Solid growth for all sectors in 2013
The US travel and tourism industry experienced growth in all major categories in 2013, a reflection of the slowly improving economy. Airlines, hotels and car rental companies all benefitted from an increased number of transactions and higher daily rates and ticket prices. Each sector has also been cautiously increasing its fleets and number of outlets in order to match demand and prevent a glut of supply. Inbound tourism was a strong growth driver and has been driven by increased tourism flows from developing countries, especially departures from Asia and Latin America.
Wave of airline consolidation seems to be over
American Airlines and US Airways were granted approval for their merger in November 2013 by the DOJ, seeming to end a wave of consolidation in the US airline industry that began in 2001 when American purchased TWA. The end of this wave sees American Airlines as the world’s largest airline and the industry dominated by four major players, including American, United (merged with Continental in 2010), Delta (merged with Northwest in 2008) and Southwest (merged with AirTran in 2010). At the same time, a series of smaller players like Alaska, Hawaiian and Spirit continue to battle for market share.
Leisure outperforming business travel
Growth in leisure tourism continues to outpace business travel, a trend that is likely to continue over the forecast period. The overall economy continues to struggle with job creation and employers are looking to keep costs low. Additionally telecommunications continue developing, enabling business partners to connect face to face without the need for expensive travel. MICE travel has been a bright spot for the business sector and the benefits of attending conventions and events is hard to replace with digital solutions.
Online travel competition heats up
Consumers continue to look to online travel options as their first option in travel bookings. Consumers have an unparalleled number of resources for peer reviews and an array of options for comparison shopping. In response major players in online travel are looking to become all-encompassing in order to prevent the loss of sales. Additionally newer entrants to online travel sales like Google, Trip Advisor and Hipmunk are looking to expand their market share, setting up increasingly fierce battles for consumer attention and dollars.
US tourism poised for strong forecast period
US tourism looks to be on a strong growth path and hopes to put the global recession behind it. Consumers are looking to travel both domestically and internationally. The number of retirees in the US will increase rapidly as a result of the baby boom generation’s pending retirements and with it a lot of available time for traveling. Younger generations focused on a wealth of experiences will also be strong growth drivers as they look to explore the US and the world. Additionally, the US remains a premier tourist destination that is expected to draw tourists from developed and developing nations alike.
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