Peter Bates shares US travel leaders’ thoughts for future

Peter Bates, President and Founder of New York-based Strategic Vision, shares the company’s annual Pulse of the Industry survey of 64 of the USA’s top CEOs, presidents and senior executives of top luxury travel management firms.

For the first time, hotel and cruise operators and destination marketing organisations share an overall positive sentiment for luxury travel.

Once again, respondents are forecasting high revenue growth in 2020, led mostly by leisure travel. Clients are still, despite concerns about political and economic stability, optimistic about domestic and international travel. While senior executives at travel agencies admit they face some challenges, both in closing sales and obtaining qualified talent, that won’t impact their plans to hire more advisors for the fourth year in a row.

Japan is top “trending” destination by influential travel advisors, followed in order by Portugal, Iceland, Italy, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, St Barth’s and  Rwanda, and the Caribbean has made its comeback as it continues to recover from past storms. On the other hand, respondents foresee negative trends for destinations such as Hong Kong, France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and South America. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Crystal Cruises, and Ama Waterways are the luxury travel brands the respondents admire the most.

As last year, experiential travel is still on the rise, with a focus on local experiences, multi-generational, adventure travel and “bucket list trips” also trending. Sustainability, over-tourism and the environment are of increasing concern, causing luxury travellers to be more conscious of their impact on the places they visit and steering them towards uncharted destinations.

In the USA, a strong economy prevails over concerns about global instability. At the same time, travellers have become more conscious of their impact on the places they visit. Political and economic instability are, indeed, no match for the insatiable drive to travel.

70% of respondents forecast an increase in travel revenues in 2020, while 50% described their clients’ attitudes as “optimistic” about both domestic and international travel.  That positive sentiment largely overrides concerns about such potential disruptors as natural disasters, political unrest, and economic hiccups from Brexit or trade disputes. Only 48% are concerned about the US Presidential election when it comes to travel, with 57% citing concerns generally about the country’s political climate, and 50% listing other economic issues (yes, concerns about terrorism and crime generally pull in 61%).

Luxury travellers’ optimism is increasingly paired with a growing sense of responsibility and a clear-eyed perspective on travel’s impact on the planet. Once again, says Bates, we are seeing the desire to explore the world, make connections, and find fulfilment through travel remains strong at the high end of the market. At the same time, travellers are expressing concern about the impact of over-tourism and climate change, and they recognise the need to ensure that their own travel behaviours are sustainable.

The experiential travel mega-trend is still extant, at  88%, though the desire to focus on local experiences warrants 86%, and adventure travel is 77%. Multi-generational travel is of interest to 81%. Interestingly, 65% of travel advisors say that clients have asked them to book a trip based on a discovery on social media (in turn,  all industry segments report that they are planning to spend more of their marketing budget on social media than in the past).

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