Orbitz “Insider Index” predicts London, Chicago and Austin will be popular in 2012, looks at 2011 and 2012 travel trends

According to Orbitz‘s annual survey, released this week, London, Chicago and Austin are primed to be top travel destinations in 2012. The “Insider Index” used both travel experts and the OTA’s booking and consumer search data to predict what they think will happen in the 2012 travel market.
Hotspots for 2012
London: London will mark its place in history as the only city to host the modern Olympic Games three times when it welcomes the 2012 games this summer. In late June, the city will also host one of its most beloved events, Wimbledon, where spectators can watch some of the best tennis champions compete on the court.
Austin: The trendiest part of Texas only seems to grow in popularity each year and 2012 will be no different, Orbitz experts predict. Regarded as a music lover’s mecca, tens of thousands of revelers flock to the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” every spring for the annual South by Southwest Festival, which takes place March 9-18 this year.
Chicago: The city that attracts 40 million visitors a year is gearing up to welcome even more as it serves as the backdrop for two high-profile world events in 2012. The 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will make its North American debut in Chicago in April followed by the G8 Summit in May. For those who find their own version of peace on the back nine, Chicago will also host the Ryder Cup in September– a bi-annual international golf event eagerly followed by golf enthusiasts around the world.
Sure Bets for Great Deals in 2012
San Diego: Whether a mountain adventurer or a coastal relaxer, there is something for everyone at a price that works in San Diego. And this year, there’s even more of a reason to visit this coastal city. The convention business is growing, but has yet to reach the peak levels attained during 2007. This, combined with an increase in supplier inventory, means great values throughout the city.
Washington, D.C. : A bit of a hush falls over the nation’s capital during election years with the Washington insider crowd outside the Beltway campaigning. “As candidates hit the campaign trail in 2012, more hotel rooms and flights have space available and that can add up to great deals for travelers looking to explore Washington, D.C.,” said Donna Mulligan, Washington, D.C. destination expert and regional director for Orbitz Worldwide.
Riviera Maya: Soft white sand and beautiful aqua water make Mexico’s own Riviera an oasis for travelers seeking relaxation. With its large hotel infrastructure-the biggest in Mexico-Riviera Maya has long been a shoo-in for travel deals. However, trending declines in visitors from foreign countries will make the area even more affordable in 2012.
What Consumers Want Most in a Hotel in 2012
Based on consumer search inquiries in 2011(1), Orbitz travel experts anticipate these popular perks will continue to drive consumers’ hotel booking decisions in 2012:
Convenient transportation: Whether driving or flying, travelers are looking for easy, no hassle ways to get to their destination. Free parking and airport shuttles are among the top-searched hotel amenities.
Pool: Swimming pools rank high on the list for both families traveling with kids and for those heading to spots like Las Vegas or Miami where it’s more about the scene (and being seen) than actually swimming. As one of the top-searched hotel amenities for the second year in a row, pools often determine whether a hotel option will sink or swim for a consumer.
The extras: Consumer searches show there is strong interest in hotel amenities that go beyond the basics. Four-legged companions are often seen as an integral part of the modern family. As such, search behaviors show that lots of travelers are seeking lodging that will accommodate their pets. There is also strong interest in hotels that provide spa services, fitness centers and wireless internet.
Predictions for 2012
In-house travel experts at Orbitz also identified the top three travel booking trends for 2012.
Mobile: Mobile commerce is expected to nearly double in the U.S. next year(2) and many of those mobile consumers will be on-the-go travelers, Orbitz forecasts. “65% of hotel reservations made via our mobile channels are for same-day stays compared to 14% via traditional desktop browsers,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product development for Orbitz Worldwide.
Flash Sales: The number of flash sale sites rose more than 350% from July of 2009 to July 2011 and the popularity of such sites seems only to be growing.
Gift of Travel: Today, many consumers are finding more meaningful value in giving experiences and memories vs. products off store shelves. “We are seeing parents gifting travel for graduations and birthdays and more engaged couples are opting to register for activities for their honeymoons instead of a set of towels,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior travel editor for Orbitz.com. While most give the gift to help people explore somewhere new it can also be a subtle reminder, and the extra push some need, to visit loved ones who do not live nearby.
Top 2011 U.S. Destinations
The usual suspects are back atop the list of the 10 most popular U.S. travel destinations. Las Vegas and New York claimed the top two spots for the fourth year in a row. One surprise showing, however, came from Orlando, which nudged ahead of Chicago, bumping the Windy City down to number four.
2011 could be dubbed the year of the urban escape as U.S. travelers often opted for cities over sand. In fact, the following beach destinations on the 2010 list were notably absent in 2011 rankings: San Diego (#5 last year), Honolulu (#7), and Miami (#10). Meanwhile, Boston and Los Angeles-two top destinations for 2009-reemerged in 2011 and Denver (#6) and Atlanta (#8) were welcomed as newcomers.
Top 2011 International Destinations
The top three international travel destinations for U.S. travelers – Cancun, San Juan and London-held steady in the same slots as 2010. However, there was a bit of shuffling from 2010 with Paris moving up two spots to number four and Toronto climbing one spot to six. Additionally, Mexico had an impressive showing, adding three of its cities to the list.
Warm climates and adventure activities enticed consumers to hop flights to foreign destinations last year. In addition to scenic beaches, travelers benefitted from lower rates in Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo, while Cancun stayed relatively unchanged.

[Flickr via TJ Morris]

Los Cabos becomes Mexico’s first destination for global entry and pre-clearance programs

Later this month, Los Cabos will become the first area in Mexico to offer Global Entry kiosks for international travelers arriving at the San Jose del Cabo International Airport (SJD).

Beginning on May 24, Global Entry kiosks will be stationed within the airport to allow pre-approved, low-risk travelers to avoid standing in line and proceed directly to the kiosk for expedited clearance upon arrival to Los Cabos. Additionally, Los Cabos is in the final stages of government approval to become the first destination in Mexico to offer border pre-clearance, which will provide added convenience for travelers upon arrival as well as departure. In the case of the latter, U.S. Customs Agents will be stationed at SJD to provide streamlined border and Customs procedures, significantly reducing the amount of time required to clear customs upon re-entry to the U.S. This new service, beginning later this year if approved, will also enhance ease of travel and expediency from regional gateways, where airports may not be equipped to process Customs directly.

“Los Cabos is proud to pioneer these exciting U.S. Customs and Border Protection programs in Mexico for international travelers,” said Gonzalo Franyutti, President of the Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The establishment of Global Entry kiosks at SJD confirms that Los Cabos is one of the most desirable tourism destinations in the world.”

Although this program is intended for frequent travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify.

While we’re thrilled to see it become faster and easier to visit one of our favorite vacation destinations, we can’t help but wonder if this is a good idea, given the violence in other areas of the country. Could making it easier for travelers to enter and exit Los Cabos open this heretofore safe area to problems? We surely hope not.

[Flickr via Brenda Blue]