Tour companies at annual USTOA conference

When it comes to tours and travel, a new survey through the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) shows a good, fast ride for those companies who want to get on or stay on the bus.

A new survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) found the outlook for the tour industry to be healthy and strong, according to 88% of the USTOA members surveyed –who anticipate a growth in sales in 2013 over 2012.  A quarter (26.7%) expect a “boom year” ahead with sales in excess of 10%; another quarter (26.7%) expressed optimism about sales increasing 7-9%.  More than a third (37%) remain cautiously optimistic that sales will increase 4-6% in 2013.

The survey, the first such survey in the Association’s 40-year history, received the active participation of 80 percent of the membership. USTOA represents more than $10 billion in revenue in a membership of companies that provide tours, packages and custom arrangements to more than six million travelers annually. Members provided detailed financial information to PwC to allow them to compile an accurate assessment of the state of the tour industry. The results of this survey were given at the 2012 Annual USTOA Conference and Marketplace in Hawaii this month.


Travel through tour companies

When asked in an open-ended question to describe the industry outlook over the next five years, members commented that they see “strong demand, aggressive growth,” and are “optimistic…US economy stabilized, US dollar stronger, enabling us to have a better and improved buying power.”

“This vital information on sales, jobs, the impact on our hotel and airline partners, the role of travel agents, and the forecast for the future, paints an accurate picture of how integral our members are to the health of the industry overall,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO.

Active members also report that travel agents represent nearly two-thirds (64.4%) of total packages sold in 2011, a number expected to hold steady in 2012.  “Travel agents are clearly a very important piece of our members’ business model,” Dale commented.

Tours and traveling

When asked who’s traveling, members responded that

  • Escorted/guided tours comprise more than half of their passengers in 2011 representing 54% and in 2012 it’s expected to rise slightly to 55.4%
  • FIT packages are the next highest seller at 41% in 2011 with a slight decline in 2012 to 38%.
  • Cruises are the third largest segment at 24% in 2011 with a slight increase to 24.5% in 2012; followed by Student Travel, 22% in 2011 with growth to 23% expected in 2012, and Custom Packages at 20% in 2011 and 2012.

When asked to name the “off-the-beaten path” countries they foresee becoming popular in 2013, active members ranked Myanmar number one, followed by Vietnam, India, Peru, Cambodia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador.

In types of experiences travelers seem to be seeking: 71% of members cited “adventure,” followed by “culinary” at 68%, “art” (61%), “multigenerational travel” (58%), safari (52%), and sport (42%).

Among other vital statistics revealed by the survey:

  • Active members were responsible for more than 14 million hotel room nights booked in 2011, projecting a year-end 2012 increase of 3.4% to 14.6 million.
  • Airline seats sold in 2011 were 3.9 million, with 4 million projected to sell in 2012 for an increase of 3.1%.
  • Total travel packages sold number 3.1 million in 2011; in 2012, this is expected to grow 3.7 % to 3.2 million travel packages in 2012.
  • Purchases of goods and services for travel packages, including air, rail, cruise, ground transportation, accommodations, dining, and sightseeing/attractions, was $7.5 billion in 2011; with a projected increase of 9% to $8.2 billion in 2012.