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Tourism Weekend travel market on the rise at home and nationally

Tourism: Study Notes Spike in Last-Minute Trips

As consumers continue to make more and more last-minute decisions, weekend travel continues to increase in San Diego and the rest of the country.

The Travel Industry Association of America recently released a study on weekend travel, a market the group said is becoming more popular.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based group, over half of all U.S. adults take at least one weekend trip a year. Under TIA’s projections, that means almost 103 million adults take weekend trips.

TIA defines weekend travel as less than five nights away from home, and a distance of 50 miles one way.

According to TIA, 40 percent of weekend travelers say they are taking more day trips or weekend trips than five years ago.

William S. Norman, TIA’s president and CEO, said the increase in weekend travel is directly tied to an increasingly busy society.

“Families, from the children to the parents, are juggling heavy work and social schedules, which makes it difficult to carve out a full week or two for vacation,” Norman said.

“But they feel vacations are an important part of their lives, so they compromise by taking multiple, shorter trips throughout the year.”

In San Diego, the Convention & Visitors Bureau does not track the numbers of short-trip travelers in the local market.

The bureau focuses on the overall impact of the leisure market, explained Reint Reinders, ConVis’ president and CEO.

However, Reinders knows San Diego’s weekend travel market is growing.

“Weekend travel has never really been a concern of ours,” Reinders explained. “San Diego has always done really well on weekends.”

He attributes it to the fact that San Diego is primarily a leisure destination. Although the weekend business is important, the bureau’s marketing efforts toward vacation travel focus on longer trips , which are more profitable.

Geography simply gives San Diego an advantage, Reinders said. “We are very fortunate that within a relatively short flying or driving distance, we have so many people.”

He mentioned the greater Los Angeles market, including Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. “Sixteen million people live within a tank of gas,” he said.

He compares San Diego’s weekend business to cities such as New York City, Chicago or St. Louis.

“Many of these places around the country, they do well during the week because they are business destinations, and they have lots of business travel and things like that and they die on the weekends,” Reinders said.

In San Diego, he said, “You could call this Friday and try to find rooms and you’re going to have a heck of a time.”

Last week, he was at a hotel in the Mission Bay area, and the hotel’s management told him they are surprised at the number of people who show up without reservations. It happens on almost a daily basis, and even more frequently on weekends, he was told.

Nationally, there has been an increase in last-minute bookings, according to TIA. Of the weekend travelers in the recent survey, 42 percent selected a destination and made plans within two weeks of their trip.

According to Reinders, the trend of last-minute bookings covers the gamut of meetings and leisure business.

It makes for a far more anxious visitor industry, he said. “If you look today at what the advance bookings look like for 60-90 days out, you get pretty nervous,” he said.

In May, local hoteliers were so alarmed at the low amount of summer bookings that ConVis held a meeting with them.

“We kept telling them, ‘No, we have indications from a lot of sources that the summer travel is going to be just as good as it was last year,'” Reinders recalled.

“It’s worked out that way, by and large,” he said. “I’ve talked to several people and they’ve said it’s ended up a lot better than what they had expected.”

As a result of the first meeting, ConVis put together a $500,000 campaign for summer business, and 27 hotels participated. The campaign involved print, radio and billboard ads in Los Angeles, Orange County and Phoenix.


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