Trip lengths: The year of the quick getaway

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Will 2015 be the year of the quick getaway, the long-weekend jaunt to Europe, the three-night cruise?

Judging from the results of this year's Consumer Trends survey, one might think so. Yet, anecdotally, agents on the ground said they weren't seeing that trend.

The survey's findings indicate that the proportion of trips lasting more than seven nights has dropped to 15%, down from 22% last year. And 50% of all trips were between one and three nights, compared with between 44% and 46% in the three prior-year surveys. It means fewer people are taking longer trips, and more people are taking shorter trips.

But some suppliers and agents aren't seeing that trend among clients. Retailer Patricia Hager is one of them.

"Oh no, definitely not. I'm not seeing any change in the length of my clients' trips," said the independent agent affiliated with MG Travel in Oceanside, Calif. "They are virtually all doing seven-night, all-inclusive [resorts] or cruises."

Harry Dalgaard, president of FIT operator Avanti Destinations, in Portland, Ore., said he hasn't seen that trend either, but he wasn't sorry to hear about it. Avanti has just launched a series of short-stay, one-city, four-night trips for shoulder-season travel.

"The survey's finding plays very well into our fall marketing strategy that targets the shorter vacation traffic, and we hope to have good traction with that," he said. "But for peak season travel, I'm not seeing any shortening of trip length."

At the luxury end of the market, Abercrombie & Kent's Richard Harris, senior vice president of product development and operations, agreed that he was seeing no sign of a trend toward shorter vacations.

In fact, he said, "Just the opposite. There is dramatic growth in our group extensions, which typically are four days, on our Luxury Small Group Journeys. And those trips are usually 10 to 14 days."

The survey also found that people are taking fewer leisure trips this year: 3.35 compared with 4.09 last year. That's about a 20% dip. And, in a subgroup of those findings, travelers in households where the household income is less than $75,000 are taking 2.84 trips a year vs. 3.57 trips last year. The proportion of those who made only one trip rose to 24% this year, up from 18% last year. And, those who made six or more trips last year dropped to 13% this year, from 21%.

So, more people are taking just one trip, and fewer people are taking multiple trips, according to the survey respondents. Hager, the independent agent, said that perhaps she was seeing fewer trips booked this year, at least so far, but any drop in business is not at a point where she's losing sleep over it. And Dalgaard said he sees no evidence of clients pulling back on the number of trips.

"We're seeing very healthy numbers, and we feel very good about that," he said. "It has been a tough year for Europe due to political events that have delayed the market a bit. It's shaping up to be a longer booking season for FITs. Normally in June things are winding down but we're getting a tremendous amount of last-minute bookings for [this summer]."

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