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U.S. travelers are concerned about terrorism but still want to visit emerging destinations on their next vacation, according to a poll conducted by the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA).
“The tour operator members of USTOA are showing strong growth for this year, with more than a third attributing growth to an improved economy and higher consumer confidence,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. “It’s also encouraging that a majority – 57 percent – are optimistic about continued growth in sales in the coming year, while nearly half plan to increase staff.”
Here are four takeaways on how tour operators expect vacationers to travel next year.
Boomers want to tour
Tour operators polled said that more than half of their customers are baby boomers, while those 35 to 50 years old represented a quarter of their customers. Millennials, however, have yet to embrace touring.
“Eighteen to 34 year olds represented 13 percent of members’ customer base in 2015,” said Dale. “And while the survey didn’t drill down specifically to identify growth in any of the age categories, millennials are and continue to be a focus market for our members.”
More than half also said that they saw an increase in the number of solo travelers in 2015.
Terrorism concerns are real
Tour operators think that terrorism is the top threat to traveler confidence in the U.S. in 2016. Global financial instability, followed by political instability, are seen as lesser threats to traveler confidence.
“Last year, terrorism was named fifth behind natural disasters, pandemics, strength of the U.S. dollar and global financial instability,” Dale told Skift. “And while the survey was completed prior to the tragic events in Paris, there is little surprise that it jumped to the top of list given world events.”
Everyone wants to visit Cuba
Cuba was named as the top emerging destination among tour operators, followed by Myanmar, Iceland, Colombia, Ethiopia and Japan.
“Cultural immersion is a key focus,” said Dale. “For example, dining at family-owned paladars, taking dance lessons, meeting with local artists and students, and riding in a legendary 1950s Thunderbird. What’s also really interesting is of members who don’t currently offer Cuba, 39 percent plan to add it to their roster in the next few years.”
Italy remains the top international tourism destination
For the fourth year in a row, Italy was the top destination for U.S. international travelers. The U.K., China, France, South Africa, Peru and India followed in popularity.
More than half of members polled said international travel is being booked six months to a year in advance, while most domestic tours were booked less than six months out.