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New US Passports = Bigger US Market

Asia Pacific invests in US travellers

REPORT – BALI – PATA TRAVEL MART: Get ready Asia Pacific! With their bags packed and new passports in hand, US travellers are set to visit the region in ever increasing numbers. Reasons for optimism include significant…

REPORT – BALI – PATA TRAVEL MART: Get ready Asia Pacific! With their bags packed and new passports in hand, US travellers are set to visit the region in ever increasing numbers. Reasons for optimism include significant increases in trans-Pacific air capacity, including a doubling of flights between US and China (PRC) by 2012; the addition of Korea (ROK) to the US’ visa waiver programme; more cruise ships ready to set sail from Hong Kong and Singapore; and growing MICE market interest.

“And there were an unprecedented 18 million US passport applications this year, which is good news for Asia Pacific,” said Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Regional Director – North America Ms Barbara Bryant.

US citizens now need a passport when returning to the US from neighbouring destinations. In the past they could present their driver’s licenses.

Addressing PATA Travel Mart 2007 delegates during a luncheon workshop about the US outbound market today (27 September), Ms Bryant said: “The US outbound market is already significant, with 30 million international trips in 2006, excluding trips to neighbouring Canada and Mexico.”

“However, American tastes are changing,” she cautioned.

Tauck World Discovery Managing Director – International Mr Scott Supernaw said the average age of his organisation’s customers had increased 10 years. And while they have more money and are willing to spend it, they are very value-conscious.

He offered some advice about what US travellers want:

  • Value: “Give them more, not less, than what they paid for.”
  • Facts: “Honesty pays huge dividends!”
  • Real experiences: “Give them local experiences and interactions.”
  • Healthy options: “Kill them with kindness, not food!”
  • Active options: “Don’t be afraid to offer physical activities.”
  • No surprises: “Be careful of the unknown and untested; reinvent the tried and true.”
  • Proactive service: “Do everything for them. They want worry-free holidays.”
  • Full days: “Attempt to fill, or let them fill, two thirds of every day.”
  • Pampering: “Little touches, such as candy on the pillow, can be cheap and memorable.”

Mr Supernaw emphasised the benefits of new media technology to communicate, inform, add value and create brand loyalty among US travellers.

Solutions Travel Service President Ms Cindy Yam agreed. She said when US travellers make their decisions, they like independence, control, choice, flexibility, value and “now”, which account for why the internet is growing in popularity as a medium for both travel information and bookings.

However, Ms Yam said that human contact was still important and many people still rely on travel agents to book.

Braga Travel Consulting President Ms Bonnie Braga said she recommends tours for her clients based on the experiences of her other customers, as well as on good value and service.

She said that packages that were easy to sell tended to feature regular departures and quality accommodation options, however her US clients still book trips further in advance (three to six months), compared to her Latin American clients (30 days).

On general trends, PATA’s Ms Bryant said: “For the American traveller today, eco-tourism and adults-only are in; voluntourism is a humanitarian high; and connoisseurs want to participate and experience, not simply enjoy.”

“American travellers with deep pockets like to splurge,” she continued. “A private villa is much preferred to a suite; there are now 500 private jet companies, up from around 100 five years ago; and renting a luxury yacht packed with amenities has become a hot summer vacation.”

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