To the editor:
The U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics estimate that 2011 will mark peaks in both domestic and international visitors and that travel spending will exceed $800 billion for the first time ever. Our destination has experienced similar trends, with growth in both visitors in paid accommodations and bed tax collections, which broke a record for the fiscal year that ended in September. But, as we finish out 2011, what can we expect in the coming year?
Last month's U.S. Travel Association's Marketing Outlook Forum provided some insights, including these trends:
1.Although domestic leisure travel growth is expected to slow in 2012, it will continue to set new records over the next two years, growing about 1.5 to 1.8 percent annually.
2.International growth is expected, with greater strength in emerging markets than in traditional European markets. A growing parody is anticipated between the Euro and the U.S. Dollar, but the Loonie will remain strong.
3.Business travel, which has been down 15 percent over the last five years, appears to be stabilizing with slow, but steady growth of about 1.75 percent expected over the next two years. Still, business travel is expected to remain well below the 1998 record high.
4.Although air travel will remain constrained, we can expect some softening of the fuel market.
5.Experts urge the travel industry to use caution in utilizing discounts. Remember that lowering your price equates to lowering your profit.
6.Consumer priorities are shifting. Relationships with spouses, family and friends are growing in importance, and family remains the top personal priority. Consumers are emphasizing a simpler lifestyle with less importance on wealth or material possessions.
7.Consumers are using digital devices and tools more and more to plan travel. Six out of 10 consumers visit TripAdvisor to look at reviews, and 51 percent of leisure travelers maintain a profile on a social media site, with the greatest numbers on Facebook.
8.The recently revised Smith Travel Research's 2012 Lodging Forecast anticipates across-the-board increases: supply (+0.9 percent), demand (+1.1 percent), occupancy (+0.2 percent), ADR (+3.7 percent) and RevPAR (+3.9 percent).
9.Businesses can anticipate an economic slowdown in 2012, but we will most likely not experience a double-dip recession.
10.The 2010 Census shows some interesting trends, including an aging population, growing diversity and shrinking household incomes. The U.S. also has seen increases in both multi-generational and single-person households.
As we all know, the economic climate continues to be volatile. It will be important for us to continue to position our destination as a safe decision one where visitors know they will get a good value, have a chance to enhance their relationships (be they professional or personal) and enjoy unique experiences that only we can offer.
J. Walker Smith from The Futures Company offered up this sage advice: "It is important to remember that although you cannot fix the economy, you can engage consumers in the market place, inspire them, and thus encourage them to spend their limited discretionary income with you."
Lee VCB Executive Director