Agent survey: Destination bookings hold steady

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MEXICO CITY -- A majority of travel agents who sell Mexico said business to the destination is on par with or ahead of last year, according to a survey conducted by Travel Weekly.

The survey of 400 travel agents was conducted online among subscribers to Travel Weekly's Mexico E-Letter and agents from Northstar Travel Media's (Travel Weekly's parent) database.

The findings were presented at the second annual Travel Weekly Mexico Leadership Forum, held earlier this month in Mexico City.

Fifty-four percent of agents queried said bookings to Mexico were about the same as this time last year, 24% of agents reported that business was better and 22% said business was worse. The agents who forecast an increase in business said bookings could be up by as much as 24%.

The majority of agents said they were either very or extremely influential in their clients' booking decisions, with 58% of respondents saying they were extremely influential in choosing packages and 42% saying they were extremely influential in hotel selection. Agents said they had the least influence on planning activities and booking car rentals.

On the subject of niche markets, 81% of respondents said economical/value travel represented good selling opportunities. Almost as large a sampling -- 77% -- cited family travel, while 76% said weddings and honeymoons. Less popular niche markets were upscale travel/spa vacations (cited by 36%), adventure travel (27%) and golf (24%).

Asked to rank other Mexican destinations in terms of popularity among their clients, 74% of agents said Cancun and Cozumel were the most popular destinations, 42% said Puerto Vallarta was very popular and 34% said Los Cabos was popular. The least popular Mexican destinations were Mazatlan, Acapulco and Mexico City.

Asked to name destinations or types of travel that their clients preferred to Mexico, 55% of agents said cruising, half of the agents mentioned Hawaii, 47% said Las Vegas and 43% said the Caribbean.

Twenty percent of agents said their customers also preferred Florida, 15% said Europe, 13% said California, 10% said the Bahamas and 3% said Asia.

Among the reasons why clients preferred cruising and other destinations to Mexico, 60% of agents said their clients wanted more than just sun and sand, 29% said Mexico offered less value for the money and 11% said Mexico was too far away or too difficult to get to.

Thirty-four percent of agents said they see a growing interest among customers for Mexican destinations that offered more than beaches, while 44% said the beach was still king.

As to how often they searched the Internet when making Mexico bookings, 49% of agents said they searched the Web less than 25% of the time. Only 9% said they searched the Internet for all Mexico bookings.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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