Poll: Small-ship cruising tops hot trends

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Results of a poll of the nation's top luxury travel specialists identified last year's biggest travel trends and predicted the travel habits of America's affluent in 1999, according to API Travel Consultants.

API, a network of 222 independent luxury travel agencies in North and Latin America, has annual sales of more than $2 billion. The hottest travel trends among affluent travelers include small-ship and expedition cruises, adventure travel, and traveling with children, according to the poll.

Trends on the decline are those that involve traveling en masse, such as large-ship cruises, bus tours and large-group trips.

API's LuxeReport is a compilation of more than 3,500 survey responses from travel consultants serving affluent clients at API agencies. The report can help agents target products for clients because it portrays the lifestyles of America's wealthiest travelers -- from their favorite destinations and activities to technology trends and shopping habits, according to API.

The poll includes an "affluent traveler profile," which revealed the following:

  • Average vacation length: nine days.
  • Percentage of API clients who only fly first class: 12%.
  • Percentage who combine work and vacation on the same trip: 17%.
  • The poll also reported the most unusual requests API clients made in 1998.

    Examples included a rail trip across Vietnam; booking an entire resort for one client; tracking gorillas in Uganda; running with the bulls in Spain; reconfiguring furniture on a cruise ship; two-day roundtrips on the Concorde, and climbing Kilimanjaro.

    They also included flying a client's hairdresser to London "pronto;" riding horseback naked in Namibia; a one-night trip to Istanbul for the frequent flyer miles to gain platinum status, and a personal meeting with Nelson Mandela.

    The top-ranking travel trends among affluent travelers ages 34 to 52 include:

  • Cruises, especially top luxury and expedition sailings.
  • Adventure travel.
  • Traveling with children.
  • More frequent, shorter trips.
  • Biking and walking trips abroad.
  • The poll revealed that emerging travel trends include educational travel and spa vacations.

    Travel trends on the decline are:

  • Bus/group tours.
  • Paying full fare for first class without using frequent flyer miles.
  • Fitness during travel.
  • Traveling light.
  • The poll also showed that 68% of API travel consultants have clients interested in potential space travel.

    The poll found that the most popular countries visited in 1998 were:

    1. Italy

    2. England

    3. France

    4. U.S.

    5. Mexico

    The poll showed that the most popular countries to visit in 1999 will be:

    1. Italy

    2. France

    3. Australia or England

    4. Mexico

    The most exotic destination booked by API consultants in 1998 included African safaris; Myanmar (Burma); World Jet Tours; Macchu Pichu, Peru; Bali; Fiji, and Belize.

    The most underrated travel destinations were:

    1. South America

    2. Canada

    3. Eastern Europe

    4. Asia

    5. Croatia

    The best travel options for value now include cruises, Asia, Canada, South America and Europe.

    Destinations not commonly visited now by affluent travelers but which would be if they had five-star hotels or resorts include: Costa Rica, Vietnam, Cuba, South America and Eastern Europe.

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