NEW YORK – Americans are expected to travel this summer in greater numbers compared to last year and joined by a higher number of international travelers according to top travel executives from Best Western International, AAA and the U. S. Travel Association at the sixth annual Leisure Travel Summit in New York last week.
At this annual panel discussion, Best Western reported advance reservations for peak summer travel, now through Labor Day, are up more than four percent at Best Western hotels across North America, with approximately 85 to 90 percent of all summer travel expected to be taken by car, according to AAA.
“Americans who made the decision to cut back on spending last year in order to save more, which meant postponing a vacation, are now actively planning and booking summer travel this year, which we believe will translate to a strong summer for our Member hoteliers,” said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western.
Despite gas prices more than $1 per gallon higher than the same time last year, with AAA reporting a national average of $3.78 per gallon, Gary Oster, U.S. Travel’s senior vice president of business development, remains optimistic that travelers won’t divert from their travel plans.
“The reality is that for the average family driving 500 miles for their summer vacation the increase in their gas budget will be the equivalent of just two pizzas,” said Oster. “Because Americans have been putting more into savings the past two to three years, travelers are unlikely to postpone a planned vacation this summer to the beach or one of our national parks over the cost of a dinner or two out.”
Rather than promote last-minute deals during the peak summer season, airlines, rental car brands and hotels are more likely to offer extras or value-added promotions rather than heavily discounted rates or fares as they did last summer.
“Travelers will find this year that they’re offered things they normally wouldn’t have before in the quoted price, such as a free breakfast, discounted passes to local attractions or bonus miles or points, rather than the ‘everything must go’ sales on seats and rooms,” said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services.
Along with millions of Americans on the road, a growing number of international travelers, especially those from Asia and Europe, are expected to vacation this summer to popular U.S. destinations. Best Western is tracking an increase of more than five percent in advance bookings this summer made by international travelers, with a dramatic increase in advance bookings of 16 percent made by Asian travelers.
“We should be excited to welcome back international travelers, as each tourist from overseas will spend on average $4,000 in the U.S. on lodging, rental cars, dining and local excursions,” said Oster. “That delivers a significant volume of revenue to not only companies that cater directly to international travelers, but also tax relief to local governments.”
According to Oster, whether on the road for business or pleasure, a growing number of the 30 million active and frequent travelers are looking to rewards programs as a way to earn points quickly that can be redeemed for discounted or free travel this summer.
Dowling agreed, saying, “Customers want to be recognized for their patronage to a travel brand, and we continue to invest heavily in our global Rewards program as we consider it a winning formula to reward travelers who are loyal to Best Western.”