Press Releases

2017 Travel Trends

Published Dec 7, 2016 12:00AM



Annual Member Survey Reveals Economic Impact of Membership, Industry Forecasts and Travel Trends for 2017


NEW YORK (December 7, 2016)— A biennial economic impact study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) found that Active Members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) project to close out 2016 with sales reaching close to $15 billion. 


According to the study, the Active Members of USTOA contributed $14.3 billion to the U.S. tour operator industry in 2015, representing 8.5 million individual travelers.


“USTOA Active Members are projecting a nearly 4% increase in total packages sold in 2016 over 2015 to approach $15 billion in revenue…showing remarkable resilience in a challenging year for travel,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA.  “And, our Active Members cited further optimism for the year ahead with 82% anticipating growth in sales in 2017.”


Indicating further confidence for 2017, the survey revealed that almost half (44%) of the members who anticipate an increase in sales next year forecast “optimistic” to “boom year” growth with sales ranging from seven to 10% or more. Slightly more than a third (38%) of members who anticipate growth remain cautiously optimistic that sales will increase 4-6% in 2017.


USTOA tour operator members also addressed the global risks that could impact potential growth in the coming year, citing terrorism as the biggest threat with 85% “extremely concerned” to “very concerned.”  Further risks identified by members as “extremely concerned” to “very concerned” were: political instability cited by 59%, and pandemics and other health crises cited by 56%.


In addition, Active Members projected that 62% of total packages sold in 2016 were through travel agencies, “Reinforcing the significant contribution travel agents make overall to our members’ businesses,” Dale added.


The research was released at USTOA’s Annual Conference & Marketplace, held at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ, December 6-9, 2016. Among the other vital statistics revealed: 


·         Total packages sold in 2015 number 4.2 million; in 2016 members anticipate moderate growth of nearly 2%.  

·         USTOA tour operator members were responsible for 17.5 million hotel room nights in 2015; in 2016 this is expected to grow to 17.8 million.

·         Airline seats sold in 2015 were 4.8 billion with roughly the same number projected to sell in 2016.

·         Purchases of goods and services for travel packages, including air, rail, cruise, ground transportation, accommodations, dining and attractions, were $10 billion in 2015.




On the jobs front, Active Members report employing 12,610 people within the U.S in 2015. Total wages paid by members in 2015 amounted to $934 million. In 2016, members project an increase of 3.4%, or 13,030 jobs, and an increase of wages to $950 million. About half (47%) of Active Members plan to increase staff in 2017.


Trending Destinations and Experiences 


Cuba was named the most popular destination for travelers in 2017.  The top 10 “hot” destinations for next year also included Italy, which ranked second, followed by Iceland, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, China and Vietnam.


“It’s interesting to see Cuba grab that top spot from Italy on the hot destinations list for the coming year as it also clinched number one on the top emerging destinations list for 2017,” added Dale. “This only validates Cuba’s popularity and the growing demand among US travelers. Nearly a third (29%) of our members anticipate that the easing of US-Cuba sanctions will help increase their annual revenue.” 


Active Members identified their top 10 off-the-beaten path or emerging destinations that they see gaining popularity in 2017: Cuba ranked first, Iceland ranked second, followed by Croatia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, Iran, Africa (South Africa and Morocco), Cambodia and India. 


Leading international destinations in 2015, according to tour operator members’ volume of sales were Mexico, Italy, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Aruba, Saint Lucia, Bahamas, Costa Rica and France.  The top 10 U.S. destinations for 2015 based on sales were Hawaii, District of Columbia, Nevada, Florida, New York, California, Arizona, Colorado, Alaska and U.S. Virgin Islands.


The tour operator members of USTOA offer a variety of culturally immersive, experiential and themed programs for travelers. Family/multi-generational programs are offered by a majority (81%) of tour operator members, with three fourths (77%) of membership providing honeymoon/romance experiences.  Around half of the Active Members offer the following categories: adventure (55%), art and culture (53%), culinary (49%) and safari/nature (49%).


Traveler Profile


When asked who’s traveling, tour operator members responded that about half their customer base are 51 years of age and older. The next largest group was 36 to 50 years old representing 24%.  Gender is split evenly (50/50) among male and female passengers.  Two thirds of business booked was by US residents traveling internationally, with 20% by US customers traveling domestically. 


For questions and more information on USTOA, visit, call 212-599-6599, or email


About USTOA: 

Representing nearly $15 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 8.6 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe.   Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business. 


As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.



Gina Dolecki/Katherine Henry                                            

Redpoint Marketing PR., Inc.

212-229-0119 /   





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