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United States Tour Operators Association

USTOA names Italy, Las Vegas top vacation destinations for 2003

With the close of the summer season, USTOA has revealed the year`s top destinations and trends for packaged travel….

With the close of the summer season, USTOA has revealed the year`s top destinations and trends for packaged travel.y ranks number one as this year`s most popular international destination for tours and packages, with Las Vegas the top domestic destination, according to an informal 2003 survey of the organization`s member companies.

Italy & Mexico Top International Picks

Italy regained the top spot after placing second to Great Britain in 2002. Previously the country had ranked Number 1 for six consecutive years. Mexico ranked second as most popular international destination this year, with

Japan, Canada and Australia/New Zealand tied for third place.

Reinforcing Mexico`s position as a leading international destination for tours and vacation packages for American travelers was Cancun, which placed first as the single top international area or city. In Europe, Italy ranked first as most popular European destination, with Spain second and France third.

Nevada Repeats As Top Domestic choice

In the U.S., Nevada continues to be a top success story, with 45% of tour operators ranking the state number one, with Alaska second (18%). A majority of respondents (56%) placed Las Vegas first again for the fourth year as top domestic city.

World Conditions Boost Family and Domestic Travel

The Iraq War, SARS and other world events generally had a negative affect on travel. However, some segments benefited from those conditions:

  • Almost three quarters of responding USTOA tour operators and vacation packagers said family travel was up by an average of 16%.
  • Fifty-seven percent said that family travel was more popular because of the current climate (43% said it would have been as strong anyway).
  • 63% of respondents said they shifted their marketing emphasis to domestic travel this year.

Recovery After SARS Outbreak

One of the year`s most challenging events was the outbreak of SARS and its effect on travel. While more than a third of USTOA respondents said that the issue had affected travel in all areas of the world, 57% said that travel has revived in those areas most affected. Hong Kong was noted by 23% as the destination with the fastest recovery, with both Europe and Canada cited by 13% of operators as having recovered quickly.


Short vacations emerged once again this year again as the top overall trend in tours and vacation packages, cited by 33% of respondents. However, the trend toward value-added offerings was just behind (32%); these include such promotions as three nights for the price of two, meals included, or free admission to attractions. Following behind those trends – at 6% each – were soft adventure, family and independent travel.

Another continuing trend is last-minute booking. In an earlier poll, a full 67% of USTOA tour operators said that travelers are booking their vacations just one to four months prior to departure.

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