As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of the various trips I have lined up in the coming months, including a 2-day cruise on the re-imagined Disney Magic, Mexico City a la luxury, and December’s USTOA conference, which brings us to the issue at hand. For the articles in this November Hot Destinations & Tours issue, our editors reached out to USTOA members to get their take on the various destinations, trends and products we deem to be hot for 2014. Some picks are expected: Las Vegas (page 82), whose “continuous re-invention,” says The Mark Travel Corporation’s Melissa Backus, “has helped [the destination] achieve 39.8 million annual visitors”; and river cruising (page 20), which, according to Uniworld’s Guy Young, “is booming and, in fact, the capacity to Europe alone has more than doubled in the last four years.” Others are more off the radar, such as Georgia, no, not that Georgia, the one that is at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Associate editor Deserae del Campo visited the destination just last month, and she came back blown away…by the cuisine, the wine, the scenery and the history. According to Giorgi Sigua, head of the Georgia National Tourism Administration, it only welcomes 30,000 North American visitors a year, but as Deserae notes in her onsite on page 94, “this far-flung destination in the Caucasus region begs to be explored.” Our cover feature, Bhutan (page 28), is also a bit off-the-well-trodden path. According to the Tourism Council of Bhutan, “Last year the kingdom allowed only about 105,000 visitors who were either guests of the government or traveling on approved tours.” These are two ideal destinations for clients looking beyond the garden variety hotspots.
And speaking of hotspots, our recent reader survey gave us a good indication of where your clients have been heading off to on vacation recently. For example, in terms of U.S. destinations booked, 58 percent of respondents said they were booking the Northeast U.S.—that’s 4 percent more than last year, although 5 percent more of you are booking the Southeast U.S. than you were last year, for a total of 53 percent. When it came to international destinations booked, 47 percent of respondents are booking Central Europe and 84 percent of those polled are booking Mexico—that’s a 5 percent increase for both destinations from last year. Asia, meanwhile, saw a 6 percent increase in the number of respondents who are booking the region, although that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Caribbean still maintains its booking prowess with 91 percent of you reporting bookings to the region. Makes sense, then, that beach vacations are high on the demand list in terms of niche markets booked. Eighty-one percent of you are booking beachside getaways, and surprise, surprise, 89 percent of you are booking all-inclusive resorts, a 3 percent jump from last year. Of course, the highest respondent rate (91 percent) was for cruises and that’s no surprise when you consider that according to CLIA’s “Profile of the U.S. Cruise Industry,” 90 percent of all cruise vacations are booked through travel agents and cruise sales account for more than half of all vacation sales among travel agents, and with more cruise ships coming online in 2014, that can only mean more love to your bottom line.
—Paloma Villaverde de Rico
The new Guadeloupe Islands Specialist Program, available at edu.recommend.com/ guadeloupe, invites you to discover the sun-kissed Guadeloupe archipelago, its diverse cultural tapestry and the unique attributes that set these islands apart from other destinations. Once you have successfully completed the training, you can register for the Guadeloupe Islands incentive program that uses Recommend’s Agent Transaction Monitor (ATM) to record your bookings. Graduates with at least one ATM booking will qualify for quarterly and year-end rewards as well as FAM trips. Each quarter, the top-selling Guadeloupe Islands Specialist will receive $500 while all booking agents will be eligible for random awards of $200 and $300. At year’s end, the premier selling Guadeloupe Islands Specialist will receive $1,000.
The Saint Lucia Travel Agent Specialist Program
In this issue, you’ll find The Saint Lucia Travel Agent Specialist Program—a refresh to the current program that has been hosted by Recommend for the past three years. If you have already taken the exam and are a registered Saint Lucia Specialist, you do not need to retake the program, although you might want to look through it to get up-to-date information on new hotels, destination wedding offerings, new restaurants, updated festival information, and the latest on flight information to the island. For those who have not taken the course, also available at edu.recommend.com/saintlucia, you’ll find plenty of information on this “simply beautiful” island’s offerings and once you pass the 20-question exam and become a Saint Lucia Specialist, you’ll qualify to participate in the P.A.S.S. (Preferred Agent Saint Lucia Specialist) incentive program, offering FAM trips and numerous other benefits based on recorded bookings.
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