The outlook for the travel industry in 2007 is very strong
according to speakers at the U.S. Tour Operators Association Annual
Conference & Marketplace, held Dec. 9-11 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The conference, with a record number of delegates estimates put the
total number of attendees at over 700 brought players from nearly
every corner of the industry to the Westin Kierland Resort &
Spa for workshops, receptions, one-on-one appointments and plenty
of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.
Robert Whitely, USTOA president, along with other association
board members, said repeatedly that they expected 2007 would be
even bigger for travel than 2000, making it one of the all-time
best years for the industry.
Driving this industry optimism are a number of factors. The new
passport requirements for Americans, for instance, have some
operators predicting a spike in international travel, while others
feel the increases will be negligible. Incoming USTOA chairperson
Nikos Tsakanikas, president and CEO of Homeric Tours, Inc., said
that the number of Americans with passports could reach 80 million
next year, blowing past the current all-time high of 70 million.
This increase, he said, would be “very good news for the
international travel industry.”
In terms of markets, probably the single biggest growth market
tour operators were talking about was river cruising, and nearly
every company seemed to be looking at new ways to tap into this
Other hot topics at the conference included sustainable tourism,
volunteerism and expanded international air service.
Also, according to members, destinations to watch for next year
include Peru, the Galapagos, India and Africa.
Finally, as part of the conference, there was a silent auction
sponsored by Accor Hotels Worldwide to benefit the Tourism Cares