Travel and Tourism: A Panorama of Opportunity

Humans are curious by nature. From the moment we are born we begin to explore the world around us and as soon as we gain mobility we just keep on moving. For many, this curiosity develops into a lifelong passion to travel the world and experience life to the fullest, creating memories that last a lifetime. We travel for many reasons, both business and pleasure. Personal travel is often motivated by the desire to meet new people, reconnect with friends, spend time with loved ones, escape the daily routine, discover new things, see breathtaking vistas, gain a sense of freedom, relax, enjoy, ponder… the list is endless.

Our desire to see the world has a tremendous economic impact. In 2010, the U.S. travel industry amassed $1.8 trillion in spending by domestic and international visitors; $759 billion in direct travel expenditures and another $1 trillion in other industries (Source: The U.S. Travel Association) Direct spending by travelers averaged $2 billion a day, $86.6 million an hour, $1.4 million a minute and $24,000 per second.

Travel and tourism accounted for an impressive 2.7% of our nation’s 2010 GDP (gross domestic product), supporting 14 million jobs in the U.S, and it ranks among the top 10 industries in 48 states for employment.  The reach of the industry is global. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism accounts for 9% of GDP globally and supports 255 million jobs around the world, or one in 12 jobs. The WTTC expects the industry to grow about 3% in 2012, and eventually account for one out of every 10 jobs. As the U.S. economy continues pulling out of its long downturn, Jan Freitag, a senior vice president at Smith Travel Research cited a 4.1 percent gain in first-quarter hotel bookings. The number of hotel workers increased 3.2% in March, and hotel occupancy levels have reached 63.6%, which is close to the historic average. (Source: Bloomberg Business Week)

U.S. travel and tourism industry data can be further divided by leisure vs. business travel, with leisure travel accounting for the lion’s share of activity. More than 1.9 billion person-trips were made in 2010.  Of those, 1.5 billion were for leisure travel, and 448 million were for business purposes. A person-trip is defined as one person traveling away from home overnight in paid accommodations or traveling to places more than 50 miles from home, one-way. The U.S. Travel Association cites the top five leisure travel activities for domestic travelers as follows:

•  Visiting Relatives
•  Shopping
•  Visiting Friends
•  Rural Sightseeing
•  Beaches

The broad reach of the travel and tourism industry combined with the needs and interests of the individual traveler makes it ideal for small business owners and franchisors to enter the market. Travelers come in many varieties and desire a broad spectrum of offerings. Some prefer eating and lodging at well-known national chains while others seek out local mom and pop establishments. Some prefer adventurous outdoor treks, while others opt for full-service destination resorts. Some like to repeat the same vacation year after year, while others have a long list of places they’d like to visit within their lifetime, never visiting the same location twice.

The travel industry, despite its size, can be very competitive. Whether offering trip planning services, transportation, lodging, activities or other travel services, specializing in a niche market can help limit the competition. There is a vast panorama of opportunity for business owners who can combine their passion with sound business decisions and thorough market research; they have the road map to success laid out before them.