USTOA Reveals Top Destinations, Travel Trends for 2019

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A tuk-tuk taxi passes in from of The Arch of Santa Catalina in Antigua, Guatemala.

Italy remains one of the top destinations Americans want to visit.

A recent survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) for the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) found that Italy was the “hot” destination for 2019.

Of the top 10, Iceland was at number two with Japan, Vietnam, Australia, France, Spain, Colombia, Cambodia and Portugal following suit.

Some of the destinations in the top 10 mirrored the top off-the-beaten-path destinations. The survey found that the top emerging destinations included Iceland, Cambodia, Croatia, Colombia, Vietnam, Portugal, Bhutan, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Ethiopia.

Couple at Colosseum, Rome: PHOTO: Couple at Colosseum, Rome (Photo via oneinchpunch / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

“It’s interesting to see five destinations—Iceland, Cambodia, Colombia, Vietnam and Portugal—appear on both the hot destinations and emerging destinations lists,” added Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. “This tells us that off-the-beaten-path travel experiences continue to grow in popularity amongst travelers.”

The demand for culturally rich locales remains high and USTOA remembers are reflecting that in what they offer travelers. Roughly 82 percent of members offer art and culture travel experiences. The art and culture category was also the highest ranked experiential program for travelers in 2017, based on volume of sales.

Other categories that are among tour operators’ top offerings are honeymoon and romance programs and adventure travel. Two-thirds of membership offer honeymoon and romance and 63 percent of members offer adventure. More than half (56 percent) also offer multi-generational family programs.

The PWC study also revealed the economic impact of the tour industry and projected future growth.

According to the study, the tour operator members of USTOA project to close out 2018 with sales reaching $18.7 billion dollars, representing 9.8 million individual travelers.

PWC also found an industry filled with optimism. One hundred percent of responding tour operator members anticipate growth in sales in 2019.

“Since the first PwC study was commissioned in 2012, it’s the first time we’ve seen such a bullish response with our entire membership projecting growth ahead,” said Dale. “It’s even more encouraging that more than half of members (56 percent) forecast growth of sales ranging from seven to 10 percent or more in 2019, indicating a potential boom year.”

While optimism for growth is off the charts, tour operators understand that they aren’t immune to other global problems. The global risks that they see as top concerns are terrorism, political instability and over tourism.

Seventeen percent of members said that terrorism was something that they were extremely concerned about. In 2016, 56 percent indicated terrorism was a major concern.

Political instability and overtourism ranked similarly in terms of importance with 13 percent of survey respondents indicating that these were concerns.

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