82% of active USTOA tour operator members anticipate sales growth in 2017.
At its annual conference and marketplace last week in Scottsdale, AZ, the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) unveiled an economic study showing the impact of the escorted and packaged tour business on the U.S. economy. USTOA also issued an encouraging forecast for tours in 2017 following a flat year in 2016 due to a combination of terrorist attacks in Europe, weather-related incidents and the run-up to the U.S. presidential election.
The USTOA’s biennial economic impact study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) found that active USTOA tour operator members project to close out 2016 with recorded sales of nearly $15 billion. Active members also contributed $14.3 billion to the U.S. tour operator industry in 2015, representing 8.5 million individual travelers.
More important for travel agents, the survey found that 62% of total packages sold in 2016 were through travel agencies. “This reinforces the significant contribution travel agents make overall to our members’ businesses,” said USTOA President and CEO Terry Dale.
“USTOA active members are projecting a nearly 4 percent increase in total packages sold in 2016 over 2015 to approach $15 billion in revenue…showing remarkable resilience in a challenging year for travel,” said Dale. “And our active members cited further optimism for the year ahead with 82% anticipating growth in sales in 2017.”
The PwC survey also revealed that 44% of active members who anticipate an increase in sales next year forecast “optimistic” to “boom year” growth with sales ranging from 7% to 10% or more. Meanwhile, 38% of members who anticipate growth remain cautiously optimistic that sales will increase 4% to 6% in 2017.
In addition, USTOA tour operator members cited global risks that could impact potential growth in the coming year, calling terrorism the biggest threat with 85% of members saying they are “extremely concerned” to “very concerned.” Other risks identified by members as “extremely concerned” to “very concerned” were political instability (59%) and pandemics and other health crises (56%).
Other findings from the PwC study for USTOA included: Total packages sold in 2015 were 4.2 million; in 2016 members anticipate moderate growth of nearly 2%. USTOA active members were responsible for 17.5 million hotel room nights in 2015; in 2016 this is expected to grow to 17.8 million. Airline seats sold in 2015 were 4.8 billion with roughly the same number projected to sell in 2016. Purchases of goods and services for travel packages, including air, rail, cruise, ground transportation, accommodations, dining and attractions, were $10 billion in 2015.
USTOA members report that they employed 12,610 people within the U.S in 2015. Total wages paid by members in 2015 amounted to $934 million. In 2016, members project an increase of 3.4%, or 13,030 jobs, and an increase of wages to $950 million. About half (47%) of active members said they plan to increase staff in 2017.