Ensemble members say Europe bookings are on the upswing for 2017. Photo: Celso FLORES
Yet another travel agency group has weighed in with good news about bookings for next year.
At its annual conference in San Diego this week, Ensemble Travel Group released the results of an Ensemble Insights Survey of its travel-agency members that shows 2017 is expected to be a banner year for all travel segments.
For overall bookings for 2017, 62% of Ensemble member respondents said they expect sales to increase when compared with 2016. Europe in particular is on the rebound, with 46% of respondents saying they are seeing stronger bookings for 2017, compared with a decrease in Europe bookings for 2016 by 49% of members surveyed.
Croatia, Iceland and Ireland are tops on the list of international destinations in which clients are showing new or renewed interest, replacing traditional favorites such as Paris and Rome.
In the cruise category, 65% of the agents expect bookings to increase in 2017 compared with this year. Forty-two percent expect the premium cruise segment to have the largest gains, followed by contemporary at 30% and luxury at 28%, despite the large increase in luxury capacity coming online this year and next. New itineraries, new ships and cruise-line loyalty programs (including onboard booking bonuses) are the three top features that keep travelers returning to cruising. River cruises also continue to be popular for 2017, with 49% of Ensemble agents forecasting an increase next year compared to this year.
Cruising also was the cited by 66% of Ensemble agents surveyed as a product that generates the most customer loyalty, followed by airlines (17%), tours (11%) and hotels (6%). Loyalty to cruising is driven in particular by “consistency of product” and “loyalty/rewards” programs, they said.
In the land segment, 61% said they expect an increase in bookings for 2017 compared with this year, with FIT programs showing the largest gains (57%), followed by groups (26%) and escorted tours (17%). Domestic travel overall in both the United States and Canada, which saw an increase in 2017 due to world events, will remain a top travel option for 2017, with 35% of Ensemble agents saying the United States will see gains and 20% saying Canada will see an increase.
In other survey results, 65% of the agents predicted an increase in travel insurance sales for 2017 compared to this year. The top two reasons for buying travel insurance are general medical concerns/accidents/illness (61%) and an older age for a traveler or travel companion (36%).
The top four ways clients avoid paying ancillary airline fees are: opting for carry-on baggage rather than checked (56%); avoiding traveling on certain airlines (51%); using affinity airline credit cards (50%); and paying extra to fly non-stop (32%).
When asked about the two biggest changes that have impacted the travel-agent profession over the past 10 years (excluding technology and online travel agencies), 42% of respondents cited the impact of world events on bookings, and 36% said the number and complexity of travel products.