Today, Travel Leaders (formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates) unveiled the 2009 results of their authoritative annual Travel Trends Survey. The U.S. recession is playing a significant factor in various trends, and while Travel Leaders experts have indicated a slide in comparable year-over-year bookings, over 80% are either optimistic or neutral about the year ahead. Conducted November 20-December 15, 2008, the 2009 Travel Trends Survey includes responses from 547 Travel Leaders owners, managers and frontline travel experts throughout the United States—equivalent to more than one completed survey for every single location in the network.

“What we have witnessed with the U.S. economy is unlike anything we have seen in decades, and it is having a major impact on the traveling public and the travel industry,” stated Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders, which includes 500 locations from coast to coast. “Despite the daily drumbeat of negative news on our economy and the general perception that everyone is staying home, it speaks volumes that when asked ‘What are the top ways leisure travelers are saving money?’ the five most frequent responses from our experts were (in order): being flexible with dates, staying at all-inclusives, using frequent flyer miles, taking a cruise, and booking only if there is a promotion or deal.”

“Our Travel Leaders experts are counseling clients on creative ways to squeeze every ounce of value out of each travel experience. Nearly 41% of our experts indicated leisure travelers are saving money by shortening their trips, 22.1% are driving versus flying, and 21.6% are checking into different tier accommodations than before,” continued Block. “The added benefits of working with a credible travel expert – like Travel Leaders – means taking advantage of trusted, reputable supplier partners and finding available and affordable air tickets by using air consolidators – which were the top two strategies our experts are deploying to assist clients. Just like the housing industry and the stock market, it is now a buyers’ market when it comes to travel. Hopefully our survey results, particularly our Top Destinations, along with the incomparable incentives and promotions available will spur the public to travel.”

Top Destinations: U.S. and International Based on 2009 Bookings:

· Las Vegas maintained a slight edge over Orlando for the #1 spot domestically while the value of cruising, particularly in the Caribbean (Caribbean cruising) continues to outpace other international destinations to retain the top spot as the most popular international “destination.”

· Chicago soared 10 spots from 2008’s annual survey to land at #10 in 2009. Being the hometown of President-elect Barack Obama may have stimulated renewed interest in the Windy City and those who visit in 2009 can experience “The Aztec World” exclusively at the Field Museum or the world premiere of “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” at the Science and Industry Museum, as well as festivities associated with the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

· When asked to select the Top 3 Best Values for travel outside of the United States, Mexico ranked #1 garnering 84.3% of votes, followed by Cruising (61.1%) and the Caribbean (43.9%). This underscores why three out of the Top 5 and five out of the Top 10 International Destinations are in Mexico: Cancun (#2), Riviera Maya (#3), Puerto Vallarta (#4), Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos (#9) and Cruising Mexico (#10).

· Record-setting jump in European River Cruises: Travel Leaders experts have touted for years that cruising in Europe is a tremendous value and exciting way to see a number of European splendors with minimal impact from currency fluctuations. Clients are now clamoring for the more intimate river cruises in Europe as indicated by the astonishing 40 spot jump in this year’s survey from #66 to #17. In addition, Mediterranean cruising continues to be extremely popular - holding steady at #5 on the list of top international destinations.

· The growing interest and prominence of China on the world’s stage, showcased by the 2008 Olympics, is evident with the continuing upward trend of both Beijing and Shanghai. Beijing gained two more spots, moving up to #16, while Shanghai jumped 11 spots to land in 19th place.

The following lists display the top ten domestic and international destinations for 2009, along with results from the 2008 survey conducted one year ago (agents were asked to name up to five top destinations):

Top 10 Domestic Destinations: 2009
1 – Las Vegas, NV 61.4%
2 – Orlando, FL 60.8%
3 – Kahului (Maui), HI 39.9%
4 – Honolulu, HI 36.3%
5 – New York City, NY 31.3%
6 – Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ 19.0%
7 – Anchorage, AK 15.9%
8 – Washington D.C. 15.0%
9 – San Francisco, CA 14.8%
10 – Chicago, IL 13.6%

Top 10 Domestic Destinations: 2008*
1 – Las Vegas, NV 71.5%
2 – Orlando, FL 63.6%
3 – Honolulu, HI 51.9%
4 – Kahului (Maui), HI 42.7%
5 – New York City, NY 36.2%
6 – Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ 18.4%
7 – Anchorage, AK 15.7%
8 – Washington D.C. 12.8%
9 – Lihue (Kauai), HI 12.3%
10 – Miami/Miami Beach, FL 11.7%

Top 10 International Destinations: 2009
1 – Caribbean Cruising 64.1%
2 – Cancún, México 58.1%
3 – Riviera Maya, México 37.2%
4 – Puerto Vallarta, México 21.2%
5 – Mediterranean Cruising 20.5%
6 – Montego Bay, Jamaica 20.1%
7 – Rome, Italy 19.4%
8 – Punta Cana, D. Republic 18.1%
9 – Cabo San Lucas/ 15.8%
Los Cabos, México
10 – (tie) Cruising Mexico 15.6%
10 – (tie) London, UK 15.6%

Top 10 International Destinations: 2008
1 – Caribbean Cruising 64.0%
2 – Cancún, México 62.3%
3 – Riviera Maya, México 32.4%
4 – Rome, Italy 31.4%
5 – Mediterranean Cruising 24.3%
6 – Puerto Vallarta, México 20.0%
7 – Montego Bay, Jamaica 19.8%
8 – London, United Kingdom 18.9%
9 – Punta Cana, D. Republic 18.2%
10 –(tie) Cruising Mexico 16.2%
10 – (tie) Cabo San Lucas/ 16.2%
Los Cabos, México

Top 5 Cruise Destinations: 2009
1. Caribbean (Western) 27.2%
2. Alaska 17.6%
3. Caribbean (Eastern) 16.8%
4. Mexican Riviera 7.9%
5. Caribbean (Southern) 6.9%

Top 5 Cruise Destinations: 2008
1. Alaska 28.5%
2. Caribbean (Western) 20.5%
3. Caribbean (Eastern) 15.5%
4. Europe Mediterranean 8.7%
5. Caribbean (Southern) 6.3%

Additional Notes: Reversal of Trends
As anticipated, a number of travel trends from the last several years have shifted including:

· When clients are booking (early vs. late): timing, in turn, is having an effect on comparable bookings in 2008. Our experts indicate that 47.9% of clients are booking “somewhat” to “much” later than the previous year. The economy and job security, along with promotions, discounts and last minute deals all play a role.

· Number of days clients are traveling: only 52% of respondents indicated their clients are cutting back on the length of their trip(s), and of those, a majority indicated their clients are cutting two days off their travel itineraries. That is particularly evident when looking at the average length of leisure trips and the decline in 8-10 and 10-14 day trips.

Compared to last year, clients are booking …
2009 % 2008 %
Much earlier 8.6% 19.1%
Somewhat earlier 12.2% 34.0%
About the same 31.3% 34.0%
Somewhat later 33.3% 9.8%
Much later 14.6% 3.1%

What is the average length of trip you’ve been booking most for LEISURE TRAVELERS for 2009?
2009 % 2008 % 2007 % 2006 %
Less than 4 days 1.5% 1.8 1.0 .00
4-5 days 9.9% 11.9 9.3 14.0
6-7 days 65.2% 60.5 75.5 71.3
8-10 days 12.3% 19.0 11.2 11.8
10-14 days 3.7% 5.4 2.4 2.5
Longer than 14 days 1.5% 1.4 0.6 0.3
No leisure travelers 6.0%
No distinction offered between leisure and corporate travelers prior to 2009

Compared to this time last year, have you noticed customers cutting back the on their travel?

No, it has increased 1.5%
No, it is about the same 8.0%
Yes, it has decreased slightly 29.3%
Yes, it has decreased somewhat 34.0%
Yes, it has decreased significantly 27.2%

What are the top ways leisure travelers are saving money?

1. Flexible with dates 75.7%
2. Staying at all-inclusives 71.0%
3. Using frequent flyers miles 63.5%
4. Taking a cruise 56.3%
5. Booking only if promotion/deal 50.9%

What tactics are Travel Leaders agents using most to assist clients and save them money?

1. Using trusted supplier partners 72.0%
2. Air consolidators 65.4%
3. Cruises 49.8%
4. Tour 48.5%
5. Traveling off-season 48.4%

Comparing your 2009 bookings so far to your 2008 bookings at this time last year, which is true?

2009 Response 2009 % 2008 % 2007 %
They’re higher by more than 50% 0.7% 3.07 1.8
They’re higher by more than 41-50% 0.0% 1.08 1.2
They’re higher by more than 31-40% 0.4% 3.25 3.7
They’re higher by more than 21-30% 1.8% 7.22 6.9
They’re higher by more than 11-20% 3.8% 19.23 14.0
They’re higher by 0-10% 4.4% 16.61 17.9
TOTAL SAYING “HIGHER” 11.1% 50.46 45.5
They’re about even 21.8% 31.95 36.3
They’re lower by 0-10% 12.8% 9.39 10.1
They’re lower by 11-20% 19.9% 5.23 8.1
They’re lower by 21-30% 18.1% 3.06**
They’re lower by 31-40% 6.8%
They’re lower by 41-50% 4.6%
They’re lower by more than 50% 4.9%
TOTAL SAYING “LOWER” 67.1% 17.68 18.2

What is your personal outlook on your business for 2009?

2009 Response 2009 % 2008 % 2007 %
Very optimistic 10.4% 31.59 30.4
Fairly optimistic 41.9% 45.67 50.9
TOTAL OPTIMISTIC 52.3% 77.26 81.3
Neither optimistic nor pessimistic 28.0% 17.51 13.2
Fairly pessimistic 16.8% 5.23 5.3
Very pessimistic 2.9% 0.0 .20
TOTAL PESSIMISTIC 19.7% 5.23 5.5

After leading the way in travel by serving millions of travelers from coast to coast, the 500 U.S.-based franchised travel agency locations formerly operating as Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates are leading travel in an exciting new direction as Travel Leaders. The new brand was selected in recognition of the instrumental leading role the travel company has forged on behalf of travelers ever since its beginnings as Ask Mr. Foster.