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The hottest destination this summer? Outside

Travel industry groups predict rise in trips, especially to the outdoors

May 14, 1997
Web posted at: 6:42 p.m. EDT (2242 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Americans are planning more vacation trips this summer than they took last summer, according to predictions by two leading travel industry associations.

Starting with next weekend's Memorial Day holiday, the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) and Automobile Association of America (AAA) expect the number of planned trips will increase by 2 percent, to 230 million "person-trips," in Summer 1997. The groups released their 5th annual summer travel forecast Wednesday morning, based on a telephone survey of 1,500 adult Americans.

Interest in camping and hiking climbs

More Americans will be spending time outdoors, according to the report. Water-based activity is the number one plan, with 75 percent of travelers expecting to visit a beach or a lake. Also, 45 percent of travelers expressed interest in camping, hiking, and climbing vacations, up from 40 percent last summer.

Young adults, those 18-24 years old, are expected to be this summer's most frequent travelers, with 84 percent of them planning trips of some kind. This age group is the most likely to go camping or hiking and the least likely to visit an historic site.

Besides water-based trips, the most common intended trips include visiting friends/family (69 percent), visiting a city (67 percent), visiting an historic site (46 percent), and camping/climbing (45 percent).

Leaving the kids at home

"Low unemployment, low interest rates and continued strong economic growth mean adult Americans feel good about their personal finances; they will show it with their travel," said TIA President William Norman. Summarizing the forecast, Norman said: "Travel will be up modestly, young people will lead the way, outdoor activities are on the rise, spending is up, time is tight, and fewer kids will be along."

Among the report's other highlights:

  • Trips with children amount to 43 percent of planned vacations -- the lowest level in four years. Last summer, 54 percent of adults took children along.

  • Travelers plan to spend an average of $1,112 on their longest trip, which will be an average of eight nights away from home.

  • It is expected that vacations by airplane will grow 3 percent to 34 million trips; vacations by car will grow 1 percent to 189 million trips.

  • Overall, the top ranked domestic destinations are Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and New York City. NYC is the only newcomer in the top five, replacing San Francisco.

  • By automobile, the top stops are expected to be Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Los Angeles.

  • International hot spots include Costa Rica, Belize, Turkey, South America, and Los Cabos, Mexico.

AAA Senior VP Graeme Clarke said Americans are using computers more to gather information than to actually make travel reservations, with only one out of ten AAA members making arrangements with online services. "The current environment," Clarke said, "seems to be looking, not booking."

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