MMGY: 2016 shaping up to be ‘remarkably positive’ year for travel

NEW YORK — MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers, unveiled Wednesday evening, suggests 2016 will be a record year for travel, barring any unpredictable disruptors.

MMGY executives presented some key data findings during an event at the New York Times building here.

Two-thirds of U.S. travelers are planning at least one leisure trip this year that requires overnight lodging, said Peter Yesawich, MMGY’s partner, industry insights; on average, they are planning four trips.

While that number remains the same from last year, the number of people traveling for business has increased by 12%.

“The outlook is incredibly positive, because you’ve got very robust demand from leisure travelers; you’ve got remarkable growth in demand from business travelers,” Yesawich said.

The data was from MMGY’s quarterly “travelhorizons” survey, which studies travelers’ intentions, using a sample of 2,300 households of active travelers that are 18 years old and older.

Steve Cohen, vice president of research and insights, said that a separate, annual study, which surveys travelers with household income level over $50,000, showed that the amount travelers are spending is also up.

The average amount travelers plan to spend on vacations this year was $5,048, compared with $4,526 spent in 2015 and $3,874 in 2010.

Additionally, Cohen said, the annual data shows the number of travelers who intend to travel more is on the rise. According to the study’s summary, 28% of travelers said they intend to take more vacations, and 14% said they plan to take fewer vacations.

“This means there is a 14-point positive variance in the market’s intention to vacation during the next 12 months, representing a 10-year high that surpasses the previous record, a pre-recession 11-point increase in travel intentions reported in 2007 and 2008,” the summary states.

The data, Cohen said, suggests a “record year” for travel.

Yesawich said that only a major, unpredictable disruptor, like an act of domestic terrorism, could shift the tide; barring that, he said 2016 was shaping up to be a “remarkably positive” year for travel.

What’s Your Cruise Sail away Style? 

Couple dancing on deck - photo courtesy of Blend Images/ShutterstockAh, sailaway! Even if you’ve been onboard for hours, sailaway is the official start to a cruise vacation. The lines are pulled in, the ship’s horn blasts, and you can feel your excitement grow as the vessel glides away from the pier and starts to pick up steam. It might be one of the best moments of the entire trip.

Yet so many people don’t give a thought to how they embrace this sailaway moment. You’re distracted by the muster drill, perhaps your luggage just arrived, and your thoughts have already turned to where you’ll get dinner and what to do on your first evening onboard. Get too bogged down in fighting over closet space and — bam! — you’re half way to the Bahamas.

What’s your sailaway style? Do you live it up to the fullest, mark it with a token gesture or skip it completely? If you don’t want to miss the magic moment on your next cruise, try one of these rituals to enhance your first few minutes at sea.

The Classic

Pool side enjoying a drink - photo courtesy of wavebreakmedia/ShutterstockRitual: Head to the ship’s top decks to join the crowds dancing by the pool or lining the balcony as you sail out of port. This is your chance to enjoy the party music while it’s fresh, before the oft-repeated opening strains of “Hot, Hot, Hot” make you want to cry. Just be sure you don’t drop your drink as you get your groove on.

Drink: the Drink of the Day (preferably a fruity, frozen cocktail) in a souvenir glass

Song: Pink’s “Get This Party Started”


The Romantic

Couple on deck - photo courtesy of Maridav/ShutterstockRitual: Skip the crowds, and cuddle up to your sweetie on your own private verandah. You get the same sailaway views of land slipping away without having to elbow your way to the railing. Just remember: other people can see you on your balcony, so don’t get too caught up in the moment.

Drink: Champagne or a glass of wine

Song: Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”

The Shutterbug

Friends taking a picture - photo courtesy of Nikkolia/ShutterstockRitual: Sailaway is a perfect time for memorable vacation photos. Some people pose for the same shot on every cruise.

Facebook fan Tania Mongar‘s husband “has to take his traditional ‘drinking a beer in front of the funnel’ pic on the first day of every cruise.” Other cruise travellers do the obligatory “drink in everyone’s hand” shot, or they wear matching T-shirts or outfits for that first group photo.

Drink: a bottle of beer — easy to hold while managing a camera

Song: Outkast’s “Hey Ya” (especially if you can “shake it like a Polaroid picture”)

The Bliss

Lounging on deck - photo courtesy of Denys Prykhodov/ShutterstockRitual: Why wait to fully embrace the relaxation that comes with a cruise vacation? Cruise Critic editor Brittany Chrusciel waxes poetic about enjoying sailaway from the thermal suite in a ship’s spa. Whether you’re soaking in a hot tub or getting Zen on a heated lounger, you can enjoy fabulous views while letting your stresses melt away.

Upside: You can be first in line when they announce the spa raffle winners. Downside: You might fall asleep and miss the sendoff.

Drink: herbal tea or fruit-infused water

Song: Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)”

The Oblivious

Unpacking for the trip - photo courtesy of Hasloo Group Production Studio/ShutterstockRitual: Some folks are too busy unpacking or exploring the ship from stem to stern to even notice that the ship has already left. You might pass them on the stairs and overhear a confused “wait, is the ship moving?” If you plan to miss sail away, at least do it with intention: Throw open your window curtains as you unpack, or take a detour via the promenade deck as you make your way around the ship.

Drink: Red Bull — these travellers are on the go!

Song: Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop”

The Interior

Relaxing indoors - photo courtesy of Ondine C/ShutterstockRitual: Maybe it’s cold outside, or maybe you like a bit of peace and quiet, but if you’re like Cruise Critic editor Ashley Kosciolek, you enjoy sail away from the ship’s library or a quiet lounge — any place with large windows, small crowds and comfy seating.

Drink: something to sip like a latte or a gin & tonic

Song: Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”

The Selfie

Couple's selfie - photo courtesy of Halfpoint/ShutterstockRitual: You just have to stick it to all your non-cruising friends: You’re on vacation while they’re hard at work. So do as Cruise Critic editor Gina Kramer does, and take a selfie to quickly post to your favorite social media site before your land-based mobile service cuts out. Eat your heart out, Facebook.

Drink: anything with bright fruity colours and an umbrella on top for full effect

Song: “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charit

Beyond the marketing pitches

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightSometimes the reasons people cruise can’t be found in any catalog or sales brochure. The passenger who took 33 consecutive cruises aboard the Carnival Elation earlier this year is an extreme example.

Mark Fosselman found himself on the same itinerary over and over again following the loss of his wife, Becky. She had been in ill health, and the two had shared numerous cruises on the Elation before she passed away in April.

Fosselman told Carnival that the ship held special memories for him and that cruising was very therapeutic in helping him mourn his wife and come to terms with her death.*TomStieghorst

There are many conventional selling points to a cruise. But often it isn’t the size of the cabin, or the itinerary or the food that people care most about when they’re on a cruise.

When I asked a man on a recent cruise why he was on the ship, there was no hesitation: “I wanted to spend time with my brother,” he said. The passenger lived in Tennessee, his brother in Michigan. They didn’t see each other regularly, and a weeklong cruise was a chance to catch up.

More than marketing slogans or ad campaigns, the human need for connection and recognition often drives the choice of a cruise vacation. One passenger on another cruise I took recently was astonished to be the center of attention after his family surprised him with a cruise for his 90th birthday.

Another person on the cruise was aboard with someone who had started to show signs of memory loss. She said she took the cruise because she wasn’t sure in a year or two if her traveling companion would even be the same person.

So it is fine to have the latest and greatest technology on a ship, hot new entertainers or interesting new shore excursions. Onboard spending credits or free gratuities may be the way to seal the deal if someone is close to making a purchase.

But just as often it is the soft things, the human things, that start passengers thinking about taking a cruise. Cruise lines have started to pick up on this in their advertising, for example in Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Moments That Matter” spots or the Princess Cruises “Come Back New” campaign. They’re definitely not hard sell, but effective in the long run, it seems to me.