NEW YORK -- As travel bookings begin to rebound, travel agents and
tour operators are reporting that not all destinations are bouncing
back at the same rate.
Overall, domestic and North American itineraries appear to be an
easier sell, though some travel professionals are not optimistic
about big events such as the Super Bowl.
And while international business is coming back for some firms,
clients seem to be wary of Europe.
At Maupintour, president Heinz Niederhoff said some clients have
"switched European bookings to domestic. It's not overwhelming, and
it's short term."
Though Europe is down, Niederhoff said Maupintour's bookings for
the new year are still strong to South America, Asia, China and
"What people are afraid of is not flying but being away from the
family," he said. "They want to go to closer destinations, in case
they become stranded. They want to be where they can drive
In the same vein, Douglas Risser, co-owner of Menno Travel
Service in Goshen, Ind., which has a significant motorcoach
business, said, "I definitely think there is more of an interest in
booking trips closer to home because of uncertainty about what will
"I think that come January, North America will have had a very
strong year, with other areas like Europe suffering from lower
tourism. But domestically, it wouldn't surprise me if consumers
stay away from some of the bigger name places like Disney and the
Super Bowl for fear they might be potential targets," he added.
Likewise, Margaret Webber, an outside agent at Clock Tower
Travel in Sharon, Conn., said her firm has seen a rise in demand
for domestic travel. She suggested agents try to exploit the trend
with suggestions to go "off-the-beaten path."
"Rather than going to the usual major populated centers, clients
can visit lots of different rural communities across the country in
places like Maine, the Adirondacks, Hershey or Lancaster, Pa.,
coastal New England, Cape Cod," she said. "Clients have a good
opportunity now to visit some of the places they've always wanted
Suzanne Slavitter, vice president of Sports Empire of Los
Angeles, said, "Agents are telling me they are still selling
domestic travel. Nascar races are still selling." The Super Bowl,
however, is down.
"I don't expect it to be a great Super Bowl season, although we
are still selling, even with the date change," she said. "The 25%
we are down is all the Super Bowl."
Slavitter said she also has seen a shift toward more moderately
John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours, said, "A large
majority of our bookings are domestic motorcoach. Not only are
individuals saying they want motorcoach tours, the really sharp
group buyers are adjusting to the marketplace and saying they want
motorcoach and train tours."
Stachnik said while bookings overall are back to 70% of normal,
international bookings are lagging. In past crises, such as the
Gulf war, Stachnik said, "domestic motorcoach travel came back
first, then domestic air travel, then international air
That trend is playing into the hands of Brennan Tours president
Robert Brennan, who said the company is getting a good response to
"European Vacations in Canada" that were introduced last August
based on economic trends.
The rail-based itineraries emphasize the British cultural
influence in British Columbia and the French culture and history of
"We're already getting responses to those new tours," Brennan
said. "From the comments from the agent community, they may have
had people going to France, now for the next year or two they are
going to stay closer to home. Clients want to fly three to five
hours, not much more."
But Far & Wide chief executive Phil Bakes said that while
Europe is slow, other long-haul destinations are picking up some of
"The more popular destinations are going to be the South
Pacific, Asia -- China in particular -- and North America as a
whole. Latin America is going to be a beneficiary. We're way ahead
of where we were last year [for Latin America]. As to Europe there
is some natural reluctance. It will be fine, but in the short term
it's not a growth market."