Published on : Tuesday, January 7, 2014
The 2014 travel hotspots will reflect interest in major sporting events that will drive visitors to winter resorts inspired by the Winter Olympics as well as destinations like New York and Brazil, hosting the Super Bowl and World Cup, respectively. Additionally, the bright outlook for the economy will spur more luxury-style vacations, according to this year’s Orbitz Look Ahead Insider Index, compiled by Orbitz global team of travel experts and editors.
2014 TRAVEL HOTSPOTS
North America Ski Destinations: The 2014 Winter Games are rapidly approaching and some travelers will be looking to have the Olympic experience closer to home. “There will be a ton of interest to winter sport destinations that are more accessible and far less expensive than traveling to Sochi,” said David De Lalio, ski region senior market manager for Orbitz. “There are resorts in Whistler, Lake Placid, Lake Tahoe and Park City that that have previously hosted the Games and have venues and great lodging where travelers can have a personalized experience.”
North American ski resorts are offering gold-medal amenities to get visitors into the skiing and snowboarding spirit:
Whistler, Canada features a dog-friendly ski resort with a bevy of recent Olympic history. Air travelers have the option of flying into Vancouver or Seattle to shop for the best fares, and visitors can participate in unique experiences such as cross-country skiing while learning the ground rules of the biathlon.
Lake Placid, New York is nestled in the Adirondack Mountains and a two-time host of the Games, in both 1932 and 1980. With both Alpine and Nordic skiing options available and home to one of only 16 bobsled runs in the Western Hemisphere,Lake Placid is a gem for winter sports enthusiasts. For those seeking something on the lower intensity side, the destination also offers dogsled, gondola and sleigh rides to take in the beautiful winter setting.
Lake Tahoe, California is known for its diverse hills and the unique Alpine experience and a one-time host of the Winter Games at Squaw Valley in 1960. Chosen in part for its intimate setting that allowed participants and spectators to walk to most events, Squaw Valley has since become a go-to ski destination to the West Coast. Located nearby, Northstar affords a more upscale experience in an Alpine Village atmosphere with a respectable 3,100 skiable acres.
Park City, Utah, the last U.S. city to host Olympic games in 2002, feeds travelers ‘need for speed’ with rocket skeleton sled and bobsled rides on the actual track from the 2012 Games. For more of a spectator experience, Park City offers a guided tour and a museum for travelers to relish in the memorable Olympic moments.
World Cup Fever South of the Equator: Brazil has always allured travelers, and as the host for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, its popularity is only growing. The FIFA World Cup (June 12-July 13) is considered the “biggest single-event sporting competition in the world” and will energize the South American continent with athletic matchups for a month. As one of the most exotic locations in the world, Brazil has more than 2,000 beaches and over 1,000 islands for travelers to soak up the warm, relaxing weather. Visitors can also experience the pinnacle of Brazilian culture during the Carnaval of Brazil (March 1-4), showcasing some of the most vibrant costumes, exhilarating Samba routines and sensational music that defines the enthusiastic Brazilian culture. Sao Paolo plays host to the world’s largest Pride Parade in June and Grand Prix Formula 1 on Nov. 9.
“Brazil will be the place to be in 2014,” said Yumi Nakayama, Brazil’s market manager at Orbitz. “From their annual festivals to international icons such as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, travelers will be welcomed by friendly locals and pristine weather to experience all Brazil has to offer.”
Experiencing the “Big Game” in the Big Apple: New York will be the focus for football fans everywhere as the Big Game is played at MetLife Stadium this February. Leading up to the “Big Game,” New York’s famed Broadway (between 34th and 47thStreets) will transform into “Super Bowl Boulevard” – a free, interactive football-themed experience where visitors can score autographs, take themed photos, and ride down a wintery slide in honor of the first, cold-weather open-air Super Bowl. Those traveling to experience the fanfare should book early – Orbitz is showing room prices up 44 percent over the previous weekend. “This is the first Big Game to be hosted by two states,” said John Israel, regional director for the Northeast region ofOrbitz Worldwide. “During this year’s game New York will be filled with more than sports fans, people will be traveling just to experience the city and all of the parties and nightlife that will be taking place during the weekend.”
2014 also marks the historic opening of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building, One World Trade Center, commemorating the 9/11 tragedy and symbolizing the perseverance of America’s largest city. New York is prepared to welcome more than 54.3 million visitors this year1 – domestic and international – looking to experience one of the world’s most diverse and exciting cities.
SURE BETS FOR GREAT DEALS
Las Vegas: A familiar favorite, Las Vegas continues its downtown expansion with the opening of the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino. The new destination, with a bevy of new trend-focused rooms, will create more competition at attractive rates for jet-setters. A variety of top entertainers will make headlines in 2014 as Vegas welcomes new performers including Brittany Spears. Her two-year residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino for Brittany: A Piece of Me opened late December 2013.
Nassau, Bahamas: A well-known and close Caribbean hot-spot, Bahamas attracts travelers for weekend and long-stay vacations alike. The islands continue to flourish and entice travelers with new property openings driving competitive prices including the much anticipated 3,000 room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel opening December 2014. Additionally, Nassau’s $409 million airport expansion is now capable of welcoming 50 percent more visitors into its new domestic and international departure terminals. In partnership with The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, travelers from the United States and Canada can receive a $250 instant savings on vacation packages for stays of four nights or longer when booking by February 17, 2014 onOrbitz and traveling through August 2014.
Orlando: Ideal for families looking to escape the cold and get a great deal, Orlando offers hotel discounts up to 60 percent off and temperatures hover around 72 degrees through February. First quarter is the perfect time to experience the expanded The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal with little-to-no-wait lines, and families can stay at the new Universal Cabana Bay Resort (opening in March). Sports fans can cheer on MLB teams like the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and Houston Astrosduring spring training; and golfers can partake in a true PGA experience. Golf enthusiasts can hit the links on any of the 168 golf courses available, including the exclusive Arnold Palmer Bay Hill championship course, which is closed to the general public but open exclusively to guests staying at the property.
2014 COMEBACK KID: THE ROCKIES
After facing a tough year in 2013 marked by flooding and wildfires, Colorado is projected to make a resurging comeback in 2014. Colorado’s pristine ski areas and downtown businesses were largely left untouched, offering a variety of activities in all four seasons of the year for travelers looking to experience some of America’s most scenic vistas. 2014 will mark the 100thanniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the U.S.’s top natural destinations. Those travelers looking to give back will be proud to know many lodging properties, stores and businesses have pledged to provide a portion of their proceeds directly to the flood recovery fund in the first half of the year.
2014 TRAVEL TREND PREDICTIONS
Travelers More Willing to Buy Up and Treat Themselves: As air travelers become accustomed to a la carte pricing and ancillary services and fees, even the infrequent travelers are starting to splurge on services like onboard Wi-Fi, renting computer tablets onboard and in-airport spa treatments and fine dining as more airports upgrade their concession offerings. At the same time, they are off-setting those expenditures with budget-conscious decisions, such as off-airport parking options which can be considerably less expensive. Even major airports in large cities like Chicago and Washington, DC offer cheaper parking options – often at airport-area hotels.
On the hotel front, Orbitz has tracked an increase in 4 and 5-star hotel bookings in the past two years – a trend poised to continue in 2014. Taking it a step further, a new 7-star award for best in-class hotels has emerged. “Many hotels are striving to surpass a 5-star experience,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for Orbitz. “Consumers can truly expect perfection with boutique and major hoteliers upping their games accordingly. One great example is the recent reinvention of The London EDITION, by Marriott, thanks to a strategic partnership with Ian Shrager that provides a whole new experience more like a boutique hotel outside of the norm for the global brand.”
Frictionless Mobile Booking: Mobile bookings will continue to soar for travelers in 2014 and travel companies will be challenged with making it a “frictionless” booking experience that will allow the search and booking process to be effortless and free of distractions or repetitive input. Travel companies are investing heavily to create the easiest experience on a mobile device – from payment, price and data entry.
“At Orbitz we have been very focused on optimizing the mobile booking process for travelers. At the end of 2013 we saw 30% of hotel bookings come through mobile devices as well as record conversion rates within our native apps,” said Chris Brown, group vice president of mobile for Orbitz. “In 2014 the industry is poised to offer travelers a truly ‘frictionless booking’ experiences using mobile devices. At Orbitz for example, consumers will be able to combine new tools such as social login and alternative payments with stored travel profiles to automatically sign-in, recall travel preferences and process payments with minimal data entry. They can essentially go from app download through search and book with little more than the swipe of a finger.”
Targeting Niche Travel Markets: Targeting segments of travelers such as families or seniors is nothing new but 2014 will see a focus on marketing to two growing segments: professional aunts and uncles with no children; and same-sex couples. In 2014, there will be an increase in destination weddings and honeymoons among same-sex couples with the expansion of legalized marriage in a number of states. According to a recent Orbitz survey, there will also be more aunts and uncles on planes with nieces and nephews with the top travel destination being Disney.
“A recent Orbitz survey found nearly 50 percent of aunts and uncles have traveled with nieces and nephews and spend an estimated $9 billion annually on toys and gifts for children.2 And, the LGBT segment traditionally spends more on vacation and takes longer trips,” said Stacey Symonds, senior director of consumer research for Orbitz Worldwide. “In 2014, travel companies will market heavily to these segments of travelers.”
WHAT TRAVELERS WILL DO ON VACATION IN 2014
From ziplining to “edutainment,” Orbitz expects a number of trends to emerge this year in how time will be spent while on vacation. “While we will continue to see a steady drumbeat of traditional theme park and show tickets being bought on Orbitz, more and more travelers are expecting a personalized experience while on vacation,” said Barb Peterson, director of attractions and services for Orbitz Worldwide. “And, thanks to mobile devices, consumers are finding it easier to customize their vacation activities in real-time while on vacation.”
Most popular activities: Today’s traveler craves variety, from adrenaline-pumping active adventures, to zen-like spa visits.Orbitz editors analyzed top attractions and services based on Orbitz booking data and found Helicopter Tours, Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas and ziplining among the fan favorites.
“Edutainment” trips: Vacations are often now about bettering oneself – “edutainment” is a growing trend where consumers can relax while away from home and learn something new. Culinary tours are becoming more prevalent too – Barcelona’shugely popular Gourmet Bus Tour includes a 1-Star Michelin dining experience while seeing the historic Spanish city. Baseball fans visiting Boston and Chicago don’t just want to get tickets to a Red Sox or Cubs game – they are also signing up for a tour of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to take in the history of the stadiums and the teams.