Travel Leaders' 2009 Fall Travel Trends Survey

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Overall Outlook Improves in Survey of 452 Travel Leaders; New York City Lands in Top 3; London Back in Top 10; Advance Booking Windows Shrinking

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It could be that we're seeing the light at the end of this long dark economic tunnel as more Travel Leaders are expressing optimism on their business outlook than just one year ago

The 7th annual Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders reveals that it is hard, if not nearly impossible, to de-throne the wildly popular domestic and international travel options offered by Las Vegas and Caribbean Cruising even in a tough economic year. With the exchange rate more favorable than at this time in 2008, London has seen a resurgence in its popularity among international destinations while Chicago and Washington D.C. continue to move up in the rankings domestically. The survey, conducted August 4-August 28, 2009, includes information from 452 Travel Leaders agents, managers and owners.

"It could be that we're seeing the light at the end of this long dark economic tunnel as more Travel Leaders are expressing optimism on their business outlook than just one year ago," noted Roger E. Block, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, on the year over year increase to 59.5% from 51.1%. "While overall bookings are down year over year, recent analyses by Piper Jaffray and Citibank suggest the travel industry as a whole may have bottomed out."

Noteworthy Trends:

  •     Domestic Destinations: Spurred in part by more attractive hotel rates, New York City supplanted two popular Hawaiian destinations to grab the #3 spot in the fall survey. Also, an upward trend continues in the popularity of both Chicago and Washington D.C. In the past two years, Chicago has moved up seven spots to #6 and Washington D.C. gained eight spots to land at #7. Other notables in the domestic category included Atlanta as the 14th ranked domestic destination - a jump of 10 spots and the debut of New England cruises at #13.
  •     International Destinations: While the Top 5 in this category held steady, the biggest surprise comes from London. A year after less favorable exchange rates played a role in its drop from the Top 10, London rebounds significantly and regains its footing at #6. On the European continent, Florence and the Tuscany region of Italy gained eight spots in ranking #13. Amsterdam jumped up 10 spots to #18. One of the fastest climbers this year was Hong Kong which raced from #37 in 2008 up to #22 this year.

The following lists display the top ten domestic and international destinations for the remainder of 2009 based on actual bookings (agents were asked to name up to five top destinations they were already booking):

Top 10 Domestic Destinations - FALL        
1. Las Vegas, NV                 
2. Orlando, FL                     
3. New York City, NY                 
4. Honolulu, HI                 
5. Kahului (Maui), HI                 
6. Chicago, IL                    
7. Washington, DC                
8. San Francisco, CA                 
9. Los Angeles, CA                
10. Miami/Miami Beach, FL             

Top 10 International Destinations - FALL    
1. CRUISE- Caribbean                 
2. Cancun, Mexico                 
3. Riviera Maya, Mexico                     
4. CRUISE- Europe (Mediterranean)         
5. Rome, Italy                     
6. London, England                
8. Montego Bay, Jamaica             
7. CRUISE- Mexico                     
9. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic         
10. Playa del Carmen, Mexico            

Travel Leaders owners', managers' and agents' personal outlook on their business for the remainder of 2009:

14.4% Very optimistic                            
45.1%     Fairly optimistic                
59.5% TOTAL OPTIMISTIC                
22.3%     Neither optimistic nor pessimistic        
14.4% Fairly pessimistic                    
3.8% Very pessimistic                    
18.2% TOTAL PESSIMISTIC                

Other Noteworthy Results:

  •     Booking window: For domestic travel, 61.6% of travelers are making U.S. travel reservations four (4) weeks or less from date of departure. For travel outside of the U.S., 45.8% of international travelers are making reservations eight (8) or more weeks prior to their date of departure.
  •     Travel Cutbacks: 87.4% of those polled indicated that clients were cutting back on some aspect of their travel; 57.2% indicated clients shortening the length of their trip(s) with a majority citing "2 days" as the average number being cut. When asked the percentage of clients trading down (whether on accommodations, class of airline seat, status of ground transportation, etc), 18.7% indicated that their clients would rather shorten the length of travel than trade down.
  •     For those indicating business travelers make up 50% or more of their clients, the top strategies business travel clients are incorporating to contain costs and maintain budgets include (157 responses):    

1. Enforcing corporate travel policies                
2. Taking fewer trips                        
3. Flying coach class rather than business or first class        
4. Driving vs. flying when possible                
5. Enforcing negotiated programs                
6. (tie) Advanced bookings of at least 14 days            
6. (tie) Creative routing for lower airfare                
8. Shortening trips (traveling fewer days)            
9. Trading down on accommodations (3- or 4-star rather than 5-star hotel, etc.)
10. Combining trips                        

  •     For those indicating leisure travelers make up 50% or more of their clients, Travel Leaders experts indicated they've been using a variety of tactics to help their clients continue to travel and save money in the process, including (321 responses):

1. Bundled packages (including any all of the following: air, car, hotel, tour, cruise)    
2. Finding alternative travel dates/times                        
3. Use of known and trusted suppliers                        
4. Cruise vacations                                
5. Use of air consolidators                            
It is interesting to note that "Lay-away programs" are back in vogue and ranked 10th on this list with 19.0%.

  •     Travel Leaders also indicate their leisure clients are saving money by (326 responses):

1.    Staying at all-inclusives                    
2.    Using frequent flyers miles                    
3.    Being flexible with dates                    
4.    Booking only if there is a promotion/deal            
5.    Shortening trips or vacations (traveling fewer days)        

  •     When asked to compare overall 2009 travel bookings so far to 2008 bookings at this time last year, the results included:                 

9.4% They're higher        
11.1% They're about even        
79.4% They're lower        
Due to auto rounding, doesn't equal 100%

For additional statistics and comparative data, please go to the "About Us" section on and click on the news release. To find the Travel Leaders location nearest you, call 1.888.206.TRIP (8747) or visit When your journey includes us, you travel better.

  • Survey of 415 Travel Leaders Associates taken July 28-August 19, 2008.

Travel Leaders is transforming travel with a new name that boldly embodies our commitment to our vacation and business travel clients via a progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Although the Travel Leaders name may be new, our top ten-ranked travel company has already assisted millions of travelers through our strong roots - the former Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates, TraveLeaders and Tzell Travel Group have now joined together to form one of the industry's fastest-growing and robust networks of travel agents. Travel Leaders Franchise Group can trace its beginnings to 1984 as the Carlson franchise system "Ask Mr. Foster Travel," which itself was North America's first travel agency chain established in 1888.

Steve Loucks        Kathy Gerhardt                            
952.914.6969        952.914.6972


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