The State of Travel 2010: George Wendt, OARS
What’s the state of the travel world as we enter 2010? I posed four questions to each of the leaders of the Adventure Collection companies to get their assessments of the travel industry as we start the new year. In the days to come, I’ll be posting their responses. Here is a perspective from George Wendt, founder and president of O.A.R.S.
1. Surveying the travel industry today, how would you compare where we are in Jan. 2010 to where we were in Jan. 2009?
I am uncertain about the travel industry in general, but for the adventure travel segment, we are in much better shape this month than we were last year at this time. Our advance reservations for our April-October 2010 season are noticeably up year-over-year and they have picked up additional momentum since the start of January. Bookings for our rafting trips in the Grand Canyon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon are showing especially good strength and we have recently opened up resevations for both itineraries for the 2011 season. This client resilience fits with what we have seen during and following each of the other economic contractions that we have experienced since 1974.
Talking to our colleagues in the Adventure Collection, we understand that they are all also bouncing back well from the global economic slowdown that we experienced last year. We think the fact that the destinations to which we offer trips are on the “life list” for many people is a major factor in the 2010 strength we are witnessing.
2. Where do you think the industry is headed this year?
This year, we anticipate that people will increaingly rely on the web for researching, planning and booking travel. We believe that the travel companies which succeed will be those whose passengers post real-time reviews on the companies’ websites as well as on sites such as Trip Advisor.
3. What do you think will be the emerging dominant trends in travel and particularly adventure travel this year?
We have noted that travelers tell us they are increasingly influenced by company reputation and recommendations from friends when making their travel decisions. O.A.R.S. has over 1700 Facebook Fans and we believe that their enthusiasm for the travel experiences they have had with us will be a major factor helping to boost our future bookings.
Trips with loved ones will remain a priority and we are seeing significant demand in 2010 for trips to U.S. National Parks, especially Grand Canyon, Yellowstone & Grand Teton and Yosemite.
4. What for you are the principal inspirations/reasons for people to travel in 2010?
Experiential travel vacation offerings are increasingly sought by those looking for something memorable.