Are U.S. travelers ready to return to Mexico this year? Some tour operators think so. "I've been talking to agents the last two weeks, and they are telling me they are seeing a lot of pent-up demand," said Mike Going, Funjet Vacations president. "People need a vacation."
High unemployment in the U.S. is the biggest factor that is continuing to dampen travel spending, but those Americans who have jobs are feeling more confident in making vacation plans.
"Last year, people were feeling conservative. They didn't know where their portfolio was heading," said Going. But consumers are more positive in 2010.
In addition to more stability in the stock market, there's another factor adding to a potential boost for Mexico. Simply put: cabin fever. The long, cold, snowy winter in many parts of the U.S. may be a boon to sunny beach destinations, Going said. "People just have to get out of the cold."
The Mexican destinations seeing the most improvement in traffic, Going said, are Cancun and the Riviera Maya, where resorts have "taken some aggressive price positions."
Pleasant Holidays' Jack Richards agreed that Americans are thinking about more travel spending this year. Booking patterns are improving, he said.
"We just had our single largest day so far this year," Richards said, referring to a busy Feb. 18.
Both operators said another reason they are feeling a bit more positive about Mexico bookings: the booking window has lengthened. Consumers are not booking last-minute as they did last year and instead are making reservations two months or more in advance, a sign that they are feeling more confident about their finances, the operators said.