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Travel survey puts Vegas, Carib on top

Las Vegas remains king of domestic destinations and Caribbean cruising continues to be the hottest international option for travellers, according to a recent survey.

In addition, Puerto Vallarta made an exciting leap into the top five from its 12th position in 2005.

The 2006 Travel Trends Survey of 363 Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate owners, managers and frontline agents throughout the United States—roughly equivalent to one response per every two locations—was conducted November 28-December 16, 2005.

“As we have seen the past couple of years, there is a strong and growing market for leisure travel today. Despite negative events last year, both natural and otherwise, people want to travel,” stated Roger E. Block, CTC, Executive Vice President of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate Division.

“Because of the desire, travelers are turning to knowledgeable travel agents who can help them find alternatives if their initial choice is unavailable. The surge in travel to Puerto Vallarta and the western coast of Mexico in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma is a perfect example.”


According to Block, another good example is the response from Carlson Wagonlit Travel experts as to their outlook for their personal business in 2006.

“When nearly 84% respond that their bookings are equal to or above the same time period last year and over 82% are either fairly or very optimistic about the year ahead, we know that travelers and vacationers are realizing the value, knowledge and expertise that is available to them by using the experience only available through their local travel agent,” added Block.

Top Vacation Destinations: U.S. and International

When asked to forecast the most popular U.S. destinations for 2006 based on their actual bookings to date, nearly 80% of the respondents named Las Vegas, securing the city’s number-one ranking in the survey for the fourth year in a row.

The popularity of cruising continues to grow and when combined with the sun and sand of the Caribbean, one understands why Caribbean cruising was named the most popular international “destination” by over 76% of Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate experts.

Also noteworthy:

—Overall Mexico dominates the Top 10 international destinations with
    five vacation options: Riviera Maya, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    cruises and Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos placing 2, 3, 5, 9 and 10,

“People have discovered and in some cases rediscovered
    other areas of Mexico that are great getaway locations,” noted Block.

    “Fortunately for Mexico, despite this past season’s hurricanes, it
    offers so many different regional options and types of vacation at such
    a good value, it is no wonder people continue to go back year after

—Hawaii is still the perfect island paradise for many travelers.  Again,
    three of the top domestic destinations are Hawaiian with Maui and
    Honolulu remaining at numbers 3 and 4, while Kauai moved up a notch to
    number 8 in this year’s survey.

“Hawaii remains a perennial favorite
    thanks to everything from relaxing beaches to adventurous mountain
    biking,” said Block. “For people looking for an exotic getaway without
    needing their passports, Hawaii is it.”

—European destinations continue to rebound after their post 9/11 slump.
    Rome continues to leapfrog other international destinations, this year
    landing at number 6. 

Two years ago Rome was 11th in the rankings.
    London remains squarely in the top ten, sitting at number 7 again this

Also increasing in popularity are Mediterranean cruising, which
    moved up two spots to number 11, and Paris, inching up to number 14 on
    this year’s list.

—Domestically, Denali National Park in Alaska and Anaheim/Orange Co.
    continue climbing from 14 and 15 last year to numbers 11 and 12,
    respectively, this year.

Also on the rise, Chicago is up two positions
    to number 16 and Denver jumps four spots to land inside the top twenty
    at number 19. 

Headed in the opposite direction are Washington D.C.,
    which slid four spots to number 15, and Los Angeles which was 10th
    overall two years ago and has fallen to number 20 in this year’s

The following lists display the top ten domestic and international destinations for 2006, along with results from the 2005 survey conducted one year ago.*

  Top 10 Domestic Destinations: 2006

  1 - Las Vegas, NV           79.6%

  2 - Orlando, FL             71.3% 

  3 - Maui, HI               58.1% 

  4 - Honolulu, HI           57.9% 

  5 - New York City, NY         40.8% 

  6 (tie) - Anchorage, AK       19.0% 

  6 (tie) - Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ 19.0% 

  8 - Kauai, HI             16.3% 

  9 - Fort Myers, FL           16.0% 

  10 - San Francisco, CA       12.7% 

Top 10 International Destinations: 2006              

  1 - Caribbean Cruising       76.3% 

  2 - Riviera Maya, Mexico       51.2% 

  3 - Cancun, Mexico           49.3% 

  4 - Jamaica               34.7% 

  5 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico     30.6% 

  6 - Rome, Italy             25.6% 

  7 - London, United Kingdom     23.4% 
  8 - Punta Cana, D. Republic     22.6% 

  9 - Cruising Mexico         19.0% 

  10 - Cabo San Lucas/        16.5% 

      Los Cabos, Mexico      

    Top 5 Cruise Destinations: 2006

  1. Caribbean (Western)        30.6% 

  2. Alaska                 24.8% 

  3. Caribbean (Eastern)        20.1%

  4. Caribbean (Southern)      8.8% 

  5. Mexican Riviera           5.8% 


New for 2006

The following questions were asked for the first time in the 2006 Travel Trends Survey based on major events and news headlines from the past year.

How much impact have the recent hurricanes had on consumers’ choice of location?

  Very low impact             6%

  Fairly low impact           23%

  Can’t tell               12%

  Fairly high impact           46%

  Very high impact           13%

For travelers looking for an alternative to Cancun/Yucatan, what is the top choice?

  1. Puerto Vallarta           33%

  2. Punta Cana             20%

  3. Jamaica               12%

  4. Cabo San Lucas           9%

  5. (tie) Ixtapa             5%

  5. (tie) Mexican W. Coast     5%

  What has had the biggest impact on future travel in 2006?

  1. Natural disasters         60%

  2. High fuel costs           12%

  3. Airline turmoil           11%

  4. Other*                10%

  5. Terrorist acts           6%

  6. Bird flu               1%

  *  Most responses were economical in nature

Business Outlook and Travel Trends
Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s 2006 Travel Trends Survey asked respondents to identify key 2006 travel trends and to forecast their outlook for business in the year ahead. Nearly 84% responded that their bookings are equal to or above the same time period last year. In addition, over 82% are either fairly or very optimistic about the year ahead.

  Comparing 2006 bookings so far to your 2005 bookings at this time last year, which is true?

  Our 2005 bookings are up:    56.0%  Very optimistic:    30.0%

  Our 2005 bookings are even:  27.5%  Fairly optimistic:  52.3%

  Our 2005 bookings are down:  16.5%  Neither optimistic
                            nor pessimistic:    13.8%

                            Fairly pessimistic:  3.3%

                            Very pessimistic:    0.6%

  Regarding 2005 bookings to date, what trends have you noticed?
  Average length of vacations booked: 6-7 days     71.3% 
  International travel seems to be on the rebound:  55.4% 
  Cruising is becoming more popular:            53.7%   
  Booking window is lengthening               52.3%

  Clients are feeling more confident about traveling farther from home 48.5%   

  Clients are spending more per vacation:        47.1% 
  Europe bookings are up over last year           31.4%