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Travel Trends in 2009 – How Americans Will Vacation This Year

Fireworks in Washington, DC (Harold Neal)One year rolls out, a new year begins. It’s been a long time – a lifetime, for some – since a year has started with so much uncertainty about what the future holds. Those of us even tangentially related to the travel and tourism industry have specific concerns: Will be lowered economic forecast result in significantly less people traveling? It’s a legitimate concern, after all – people worried about making ends meet aren’t going to spend much of their savings on an expensive vacation. So, what’s in the forecast for 2009 travel trends?

There have been at least a couple of surveys that indicate that travel will be different in 2009 than in years past. PhoCusWright reported on travel consumer trends and noted that online travel planning is growing exponentially, whereas “brick and mortar’ travel agents have had some struggle to make ends meet. STAA (Specialty Travel Agents) has found that culinary travel, sustainable travel, and several locations such as Thailand and Portugal lead the way in terms of 2009 travel trends. This is markedly different than their 2008 travel trends.

In terms of vacations with children, most family travel planning is done by the mothers, and online. One thing travelers are going to have to do differently as a strategy in 2009, is increase their awareness of online travel planning’s capabilities, strengths and limitations. I strongly recommend looking at the websites of hotels in a travel planner’s desired destinations, as deals are often found there that won’t be found anywhere else. There are some very good general information travel sites too. Budget is the paramount issue for many travel lovers this year: We can take that extra hour online to save a bundle. The travel industry realizes that vacations are one of the first line items cut from a tightening budget in a recession, and are responding with some great packages and deals that really bring the cost down. Consumers just have to know where to look. That is, in my view, the most important strategy for budgeting a vacation in 2009.

I also believe, after attending the Luxury Travel Expo in December, that travel agents and people in sales and marketing are nervous about the upcoming year. They hope for the year-to-year rates to at least be flat (economic indicators point to falling rates, though, what with the price of airfare and other, more personal, factors) for US travelers. Their own financial health depends on it, of course, and they’re people like anyone else. However, internationally, we’re seeing a lot more travelers. Especially from Germany; Germans have the highest rate of international travel per capita of any European country. There are presumed to be a lot of international travelers coming from China and Japan this year, as well. So, will 2009 be a good year for travel? Sounds wishy-washy, but the short answer is; it depends. I’m, obviously, a strong proponent of travel and the lifelong memories it creates. A family budget spent on even a weekend getaway gives a valuable experience to our children and ourselves – more valuable than another weekend in front of the television, certainly.

There are many reasons to hope for an economic turnaround in the USA. The health and viability of the travel industry is just one of many.

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