United States Tour Operators Association Reveals Results From 2014 Tour Operator Survey

Economic impact study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals travel industry's continued growth By: Kenneth Shapiro
United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) members reported an 8.7 percent increase in revenue, to $13.5 billion. // © 2015 Thinkstock
United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) members reported an 8.7 percent increase in revenue, to $13.5 billion. // © 2015 Thinkstock

The Details

United States Tour Operators Association

An economic impact study by PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted in September and October finds that active members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) expect to see a healthy year-over-year increase in sales by the end of 2014. The members reported an 8.7 percent increase in revenue, to $13.5 billion, with a 4.7 percent increase in individual travelers, to nearly 8 million. Furthermore, 95 percent of members expect a growth in sales in 2015.

Why It Matters:
Tour operators book escorted travel as well as FIT; they work with a wide range of travel partners; and they send clients to destinations all over the world, so they often have a good bird’s-eye view of the travel industry overall. Therefore, this survey bodes well for travel agents in 2015. The survey also reports that, in 2014, members saw an increase of 4.7 percent, or 12,350 jobs, and an 8.9 percent increase in wages to $917 million. More than half of the respondents (57 percent) plan to increase staff in 2015.

Fast Facts:
- Purchases of goods and services for travel packages — including air, rail, cruise, ground transportation, accommodations, dining and sightseeing/attractions — was $9.4 billion in 2013, with a projected increase of 5 percent to $9.9 billion in 2014.

- When asked who’s traveling, members responded that about half of their customer base is baby boomers at 50 years of age and older. The next largest age group was 36 to 50 years old, representing 26 percent of customers.

- When asked to name the top 10 destinations for travelers in 2015, active members ranked Italy as number one, followed by United Kingdom, China, Peru, France, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Vietnam.

- For the third year in a row, respondents named Myanmar the top emerging country they foresee becoming increasingly popular in 2015, followed by Cuba, Croatia, Iceland, India, Peru, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Panama.

- Demand for experiential and culturally immersive travel remains high with members offering programs in a variety of categories. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of USTOA membership provide travel and tour packages that offer art and culture, and family/multi-generational programs, with 64 percent offering culinary and more than half (57 percent) providing adventure-focused packages.

- While USTOA members view the upcoming year optimistically, they cited potential threats to the positive outlook. Three-fourths (74 percent) of members named natural disasters, followed by pandemics and other health crises (67 percent), as the leading concerns that could impact their growth prospects in the next three years.

What They Are Saying:
“Since PriceWaterhouseCoopers started monitoring the economic footprint of our tour operator members two years ago, USTOA has been able to use this data to build and strengthen the association’s role in advocacy for our membership as well as understand the full impact of the revenues and jobs generated,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. “It’s vital to track these economic and travel trends to fully appreciate how USTOA’s active tour operator members impact the industry overall.”

“Travel agents continue to contribute significantly to our members’ businesses and remain an important piece of the sales chain,” Dale said, adding that active members reported travel agencies represented two-thirds (67 percent) of total packages sold in 2013.