Strong Europe interest is led by London and European river cruises;
“up-and-coming” destinations include Cuba; and vacation spending will increase.
 

Plymouth, MN (December 18, 2014) – Today, Travel Leaders Group unveiled the 2015 results of its authoritative annual Travel Trends Survey.  Based on the findings, there is a major shake-up among the most popular U.S. destinations heading into the New Year – the rugged and untamed beauty of Alaska, enjoyed via cruising, has dethroned Las Vegas and stands at #1 in an extremely tight contest that also includes Orlando, Maui, and New York City.  The single, hottest destination trend in travel last year – European river cruising – jumps up another spot in 2015 to #4 on the Top International Destinations list, just behind Caribbean cruising, Cancun (Mexico) and London, respectively. This year’s survey results also reveal that 96.5% of travel agents surveyed state client spending will be the same or higher in the coming year and 85% of agents indicate that 2015 bookings are on par or greater than this time one year ago.

This survey, based on actual booking data, was conducted by Travel Leaders Group from November 11 – December 8, 2014, and includes responses from 1,226 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with those affiliated with Travel Leaders Group’s Cruise Holidays, Cruise Specialists, Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Protravel International, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders Corporate, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com units.

“For the past a decade and a half, Las Vegas and Orlando have jockeyed for the top spot in our survey. So what we are seeing – even if mere tenths of a percentage point separate our top four destinations – is a seismic shift for American travelers in 2015. Alaska is vast, so cruising enables one to see so much more of this enormously and stunningly beautiful area – plus, this type of vacation, which can be perceived as slightly rustic, can be as luxurious as one desires,” stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. “Internationally, while Caribbean cruising leads the way, Europe is drawing in Americans in the highest numbers we’ve seen this millennium.  Eight of the top 15 international destinations this year are ‘across the pond,’ including London (#3), European river cruises (#4), Rome (#5), Mediterranean cruises (#6) and Paris (#7).  The strong interest for those destinations plays a definite factor in our agents stating nearly 97% of their clients will be spending the same or more on their vacations in 2015.”

Liben added, “An interesting headline from last week was on the ‘Great Divide’ in which Wall Street is bullish and ‘Main Street’ is still a bit gloomy.  From a travel industry perspective, our travel agents have never been more optimistic.  Nearly 98% of Travel Leaders Group agents polled state they are positive or neutral on the outlook for their business in the coming year.  What they have working for them is their passion, knowledge and expertise in matching the right vacation to the right individual and making certain each of our clients are getting the most value for the hard-earned money they are spending on travel.”

Below are some of the top findings from this year’s Travel Leaders Group Travel Trends Survey including: top international and domestic destinations, “up and coming” destinations, travel spending data, and more.

Top Destinations: U.S. and International Based on Actual 2015 Bookings:

The following lists display the top domestic and international destinations for 2015, along with rankings from the 2014 survey conducted one year ago (agents were asked to name up to five top destinations they’re already booking for 2015):

Rank 2015 Top Domestic Destinations

2015%

Rank ’14

1

CRUISE – Alaska

33.56%

4

2

Orlando, FL

33.22%

2

3

Maui, HI

32.55%

3

4

New York City, NY

32.13%

5

5

Las Vegas, NV

29.61%

1

6

Honolulu, HI

20.97%

6

7

San Francisco, CA

16.36%

7

8

Chicago, IL

15.44%

11

9

Los Angeles, CA

15.18%

10

10

Washington, D.C.

12.67%

12 (tie)

 

Rank

2015 Top International Destinations

2015%

Rank ’14

1

CRUISE – Caribbean

37.5%

1

2

Cancun, Mexico

31.8%

2

3

London, England

27.6%

6

4

CRUISE – Europe (River)

25.1%

5

5

Rome, Italy

21.3%

4

6

CRUISE – Europe (Mediterranean)

20.6%

3

7

Paris, France

19.0%

8

8

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

15.7%

7

9

Montego Bay, Jamaica

13.5%

10

10

Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya, Mexico

11.0%

9


Travel Spending in 2015:

Based on bookings-to-date for 2015 and conversations with clients, 96.5% of Travel Leaders Group agents surveyed say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2015. That is up over the responses for 2014 (94.0%), 2013 (92.2%) and 2012 (91.3%).

2015

2014

2013

Spending MORE per trip than the previous year

53.2%

52.6%

53.1%

Spending THE SAME per trip as the previous year

43.3%

41.4%

39.1%

Spending LESS per trip than the previous year

3.5%

6.0%

7.8%

 

Top “Up and Coming” International Destinations:

When asked for their expert findings, Travel Leaders Group agents nationally indicate the following as the “up and coming” international destinations within Europe, the Pacific, Africa, Asia/Southeast Asia and Central/South America.

  • Europe “Up and Coming”: Croatia (25.2%), Greek Islands (21.0%), Iceland (17.8%), Czech Republic (10.3%), Portugal (8.8%). Last year the top up and coming destinations in this category were: Croatia, Iceland, Turkey, Czech Republic and Portugal, respectively.
  • Pacific “Up and Coming”:  New Zealand (30.4%), Bora Bora (11.3%), Tahiti (11.3%), Fiji (9.8%), and Bali (7.2%). Last year, the top up and coming destinations in this category were: New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Bora Bora, and Australia – Queensland.  It should also be noted that if Australia wasn’t broken out by state, it would be second behind New Zealand with 20.7%.
  • Africa “Up and Coming”:  South Africa (41.0%), Kenya (11.2%), Morocco (10.6%), Seychelles (9.1%), and Tanzania (9.0%). Previously, there was no category for up and coming destinations in Africa, so Seychelles was grouped into Asia/Southeast Asia. In 2015, Morocco will be the host destinations for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo.
  • Asia/Southeast Asia “Up and Coming”: Vietnam (27.5%), Thailand (22.8%), Burma/Myanmar (11.2%), Maldives (9.3%), Cambodia (5.2%), and Philippines (5.2%). Last year, the top up and coming destinations in this category were: Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar, Maldives, Seychelles, and Indonesia.
  • Central/South America “Up and Coming”: Costa Rica (30.5%), Peru (11.2%), Ecuador and Galapagos Islands (10.2%), Cuba (9.4%), and Belize (7.9%).  Licensed American travelers currently have the limited ability to visit Cuba as part of a “people to people” educational exchange.  With the announcement on December 17, 2014, that the U.S. is normalizing relations with Cuba and reducing travel limitations, pent up demand and more ways for U.S. citizens to immerse themselves in Cuba’s history and culture will continue to boost Cuba’s placement among Travel Leaders Group’s “up and coming” destinations. Last year, the list, in order, was Peru, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands, and Argentina.

Comparing your overall 2015 bookings so far to your 2014 bookings at this time last year, which is true?

Response

2015%

2014%

2013%

2012%

2011%

2010%

They’re Higher

48.1

48.1

45.7

39.5

50.3

28.2

They’re About Even

36.9

37.7

36.4

40.8

30.7

34.0

They’re Lower

15.0

14.4

17.9

19.7

19.0

37.8

 

What is your personal outlook on your business in 2015?

Response

2015%

2014%

2013%

2012%

2011%

2010%

Optimistic

83.7

83.0

78.7

78.8

80.3

75.8

Neither optimistic nor pessimistic

14.2

14.2

16.0

17.3

15.0

16.5

Pessimistic

2.1

2.8

5.3

3.9

4.7

7.7

 

Travel Leaders Group is one of North America’s largest travel companies – encompassing nearly one-third of all travel agents – and generated gross travel sales of approximately $20 billion in 2013. Travel Leaders Group is a leader in both the retail travel agency space and corporate travel, and it consistently ranks as one of the top travel companies nationwide.

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About Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group (www.travelleadersgroup.com) is transforming travel with a commitment to our vacation and business travel clients via our progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Having already assisted millions of travelers – through our beginnings as Carlson Leisure Group, a division of Carlson Companies, TraveLeaders and Tzell Travel Group and through the additions of Nexion, Vacation.com and Protravel International – Travel Leaders Group manages leisure, business and franchise travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands. With annual sales of approximately $20 billion through over 6,500 locations, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest traditional travel agency companies.