Tidewater Traveler - March 2009

Top Ten for 2009


George W. Sellers

   I know everyone has a ‘top ten’ list; everyone except me! I really do not have one, so I thought I would borrow someone else’s. A couple of weeks ago I was reading one of the weekly journals of the travel industry, Travel Trade News, and I encountered an article and some charts featuring the results of a national survey conducted by Travel Leaders, a nationwide organization that regularly polls America’s travelers and potential travelers. At first glance I realized it was information that regular readers of the Tidewater Traveler might find interesting. So, before I begin, let me give due credit to the writers and researchers at Travel Trade News and Travel Leaders.
    There are two travel-related questions that I have heard frequently in 2009. First, have current economic circumstances caused people to stop or slow down traveling? Second, where are people traveling now? The quick answers are “Yes. No. Everywhere.”
    Yes. As I listen to network TV news – I try not to do that – I hear that travel is in a slump as a result of the weak economic climate. Statistics show that hotel occupancy – a good barometer of travel trends – at a number of popular destinations is down from what it was a year ago. Yet at the same time, the answer to the first question is also “No.” As I hear my phone ring and see e-mails pile up, the first two months of 2009 have been as busy as ever with requests for trip planning services. Even if there is a decline nationwide, the Travel Leaders’ survey indicates that only about 27% of travel agencies across our land report a significant decrease in travel bookings compared to the same period of 2008.
    With some destinations experiencing fewer travelers, the economic principle of supply and demand has generated some pretty good travel deals that will probably last well into 2009. So, where are people planning to go in 2009? Here are the “Top Ten International Travel Destinations for 2009.” I’ll work down from number ten to number one, adding my own comments as I go.
    The number ten international travel destination in 2009 will be London; and tying with London at the number ten position is cruising Mexico. For decades London has been a favorite destination for many Americans; and it still is. Cruises to Mexico are of two categories – east coast cruises that include ports of call like Cancun and Cozumel; and west coast cruises that make calls at Acapulco, Ensenada, Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. DelMarva residents overwhelmingly choose cruises to the east coast of Mexico, instead of flying to California to board a ship. Ports on the east coast of Mexico are visited by ships departing from Florida, New Orleans and Galveston.
    Number nine are the beach resort destinations on the west coast of Mexico, specifically Cabo San Lucas and Los Cabos, Mexico. These are old established beach resorts that have been popular with Californians and other Southwesterners for many years. Awkward air connections often make these destinations difficult to reach for folks living on DelMarVa.
    Number eight is Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean. I’m surprised this destination is not farther up the list; for DelMarVa residents it probably is, because nonstop air service from Baltimore and Philadelphia make reaching the many all-inclusive beach and casino resorts of Punta Cana a convenient and reasonably priced vacation option.
    Number seven is Rome, Italy. It’s a classic.
    Number six is Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is another convenient destination featuring nonstop air service from Baltimore. All-inclusive resorts in this region abound with specialized venues such as those just for families; other resorts are limited to adults only; still others cater only to unclothed adults!
    Number five is Mediterranean cruising. Cruising the Mediterranean has for years been a good ‘next-step’ for cruisers who have done a couple of Caribbean or Mexico cruises. Familiar ships greet travelers at Rome, Barcelona, Athens and other ports; the ships are familiar because many are the same that travelers have boarded for wintertime Caribbean journeys. Imagine experiencing some of the ancient cities of Europe during the day and returning to the comfort and security of your floating hotel each night.
    Number four is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In addition to beach resorts, the area is known for its romantic hillside retreats, flashy hotels and quaint, narrow, one-way streets. Puerto Vallarta is another west coast destination reached through inconvenient air connections from the mid-Atlantic
    Number three is Riviera Maya, Mexico, and number two is Cancun, Mexico. Mexico, Mexico, Mexico. Why? It’s warm. It’s nearby. The Riviera Maya area on Mexico’s east coast is a youngster compared to its northern cousin, Cancun. While pristine is not quite the right word to describe this area, it is not nearly as commercialized as Cancun. The same airport serves Cancun and Riviera Maya with nonstop service from Baltimore and Philadelphia. Both regions are abundant with all-inclusive beach front resorts. Looking for a relaxing, romantic getaway? Of these two, I would choose the Riviera Maya region; if the goal is to party and play, choose Cancun.
    The number-one international travel destination for 2009, by an overwhelming percentage, is Caribbean cruising. While most cruises into the Caribbean depart from Florida or San Juan, Puerto Rico, the number of cruises sailing from other East Coast ports continues to grow. A few Caribbean cruises now sail from Jacksonville and Charleston. But the number of cruises leaving from Mid-Atlantic ports within driving distance of DelMarVa has been growing steadily over the past few years.
    Very few people remain unaware that one can board a Caribbean cruise in Baltimore; Norfolk; Philadelphia; Cape Liberty, New Jersey; and New York City. Driving instead of flying to the departure port saves money and valuable vacation time. The newest addition to Caribbean cruising from the Mid-Atlantic will be the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride that will begin September 13, 2009, sailing 7-night cruises from Baltimore to the Caribbean. This will be the first ever year-round cruise from a Maryland port.
    Where are you going in 2009?

   May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel Web site and travel planning service SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George@SellersTravel.com.