NEW YORK -- Millions of Americans spent the last days of January
frozen to their bones, the victims of raw, wet, miserable weather
from the Rockies to the Carolinas.
And Bill La Macchia was loving every minute of it. Especially
the snow. It delivers the knockout punch.
"The winter motivates people to travel because it's cold, gloomy
and depressing," said La Macchia, president and CEO of the Mark
Travel Corp. "But you need the snow to really get them moving. The
cold sets it up, but the snow is the final and best
The storms of late January were a boon to Mark Travel's
business, La Macchia said. "Those who hadn't made plans are making
them now. Business is very good. We had little snowfalls all this
winter, but this last week was the worst, especially the last four
days. Last Wednesday it peaked, and the phones were busy. It's
still snowing here now. It will increase the activity today and the
rest of the week."
But it is possible to get too much snow, according to Gogo
Worldwide Vacations president Michelle Kassner, whose Northeastern
customers are not as used to big snowfalls as those of
Wisconsin-based Mark Travel.
"We're very specific about what we want," Kassner said. "We like
cold with a little bit of snow. Too much snow and people cancel,
airports close, it becomes a hassle. It takes a lot of work to
reschedule all those people."
Although it may be hard to quantify, she said, "Cold weather
always helps. Certainly the cold weather motivates people to go to
warm places. And we certainly have the weather on our side this
"People are definitely out there shopping," Kassner added. "We
may not be closing as many sales as we would like, but business is
Apple Vacations also reports that the weather is helping to
boost sales. Senior vice president Tim Mullen said, "The cold
weather definitely has a positive effect on business."
Ken Pomerantz, vice president of marketing and sales of
Minnesota-based MLT, knows the cold weather helps, although he
admits he doesn't have any tangible evidence.
"We don't have any numbers that support our conclusion ... we
don't see it day-to-day. But we believe strongly that, on a
seasonal basis, the weather does affect business," he said. "It's
hard to know that bookings you take three weeks from now were
influenced by a snowstorm today."
The frigid weather even has an effect on escorted tour bookings
that are not necessarily to warmer climes, said Sharyn Cannon, vice
president of business services of Tauck World Discovery, who said
this year's severe cold is helping business.
"Heavy snow helps boost bookings," Cannon said. "It gives people
an opportunity to sit down with the brochures and have discussions
with their families.
"Our busiest time happens to coincide with cold weather, so it's
hard to tell what influences what, but we know that when they are
snowbound they take more time to research and start dreaming with
their families about where to go next."
Caribbean hoteliers love the nasty winter weather as much as
anyone. Typical is Richard Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay
Beach Club in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, who reported a 5%
increase in January business "and more on the books for February
than last year."
"It's not unusual [for business] to pick up between 10% and 15%
during the month in last-minute bookings. The numbers are very
encouraging," Doumeng said.
At the retail level, "The weather is doing what it is supposed
to do," said Dianne Moore, travel sales consultant at Crossroads
Travel in Milwaukee.
Locals are shoveling snow every day, she said -- just the kind
of irritant to send clients to their travel agent.
Moore said business is now "almost at normal," meaning as good
as winter 2000. The most popular destinations at her firm are the
Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico because nonstop charters are
"People love nonstops," she said, because they know their escape
won't be thwarted by missed connections.
South Carolina doesn't get as cold as Wisconsin, but Imogene
Russell, president of Russell Travel in Moncks Corner, S.C., said
her agency always gets seasonal requests for warm-weather trips.
This year, however, more clients are making getaways, mostly
cruises with some Mexico and some Caribbean all-inclusives.
But winter does not have the same impact on every business: Dale
Eyerly Colson, owner of Travelstar in Westport, Conn., said the
cold has had no impact on her sales. For one thing, she said, her
clientele is older and less impulsive about their travel.
"They don't rush to warm [places] just to do it," she said.
But at Church Travel in Barrington, R.I., chairman Gill Engles
said it has been "pandemonium. ... People have that
[get-me-out-of-here] mania in their eyes when they come to the
office. It's been like this for three straight weeks."
David Cogswell, Gay Nagle Myers and Nadine Godwin contributed to
To contact the reporters who wrote this story, send e-mail
to [email protected] , [email protected] or
[email protected] .