Travel Won't Be Deterred

Despite safety concerns, U.S. tour operators are optimistic about the year ahead in travel, and that’s good news for agents By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West

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Last month at the U.S. Tour Operators Association’s (USTOA) annual conference, there was a lot of buzz about the hot destinations of 2016.

Overall, many of the tour operators were bullish on South America. The variety of unique experiences available there, the ease of travel to the continent and the region’s relative safety bode well for 2016. There was also a lot of buzz about Asia — Southeast Asia in particular. As you can read in this issue’s cover story, “The Lure of Laos," there is still plenty to be discovered by travelers in this often overlooked destination.

Fortunately, despite problems in the world that have the potential to hamper travel, USTOA operators feel hopeful about the year ahead. According to the organization’s annual survey of members, 90 percent of tour operators believe 2016 will be a growth year, with 57 percent feeling “optimistic” and predicting a “boom year.” This is good news for travel agents, as 87 percent of operators reported that they used agents to sell their products in 2015. The survey found that 55 percent of USTOA member bookings were made through a travel agency, and 91 percent of members predict that business via travel agents will stay the same or increase in 2016.

You can read more about the USTOA conference — including further details of the member survey, some of the trends to watch in 2016 and hot destinations — on our website,

The optimism of USTOA members is not simply wishful thinking. There’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that U.S. travelers are much more resilient than ever before when it comes to safety concerns. A recent article in "The New York Times" pointed out that more people traveled this holiday season than last year, despite the State Department’s vague and ominous general travel alert. While some of the specifics of a trip might change and travelers might wait a bit longer to finalize plans, people have shown that they are determined to take vacations. 

As we start a new year, here’s hoping that travelers — as well as locals — everywhere feel safe enough to experience the best the world has to offer.