Island: Reign of Kong opens summer 2016 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.


Cruising Historic Waterways
American Cruise Lines is adding the 150-passenger American Pride on the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2016 (it previously sailed the Mississippi River); it’ll offer 7- to 10-day sailings starting April 2, 2016. It will be joining the Queen of the West on those two rivers. The larger America will replace American Pride on the Mississippi River when it launches early 2016.

Coming this February is American Queen Steamboat Company’s new 5-day cruise on the American Queen—a Big Band-themed voyage sailing Feb. 18-22 (rates start at $799 dbl) on the Mississippi River roundtrip from New Orleans.