PHOTO: Sicily. (photo courtesy of Travcoa)
Depending on the season and the special offerings, destinations can be popular one month and flounder the next. When planning vacations, it’s important for both agents and consumers to keep on top of what’s hot and what’s not.
According to Christina Ernst, president of VIP Southern Tours in Georgia, traveling to Europe is what’s hot right now. “I have lots of summer requests for Portugal and Spain and river cruises, whether in the Mediterranean or Northern Europe,” she said. “My Europe business is up 60 percent over last year, but it’s all over the board. Panama and Costa Rica are also both very hot, especially for families with children under 12.”
The wine industry is making the Italian isle of Sicily a must-see destination right now. “Sicily is benefiting from a wine industry that is flourishing and there is a renaissance occurring on Mount Etna and in the other regions on the island,” said Karen LaRosa, owner of La RosaWorks Sicily Travel and Tourism.
The Travel Leaders Group recently gathered data from 964 luxury travel agents about the most popular destinations they are booking. The study showed that the top international luxury travel destinations outside of North America are European river cruises, Italy, Mediterranean cruises, Australia and England. And the top up-and-coming destinations are Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, Africa (specifically for safaris), Iceland and Antarctica.
“Iceland is currently offering very affordable flights, especially with a new budget airline called Wow Air and they're offering flights from the East and West Coast as well as great promo deals,” said Amy Truong of Up & Explore. “It's a great place to visit in the summer, which is what people are planning for now.”
When it comes to the hottest romantic destinations, Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations, said that his clients just want all-inclusive. “All-inclusive resorts are hot in 2016,” he said. “We are really seeing an increase in Sandals resort bookings with the free wedding package they are offering. Also Sandals is building the first bungalows in the Sandals Royal Caribbean Spa Resort & Offshore Island and they look amazing.”
In the States, additional data from the Travel Leaders 2016 Travel Trends Survey of 1,316 U.S. based travel agents across Travel Leaders group, revealed that Orlando narrowly edges out Maui and Alaska cruises as the top-ranked domestic destination being booked for 2016 — a mere six-tenths of a percentage point separates the three.
“With 19,332,000 guests in 2014, Magic Kingdom was once again the most visited theme park in the world according to data released by the Themed Entertainment Association in 2015,” said Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations. “We are definitely seeing an increase in Walt Disney World vacations since this report and it is starting to carry over to Universal Studios Orlando vacation packages.
Fortunately for the travel industry, the Travel Leaders Group survey also showed that 94.9 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2016.
“Heading into 2016, American travelers benefit from the strength of the U.S. dollar versus many foreign currencies, including the euro,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko. “Add lower fuel prices and American travelers now have substantially increased buying power.”
We’ll check in monthly with various travel agents to see how the destinations and the trends are changing.