Leisure travel trends are hot topic at US travel summit
Leisure travel trends are hot topic at US travel summit
24 MAY 2017 8:17 AM

A cross-segment of leaders, speaking during a leisure travel summit hosted by Best Western, cited culinary and family travel as major trends for the summer.

NEW YORK—The outlook for leisure travel this summer and beyond is robust, according to panelists speaking at the 12th annual Leisure Travel Summit, hosted by Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

Bill Sutherland, SVP of travel and publishing for AAA, said the number of people traveling 50 miles or more from home over Memorial Day weekend will be up 2.7%, which is the third consecutive year of increases. While increases are expected across all modes of travel, airline travel is particularly robust with a projected increase of 5.7%.

Brian Schmidt, global VP of sales for TripAdvisor, reported that the review site’s research indicates a 7% increase in summer travel this year against 2016. Almost 70% of those travelers will take domestic trips with the remainder traveling internationally or booking both domestic and international travel. TripAdvisor’s study also projects 71% of travelers will stay in hotels, while 26% will stay in vacation rentals.

The reasons for the strong travel market, according to Greg Staley, VP of communications at the U.S. Travel Association, include high consumer confidence, stable prices, low unemployment and wage growth.

At Best Western, summer bookings are up 7% over last year and are “buoyed by consumer confidence” according to SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Dorothy Dowling. She added that “summer is the most important season for us.”

Dowling said the hotel industry overall has been on a positive trajectory for several years, and she sees “not a lot of growth, but steady growth considering the stellar performances of the last few years; and that should continue into 2018.”

Travel trends
Sutherland said family trips and culinary vacations lead summer leisure travel trends in 2017.

“Our research shows 35% of Americans planning a family vacation this year; and 22 million people want some kind of culinary vacation in 2017,” he said. “A large percentage of vacationers now say food is important in their travel.”

Another trend, Sutherland said, results from the strength of the dollar, which is stimulating increases in outbound travel to Europe and Canada. He said the first quarter was the best in many years in terms of outbound travel from the U.S. to Europe.

Two panelists made strong statements about the need to improve infrastructure in the U.S.

“The infrastructure is disintegrating,” Sutherland said, “and we need to be thinking about this. We have the worst record in road fatalities of any developed country.”

Staley suggested the need for an infrastructure task force, led by the Department of Transportation, which should include travel industry representation.

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