As we approach the end of 2006 our thoughts turn to the year ahead and what we can expect from the cautiously optimistic, yet still volatile, market environment in which we now operate. So here are our predictions:
Demand for leisure travel services will continue to outpace that for business travel services, as more business travelers attempt to use the latest technology as a surrogate for business travel whenever possible and appropriate (and to manage the escalating cost of air transportation and lodging);
Family travel (adults with children) will continue to grow at a faster rate than all other forms of leisure travel, as both parents and grandparents continue to look at travel as one way in which to “reunite” families in a contemporary world that is increasingly dominated by the demands of work…even if only for a few days;
Practically all travel suppliers will attempt to raise fares and/or rates, as demand for travel services continues to grow, capacity becomes more strained, and operating costs escalate (on both airlines and in lodging accommodations, particularly in popular destinations like New York);
The role of the Internet will continue to dominate the travel-planning/booking headlines, yet the incidence of Internet usage by both business and leisure travelers to plan some aspect of travel will remain flat, while the incidence of its usage to actually book reservations will continue to grow but at a significantly lower rate than we have observed during the past three years;
Comparison shopping of suppliers’ fares and rates (and the corresponding “price transparency”) will become more commonplace as consumers discover the power (and intrigue) of the nascent meta search engines such as kayak.com, qixo.com and the like;
The new “lifestyle” hotel brands such as NYLO, ALOFT, etc. will continue to gain both exposure and popularity among the next generation of travelers (the Millennials), as well as more mature travelers who wish to look, act and feel like Millennials;
The concept of “inclusive pricing” (one price for a bundle of basic services) will grow in popularity beyond destination resorts to include commercial hotels seeking to provide road warriors with good value for “just the basics” (a comfortable bed, a good working desk, breakfast, High Speed Internet access, and reward points);
Interest in spa-going will continue to grow as more consumers seek ways to manage the mounting stress in their lives (thereby igniting the next generation of spa development in commercial hotels);
The cruise industry will continue to enjoy remarkable growth (precipitated by the arrival of exciting new ships, an aging population, and general marketing prowess), thereby becoming an even more formidable competitor of destination (land-based) hotels and resorts;
The new .travel Internet domain will continue to grow in popularity as suppliers seek to market their products and services in a more refined online environment, and consumers seek refuge from the contamination and frustration that accompanies searches in the .com domain.
Most importantly, barring the impact of any catastrophic political, economic, social or terrorist event in the months ahead, 2007 should be another year for the record books.
By Gary C Sain CMO/Partner YPB&R