When the temperatures head south, so do travelers, according to the 5th annual Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders – formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates.  While the overall top domestic and international destination spots were retained by Las Vegas and Caribbean cruising, respectively, Mexico landed an impressive seven destinations in the Top 15 internationally.  Couple that with 81% of Travel Leaders experts indicating that they are either optimistic or satisfied with the outlook for their business for the remainder of 2008 and it shows that Americans are still traveling and turning to travel experts to ensure they get the most value for their money.  The survey, conducted July 28-August 19, 2008, includes information from 415 Travel Leaders agents, managers and owners.

“We had an extraordinary response to this year’s fall survey which is particularly important given ongoing news about the economy.  The survey results offer a very good indication of what the rest of the year holds for U.S. travelers,” stated Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders.  “While there has been some softening in the level of fall bookings for 2008 over last year, we’re struck by the degree of optimism our Travel Leaders are expressing from coast to coast.”

Noteworthy Trends:

* Domestic Destinations: While the top six spots remained the same as last year, there is remarkable movement in the middle section of the results.  Chicago landed in the Top 10 at #10 for the first time and Washington D.C. moved up five spots from last fall to earn a tie with Chicago.  Also San Diego jumped seven spots to #14 and Seattle gained four spots to land in the Top 20 at #17.  This movement may indicate a shift in travel patterns to more domestic and regionally based trips.  Kauai experienced the largest drop, falling 13 spots from #8 to #21.

* International Destinations: For the fall, Mexico appears to be benefiting from economic concerns with #2 Cancun, #3 Riviera Maya, #6 Mexican cruising, #8 Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, #9 Puerto Vallarta, #11 Playa del Carmen and #14 Cozumel all included in the Top 15. But the big surprise is the bump China has received with Beijing jumping seven spots to #16 and Shanghai moving up thirteen spots to #20.  Holding relatively steady are Rome and Mediterranean cruising which both remain in the Top 5.  European river cruises are also gaining ground as a great value option in Europe, making its debut in the survey at #18.

* Best Value outside of the U.S.: Based on the findings from the Top International Destinations, it is no wonder that Mexico was ranked #1 in this category with 83.6%.  Rounding out the Top 5 Best Value Destinations Outside of the U.S. are: #2 Cruising with 65.8%, the Caribbean at #3 with 43.6%, #4 South America with 14.2% and #5 Central America at 11.10%.  (Respondents could choose up to three destinations.)

* Driving More: With the price of gas also impacting the cost of jet fuel, results showed that nearly 30% of survey respondents indicated their clients were driving more to their destinations.  This finding underscores the fact that whether clients are flying or driving, Travel Leaders experts continue to provide their expertise and assist with all aspects of travel, whether related to hotels and resorts, cruises, rentals cars, etc.