2007's trends in travel and tourism

    In the many years I have been in this business, one thing remains constant: change. This industry has undergone major transitions in the past 15 years, and more changes are just around the corner. Examples include the rise of the Internet as a major travel planning tool, increased transportation options, a better educated (and more demanding) traveling public plus concerns for the impacts that tourism has on the environment and local cultures. Terrorism definitely has had many effects on tourism, including increased security measures. The list goes on.
   In a column last summer I expanded on some of the tourism "macro-trends" that influence this industry, from global standardization that erodes the uniqueness of destinations to major health issues. In this column I am going to share a few U.S. travel trends that have marketing implications for local businesses. This information is compiled from research conducted by the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and others.
   Business travel rebounding: After many sluggish years, the robust U.S. economy has resulted in increased business and convention related travel. According to a survey of National Business Travel Association members, 68 percent expect their companies’ travelers to take more trips in 2007 than 2006.
   Work, work, work: With the growth in PDAs and accessibility worldwide to technology, vacationers are having a hard time "leaving the office" while on the road. In a recent poll of TripAdvisor.com users, more than a quarter said they were likely to check their work e-mail or voicemail at least once a day while on vacation.
   Weekend travel continues to grow: The idea of a quick weekend getaway increasingly appeals to Americans, with 225 million such trips taken last year. The shoulder seasons of April/May and September/October have become prime weekend getaway times (32 percent), about equal to the summer months (31 percent). The most popular activities during weekend trips are eating out (49 percent), entertainment (38 percent), shopping (37 percent), and sightseeing (35 percent).
   Spa vacations: More than half (54 percent) of travelers in a recent TIA survey said they were currently interested in going to a spa or a place where they can relax and rejuvenate themselves. Good news for the spa industry…interest appears to be growing. Almost a third (28 percent) of travelers said they were more interested now compared to five years ago in going to a spa or a place where they can relax and rejuvenate themselves. Among those who are interested in spa vacations, the majority (40 percent) are 35 – 54 years old; however, interest is also strong among 18 – 34 year olds (37 percent).
   Volunteer vacations: More Americans want to have purpose for their vacation beyond getting a tan or sending post cards. One-quarter (24 percent) of travelers said they were currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation. Interest was strongest among baby boomers, with the largest share (47 percent) of those interested in taking a volunteer vacation falling into the 35 – 54 year old age range.
   Enrichment travel: On a similar note, more than half (56 percent) of travelers in a TIA poll said they were currently interested in taking an educational trip where they or their family can learn something.
   Children-friendly destinations: In the same poll, more than 35 percent of travelers said they were currently interested in traveling to places that cater to children. Among those who are interested, the majority (51 percent) are 18 – 34 years old, presumably young families with young children.
   Theses and other trends are shaping this industry. I guess the old axiom that the only constant in life is change rings very true for travel and tourism.
   Footnote: Want to learn more about future trends of the travel and tourism industry in the region? Attend "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," a forecast luncheon offered by Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism January 25th, noon at Fox Hall at Hampton Inn, 3985 Bennett Drive in North Bellingham. Cost is $15 members of the tourism bureau and $20 non-members.
   For information and reservation contact Caroline Kinsman at caroline@bellingham.org (360) 671-3990. Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism is a non-profit association dedicated to economic development through tourism.



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