Travel looking up, regional agents report
Catherine Watson, Senior Travel Editor http://www.startribune.com/stories/1513/4306694.html
Published January 11, 2004
The travel industry picture is indeed brighter, both nationally and
locally, according to a survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Associate
That's what Twin Cities travel agents were saying informally late last
year, the Star Tribune reported in December. The Carlson data provide
more evidence of the trend.
Fifty-one percent of Carlson Wagonlit's nearly 50 travel agencies in the
greater Twin Cities area reported that their bookings for 2004 were up
over 2003; 51 percent also said that international travel is on the
rebound for 2004, and 53 percent said their clients were spending more
on 2004 vacations than they did in 2003.
Only 18 percent of Carlson's Twin Cities agencies said 2004 bookings
were down, and only 8 percent said clients were planning cheaper
The survey, taken between Oct. 20 and Nov. 19, is the most complete that
Carlson Wagonlit has done, a spokesman said. Nationally, the survey
included nearly 280 of its agencies, including all 49 in the greater
Twin Cities area, which Carlson defined to include Brainerd, St. Cloud
and extreme western Wisconsin. Results were made public Jan. 2.
Other Twin Cities travel trends noted by Carlson agents: 67 percent said
Mexico bookings are up for 2004; 65 percent said cruises are becoming
more popular; 37 percent said Caribbean bookings are up; 33 percent said
domestic bookings are up, and 16 percent said bookings to Europe are up.
This was mostly in line with the national pattern shown by the survey.
Local agents were more positive than the national average, however.
Asked about their business prospects for 2004, 88 percent in the Twin
Cities group said they were "very optimistic" or "fairly optimistic,"
compared with 84 percent nationally.
Put another way, 5 percent of the agents around the country said they
were "fairly pessimistic" or "very pessimistic." But none of the Twin
Cities group felt that way.
The Twin Cities' top domestic destinations for 2004, in terms of
Carlson's bookings, are Orlando; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Phoenix/Scottsdale
and, tied for fifth place, Fort Myers, Fla., and the island of Maui in
Hawaii. Carlson agencies around the country reported the same top five,
though not in that order, and with Fort Myers placing lower in
The top international destinations that Carlson's Twin Cities agencies
had booked for 2004 were Cancun, Mexico; Caribbean cruises; the Riviera
Maya (the Mexican coast south of Cancun), Mexico's Playa del Carmen and
Jamaica. This also followed the national pattern, except that Punta Cana
in the Dominican Republic came in fourth nationally, and Playa del
Carmen was farther down the list.
The Twin Cities group cited these as "new or emerging" destinations in
their markets: the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Belize, Turks and
Caicos in the Caribbean, Thailand, Hawaii and the Caribbean island of
Interest in travel to Africa and the Middle East was virtually nil,
except for Israel, the Twin Cities agents said. All-inclusive resorts
like those in the Dominican Republic are getting more popular, they
said, and cruises and Mexico were very big.
"Cancun, with the extent of service from Minneapolis and variety of
accommodations and activities, is probably our Number 1 seller both for
families and younger adults," a Twin Cities agent said.
Nationally, the survey found, "popularly mentioned destinations included
Europe as a whole (the most popular response) and France, Greece
(particularly with the Olympics coming up there), Turkey, Egypt, Israel
and Mediterranean cruises."
The rest of the national agents' top 20 destinations for 2004 were, in
order, New York City; Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Myers (tied); San
Francisco; Los Angeles; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; the island of Kauai in
Hawaii; Miami; Anaheim, Calif., Miami Beach and New Orleans (a triple
tie); San Diego; Chicago and Denali National Park in Alaska (tied) and
The rest of their top 20 international destinations were London; four
areas of Mexico -- Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Mexican cruises
and Cozumel; Rome, Italy; the Caribbean island of Aruba; Cabo San
Lucas/Los Cabos, in Baja California, Mexico; Paris; cruises in Europe;
Dublin, Ireland, and Nassau, the Bahamas (tied for 16th place); the U.S.
Virgin Islands; Bermuda, and Sydney, Australia.
As for other travel patterns this winter, "I think people will still
wait for the bargains," an agent in the Twin Cities group said. "I hope
we as an industry can help teach the population that the airlines and
tourist industry is struggling to rebound, and to expect airfares to be
less than $200 for domestic and $350 for international travel is not
realistic if we want the airlines to make it."