Wharton: Salt Lake travel agent talks 2012 trends
As Memorial Day approaches, many Utah families are beginning to get serious about booking summer vacations or have already done so.
According to Mike Cameron, president of Salt Lake-based Andavo Travel, recent research of luxury travel shows that multigenerational vacations where grandparents, kids and grandkids meet together rank among the hottest trends locally and nationally.
"We're seeing more family type of travel," he said. "This involves the size of families and Utah's demographics. Hawaii, Mexico and cruises remain popular."
Cameron said the violence in Mexico and several well-publicized cruise-ship disasters don't seem to be deterring travelers' interest.
"In Mexico, most of the violence is not in resort areas, but in border towns where tourists don't usually go," he said. "There has been a pretty good comeback."
The travel company president, like many travelers, once found the standard safety drills on a cruise ship an annoyance, but he found himself paying much closer attention to them when he recently took a working trip on a cruise ship off the coast of Italy.
Cameron's favorite family destination is Hawaii, a place he typically visits once a year to just relax. He enjoys the beauty of Switzerland, the food and culture of Italy and the variety offered by New Zealand.
According to a recent report by Virtuoso Travel, the five biggest travel trends for 2012 include, in order of popularity, family and multigenerational travel, river cruises, active or adventure trips, luxury cruises and trips to celebrate some important life event.
Virtuoso said the five top U.S. destinations in 2012 are Maui, New York City, Napa Valley and Sonoma, Calif., Las Vegas, Miami and South Beach. Italy, France, South Africa, Australia and England are the most popular international destinations for 2012.
Cameron said the U.S. dollar is weak against many foreign currencies, making international travel a bit expensive. He said luxury travelers have become weary of being frugal and, as the economy has improved, there has been a tendency to splurge. Andavo's revenues are up 40 percent since 2009 and already have improved 25 percent in the first quarter of 2012, indicating a strong pent-up demand.
U.S. luxury travelers reported the Mediterranean, Alaska, Caribbean, European rivers and Greek isles as the most popular cruise destinations. South Africa and Costa Rica topped the list of adventure travel destinations, while Italy and French Polynesia were the most popular places for romantic getaways in 2012.
One big discussion point for those planning vacations is the decision of whether to try to book a trip online yourself or work with a travel agent. I've tried both in years of traveling. I usually use a top Internet provider to book a hotel or even a domestic air flight. But, for major trips such as a Hawaiian vacation, a cruise or an overseas vacation, I prefer using my regular travel agent.
Cameron obviously thinks travel agents are the way to go, listing three major reasons travelers should consider using one.
First, he says agents usually have the experience and expertise to figure out details of a trip. This can be important for multigenerational travel or big groups.
He said that, surprisingly, using agents can save money because they often know where to hunt for bargains that an individual might have trouble discovering.
Finally, he said many travelers like the "rescue feature" of working with an agency. If there is a problem, it's usually much more productive to call the agent who booked a vacation and have him or her deal with it than try to figure out how to handle it yourself.
One thing for me is certain. After chatting with Cameron, I can't wait for my summer cruise trip to happen. There's something about the onset of the warm weather season that makes me want to enjoy a new adventure.