In a strong signal of the industry’s recovery, demand continues to grow across all travel categories, report respondents to the May 2010 ALTOUR Index, a bi-monthly survey conducted by ALTOUR – one of the largest and most respected agencies catering to the high end of the market. Concerns over volcanic ash ultimately had little impact on ALTOUR clients’ travel plans, allowing Europe to regain its spot as the #1 destination of choice (85%), buoyed perhaps by the weakened Euro, after a brief dethroning by the Caribbean in the February survey. And while the majority of travel continues to be booked 30 to 90 days in advance, as it has since the first survey was conducted in June 2008, some agents are seeing an increase in longer-range bookings over the past six months as travelers gain confidence.
Recovery is also reflected in a sharp drop in cancelled bookings. As many as 43% of agents report no cancellations this month compared to 26% in May 2009. Those experiencing fewer than five cancellations are up from 32% to 40%, while those reporting more than five have dropped from 42% to 17%.
On land, FIT demand has risen from 21% % to 52% compared to last May, surpassing the previous leader, all-inclusive resorts, which posted a more modest gain, from 26% to 29%. And while escorted tours remain the least popular of the land markets, they are now squarely on the radar. As many as 20% of agents are now reporting high demand for escorted tours vs. none in May 2009.
Jane Antonacci of Paramus, New Jersey, attributes the new interest in escorted tours, at least in part, to security. “I think clients who travel overseas feel safer to travel as a group, rather than on their own. I have booked a few escorted tours this year to destinations that would have normally been FIT trips.” It may also be an issue of value, say other agents, especially in the face of rising fuel prices, which, along with dining and tour inclusions can make traveling in a group more cost-effective.
Security is particularly an issue as more travelers head to exotic destinations such as China, which, for the first time, shares the #1 spot among emerging markets with perennial favorite South America (both at 39%). Egypt rose from third place to second (36%), while Eastern Europe has dropped from second to third (32%).