American Express Travel said it has released findings from a recent survey of its travel counselors that queried the experts on travel trends for 2014.
The survey of nearly 200 travel counselors sought to uncover the impact the Internet has had within the travel professional community as well as the latest trends in customer buying behavior
American Express said that the survey shows not only an increase in customers booking and spending more with travel professionals, but that perceived challenges, such as the Internet, have in fact bolstered the industry.
Travel counselors, both new and tenured, are quick to note the impact the Internet has had on the industry. More than half of survey respondents strongly agree that the Internet has made their jobs more efficient, providing them with greater access to more content and information to serve customers.
Consumer access to travel information and recommendations via the internet has also created a shift in the traveler-travel agent relationship, with 52% of travel counselors strongly agreeing that consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before, with many doing their own research.
As consumers seek more qualified information and insider recommendations, agents have had to embrace specialization. More than a third of respondents feel a deep knowledge of a particular destination or travel experience, such as family, culinary, or adventure travel, will be the most important tool in their arsenal as the travel industry evolves over the next five years.
As travel counselors continue to be valued for their ability to customise trips, they are noticing other positive signs within the industry, including the fact that 75% of their business is from long-term relationships and referrals.
In addition, 43% of the survey's respondents reported customers were booking travel further ahead in 2014 (vs. 2013) and 92% said their customers were planning to spend at least as much, if not more, on trips in 2014 (vs. 2013). With extra budget slated for vacations, travelers are planning to visit more exotic locales, with 54% of travel counselors seeing a growing preference for international destinations.
Among the places with the highest demand: Southeast Asia, Rio de Janeiro, New Zealand, Croatia and Costa Rica. Arts and culture remain key drivers for vacation decisions according to 32% of respondents, followed by ultra-luxury travel, culinary travel and adventure travel.
Cruising will also continue to make waves, with 42% reporting that more travelers are cruising in 2014 and an impressive 76% of respondents noting the continued trend towards river cruising.
Find out more at www.aexp.com