Travel Trends for 2016 Revealed

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USTOA Tour Operator Members Forecast Top Destinations, Popular Experiences and More

“The tour operator members of USTOA are showing strong growth for this year, with nearly 40% attributing growth to an improved economy and higher consumer confidence,” stated Dale.

In a recent annual survey of travel trends and forecasts, participating members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) named Cuba the top emerging destination for 2016. Myanmar, Iceland, Colombia, and (tied) Ethiopia and Japan round out the list.

“With Cuba making headlines this year, our members have seen a surge in interest from travelers,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. “About a third of our members currently offer programs to Cuba, and of that number, more than half plan to increase travel programs within the next few years. And of our members who don’t currently offer Cuba, 39% plan to add it to their roster in the next few years.”

Italy, for the fourth consecutive year in a row, topped the list as most popular international destination for travelers in 2016, followed by the United Kingdom; China, France and South Africa (tied for third); Peru; and India. On the home front, USTOA tour operator members forecast New York and California (tied for first), Arizona and Hawaii (tied for second), Nevada, Florida and Washington DC (tied for fourth) and Alaska as the most popular U.S. destinations for clients in 2016.

When asked what travel categories are most popular for passengers, participating members cited art and culture, honeymoon and romance, and family as the top three.

Customer Behavior

Members reported that a little more than half (55%) of their customer base are baby boomers at 51 years of age and older. The next largest age group was 35 to 50 years old, representing about a quarter (23%) of customers. Roughly half (53%) of members saw a growth in the number of solo passengers in 2015.

On average, 55% of members reported that consumers and travel agents are booking international travel packages between six to 12 months in advance. For domestic travel, more than half (56%) of members cited that consumers and travel agents are booking less than six months prior.

Growth Ahead

Nine in 10 of tour operator members anticipate a growth in sales in 2016 with more than half of members (57%) “optimistic” and forecasting a “boom year” with growth anywhere from seven to 10% or higher.

In 2015, three quarters of members responding to the survey reported an increase in sales over 2014, forty percent of which cited an increase of 10% or higher. More than two thirds (70%) of members also saw an increase in passengers in 2015; a third of them indicated growth of 10% or higher.

“The tour operator members of USTOA are showing strong growth for this year, with nearly 40% attributing growth to an improved economy and higher consumer confidence,” stated Dale.

While USTOA members view 2016 with optimism, they cited terrorism as the biggest threat to US traveler confidence in 2016. The second potential threat named was global financial instability, followed by political instability. Dale added, “Last year, terrorism was named fifth behind natural disasters, pandemics, strength of the US dollar, and global financial instability. And while the survey was completed prior to the tragic events in Paris, there is little surprise that it jumped to the top of list given world events.”

Dale continued, “While our members are aware that the impact of such horrific events can be global in scope, we are hopeful that the U.S. traveler continues to be resilient and keep exploring new cultures…it’s the best antidote to the misunderstanding that plagues world events today.”

Results from the new member survey were revealed at USTOA’s Annual Conference & Marketplace, December 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in Chicago, IL.

For more information on USTOA, visit

About USTOA:
Representing more than $13.5 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow nearly 8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.

As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.

Gina Dolecki/Liz Carty     
Redpoint Marketing PR., Inc.

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