NEW YORK, May 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Resourceful Americans plan to travel in greater numbers this summer than in 2011, but will keep a watchful eye on what they spend on travel, said top travel executives from Best Western International, AAA and the U.S. Travel Association at the seventh annual Leisure Travel Summit in New York last week.
Best Western reported advance bookings for peak summer travel, Memorial Day through Labor Day, are up more than 21 percent and length of stay is up 4 percent over 2011 at its nearly 2,000 Best Western hotels across the U.S.
"While the economy improves and more Americans will travel this summer, travelers are more discerning than ever and looking for great value add-ons such as free breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi, which is now the most important free hotel amenity for travelers," said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western.
Most Americans will travel domestically according to U.S. Travel Association's Senior Vice President, Business Development, Gary Oster, who said leisure travel in 2012 continues to show steady improvement.
A key driver for the increase in summer bookings is a rising rate in family travel, as panelists reported a return in whole families taking trips together, including multi-generational summer vacations. Panelists agreed that with an increase in family travel, travelers will likely see more suppliers, including tour groups along with hotels, catering to families and offering targeted promotions and amenities.
"Americans are resourceful and resilient and they are going to find a way this summer to have a great vacation experience," said Bill Sutherland, AAA vice president, travel services. "Last year we saw significant pent-up demand to travel after a few years of fewer people on the road due to the down economy. This year, we expect more people to travel as the summer goes on. That said, they will be looking for value, likely cutting back on entertainment, staying closer to home and perhaps trading in a Four-Diamond hotel for a Three-Diamond one."
AAA reported that car rental prices are down, yet room rates at hotels are up this summer, with popular destinations this summer including Orlando, Honolulu, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Maui and New York.
Oster stated that Americans may not travel to European countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain due to economic uncertainties, but inbound travel to the U.S. is strong.
"The average length of stay in the U.S. for overseas visitors is 17 days and most of these travelers are starting in gateway cities such as Los Angeles or New York before jumping off to other destinations throughout the U.S.," said Oster. "With Brand USA helping drive inbound travel, we are excited to welcome more international travelers and show them what a wonderful destination America is."
Sutherland echoed this sentiment: "It's really a win-win to have international travelers come to visit our cities and spend money. Americans who are traveling domestically will also benefit as they visit these cities have financially benefitted from overseas tourists."
Best Western is also seeing strong demand from overseas visitors, especially from those in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to Dowling. In fact, the chain reported that international travelers during the peak summer season are booking Best Western's properties in North America at an increase of 3.5 percent compared to2011. The increase is even more dramatic with travelers from Asia, whose advance booking numbers are up 26 percent over last year.
Panelists said that mobile and social media offerings are also shaping the way travelers plan and research hotels, giving them more transparency than ever and empowering them to find the best value.
Dowling said that while some travelers are using social media platforms, such as Best Western's Facebook booking widget and mobile apps, to book room nights, many are using them primarily for information.
"In the past people would drive hotel to hotel and compare prices. A great percentage of our guests still walk in, but they sit in the parking lot and do the mobile research before they book. In fact, the average traveler visits 27 websites before they book," Dowling said.
Panelists agreed that it's also imperative to monitor and engage with travelers via social media platforms. "For us, social media helps us understand the voice of the customer. We want to be in every space the customer is, gauge guest satisfaction and social media helps us recognize the power of the consumer," said Dowling.
"Social media is critical for travel brands. Conversations online afford real time research and real time ways to modify strategy. Monitoring real-time conversations helps shape how you will do business today, tomorrow, and beyond," added Oster.
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ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL, INC.
Best Western International, Inc., headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., is a privately held hotel brand made up of more than 4,100* BEST WESTERN®, BEST WESTERN PLUS® and BEST WESTERN PREMIER® hotels in more than 100* countries and territories worldwide. Now celebrating 66 years of hospitality, Best Western welcomes hundreds of thousands of guests nightly. Best Western provides its hoteliers with global operational, sales, marketing and promotional support, and online and mobile booking capabilities. More than 13 million travelers are members of the brand's award-winning loyalty program Best Western Rewards®, one of the few programs in which members earn points that never expire and can redeem at any Best Western hotel worldwide. The brand's partnerships with AAA/CAA, racecar driver Michael Waltrip, and Harley-Davidson® provide travelers with exciting ways to interact with the brand. Best Western in 2011 was named AAA's and CAA's Hotel Partner of the Year and bestwestern.com was named the 2011 Compuware Best of the Web Gold award winner. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bestwestern.com.
*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
ABOUT U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION
The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generates $1.8 trillion in economic output and supports 14.1 million jobs. U.S. Travel's mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit www.ustravel.org.
SOURCE Best Western International, Inc.