The State of Travel 2010: Bill Bryan and Cory Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path

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 Bill Bryan and Cory Lawrence of Off the Beaten Path.

1. Surveying the travel industry today, how would you compare where we are in Jan. 2010 to where we were in Jan. 2009?

Things are materially better for us. However, we do not expect to be back at 2008 levels until 2011. In other words, we’re not predicting or seeing any validity to having or creating goals this year that have us bouncing back to our best year, which happened to have been 2008.

We think everyone in the Adventure Collection saw a healthy sales season this past fall for 2010. We certainly came into the new year ahead of five-year average numbers. On the other hand, December was a little slower than we had wished and the beginning of January has been only a modest sales period. We’ll see what happens in the coming months. In other words, we’re not looking to 2010 being a banner year, but we do believe it’s going to be materially better than 2009.

2. Where do you think the industry is headed this year?

The anticipation is that this is a “modest” correction year. Frankly, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there and we’re not sure just where that’s going to take us. We know that our group program needs to be smartly priced and it very much needs to stay with the values we hold most dear –- connectiveness, authenticity, and creating as much value as possible. We also feel that the “staycation” concept will continue to be in place. In other words, domestic travel will be stronger than our international travel due to economic and safety uncertainty issues.

3. What do you think will be the emerging dominant trends in travel and particularly adventure travel this year?

We think the answer lies in our answer for #2. We need to be smartly priced and stick with our basic values and features mentioned earlier. And we still feel our clients will tend to travel closer to home (domestically) and at a lower price point.

4. What for you are the principal inspirations/reasons for people to travel in 2010?

First of all, there’s some pent-up market demand. In other words, some people who did not travel in a substantial way in 2009 will try to do more traveling in 2010. Furthermore, travelers are getting used to some of the uncertainty. It’s no longer a big surprise. They were able to cope with matters okay in 2009 and as the uncertainty continues in 2010, coping with that uncertainty by taking a trip closer to home will be more prevalent. Our travelers still feel the need to travel. If they didn’t do as much as they would have liked in 2009, they will do at least as much this year and most likely, a bit more.

So are we simply saying that we feel people just want to travel? No, we think it’s more than that. There is this constant searching to learn more about our country and the world and at the same time wanting to connect with different environments, different cultures, different countries, etc. This will continue to be an inspiration. And another inspiration is the fact that many of our travelers view traveling as a right, not a privilege; therefore, they’re going to exercise that right.