Orbitz Insider Index Spotlights Toronto, China and New Orleans as Top Destinations in the New Year
CHICAGO, Jan. 2, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Americans looking for the hottest destinations in travel need look no further than the latest Orbitz Insider Index, which examines where Americans will be going, what they'll be doing and what trends will be changing the way they travel. The global Orbitz.com dream team of travel experts are spotlighting Toronto, China and New Orleans as the hottest destinations, while trends like cross-device functionality are expected to change the behaviors of travelers in the New Year.
HOT DESTINATIONS FOR 2015
New Orleans Back on Top: It's been almost a decade since Hurricane Katrina and to say New Orleans has recovered is the ultimate understatement. The city earned a number of accolades in 2014, including, "Best Culinary Destination" in the small domestic category by Saveur Magazine, one of the "World's Best Cities" by Travel + Leisure, "5th Friendliest City in the U.S.," and, "Best American Cities for Foodies," by Condé Nast Traveler plus it ranked as a top destination for both Labor Day and Spring Break based on Orbitz Insider Index. Tourism has increased exponentially in the past 10 years, up 150 percent since 2005, bringing in a record-breaking $6.7 billion for the city. In addition to tourism, The Big Easy attracts hundreds of meetings and conferences. In 2015, there are already 46 conferences scheduled that will each bring in 3,000 attendees or more.1
"These numbers aren't surprising when considering the 'something for everything' outlook the city offers," said Christie Crawford, New Orleans market manager for Orbitz.com. "History buffs will flock to the city to celebrate the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans this January, as well as visit the National World War II Museum, car racing fans can experience the first IndyCar event in New Orleans in April 2015 and music aficionados can enjoy festivals, including the Voodoo Art and Music Experience and the iconic New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival."
Toronto To-Do List: While Toronto has remained a constant on global tourism destination lists over the past 12 months, Orbitz.com has seen a nearly 40 percent growth in travelers to the city, and a wealth of events in 2015 are helping this fan-favorite destination shine even brighter this year.
The Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 10-20, 2015, is the largest publicly attended festival of its kind. Drawing tourists from all over the globe, many films that debut at the Festival often become the talk of Hollywood during awards season. The festival generates about $230 million in tourism revenue and brings in more than 27,000 out-of-town visitors.2
For those craving the thrill of sport, the 2015 Pan American Games taking place July 10-26, deemed "the single-largest multi-sport event ever held in Canada," are sure to deliver. The Games are expected to bring as many as 350,000 visitors to the province of Ontario.3 While 12 of the competition's 30 world-class facilities are located in Toronto, including a new athletics stadium, aquatics center, field house, and Pan Am Athletes' Village, all of the Games are within driving distance from the city.
China on the Rise: With recent visa changes, the door is opened for more tourism exchanges in both directions between the U.S. and China. Plus, U.S. and Chinese flag carriers have added more flight routes making it much easier to get to – American Airlines recently launched non-stop flights to both Beijing and Hong Kong from Dallas-Fort Worth, and Air China initiated Washington Dulles-Beijing service, among others.
Known as Asia's World City, Hong Kong is an ideal first stop on a vacation to China. With almost three quarters of the city made up of countryside, there's a major metropolis among mountains, bijou islands and indented coastline. The region ranked seventh on Orbitz.com list of top international destinations in 2014, based on hotel and airfare bookings. Travelers to Hong Kong can experience tourist highlights including the views from Victoria Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Man Mo Temple and Stanley Market, as well as international culinary flavors from street vendors and upscale restaurants. Hong Kong is also a shopper's paradise with its famed Ladies' Market, stretching nearly a mile with more than 100 street vendors.
A trip to Hong Kong can easily be combined with stops in Beijing, a cultural hub of Asia and capitol city of China, and Shanghai, a modern city with unrivaled historical sightseeing. In Beijing, tourists can experience the Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, Summer Palace and sights from the Beijing Games. The city is also the ideal launch pad for a trip to Xian, the starting points of the Silk Road and home to the world-famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. In Shanghai, visitors can get a sense of the country's economic development while taking in sites such as City God Temple, Yu Garden and the Shanghai Museum.
Both Beijing and Shanghai offer great hotel deals with five-star luxury hotels available from $149 (and often less) on Orbitz.com almost year-round.
COMEBACK KID 2015: CABO
Each year, Orbitz.com recognizes a destination that has overcome adversity to make it back on top. Both destinations, San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, the two major towns that make up the Los Cabos region, have made a swift and solid comeback following the estimated $1 billion in damage left by Hurricane Odile in Sept. 2014.4 Tours, restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and shopping malls are up and running again and the airport is operational for most destinations. Most hotels along the 25-mile tourist corridor in Cabo San Lucas are open or preparing to open for the winter travel season.
The destination hosted the third annual Los Cabos Film Festival as scheduled in November, with the 2015 event slated for same time next year. Visit Cabo between December and March for whale-watching, in May and June for quieter beaches, or book early for the beautiful months of October and November, ideal for snorkeling. A number of new non-stop flight options from top U.S. travel destinations were recently announced including New York, Seattle, San Diego, Washington D.C., Houston, and Baltimore.
2015 TRAVEL TRENDS
Laid Back USA Makes It Big: Many travelers are opting against fighting the crowds in the country's major metros and opting instead for the more leisurely pace of smaller towns and cities. Orbitz.com editors have rounded out five picks of the best options for travelers in 2015: Nashville, Tenn.; Asheville, N.C.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charlottesville, Va. and Portland, Ore.
"Nashville is no longer just a destination for country fans. It has become a great destination for families and a hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties," said Rhonda Osborne, Nashville market manager for Orbitz.com. Music lovers can tour the Country Music Hall of Fame, visit RCA Studio B where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs, or check out local venues to hear live music for free, every night. Nashville is also home to some of the best barbeque and the not-to-be-missed Music City Festival & BBQ Championship in August.
Asheville, N.C., a small city surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, has made a name for itself as one of the top art destinations in the southeast. Visitors can choose from 30 art galleries in the downtown area alone. The historic Biltmore Estate and easy access to outdoor activities make it a destination with something for everyone.
Another mountainous destination, Salt Lake City, is the perfect spot for winter sports enthusiasts. The host of the 2002 Winter Games, the Salt Lake City region is home to world class ski and snowboarding resorts, and surrounded by five National Parks including Arches National Park, the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches.
Charlottesville, Va. transports visitors back to the time of America's Founding Fathers, but offers so much more. After touring the homes of former Presidents Jefferson and Monroe, and taking a look at a print of the Declaration of Independence, tourists can take advantage of the area's many wineries, highly ranked golf courses, or check out a basketball game at the University of Virginia.
Finally, Portland, Ore. has been gaining recognition across the U.S. for its local flair and 60 breweries – the most in a single city worldwide. Families should stop at one of Portland's more than 600 food carts to sample local fare, take part in the Big Float down the Willamette River, or attend the Portland Rose Festival or Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival to celebrate the beautiful flowers in April. Tax-free shopping also gives tourists another incentive to come and spend.
Improved and Increased Mobile Usage: Mobile devices have rapidly become travelers' closest travel companions, and in 2015, Orbitz.com expects usage to continue to increase. According to a recent survey of Orbitz.com customers, consumers carry an average of three mobile devices when traveling.5 As airlines and even hotels shift to more mobile integrations, with devices serving as everything from in-flight entertainment viewers to room keys, a consistent cross-platform cross-device experience is imperative.
Through the creation of a frictionless booking experience, including mobile payment solutions like Visa Checkout, Google Wallet and PayPal, Orbitz.com is making travel booking even easier – whether at home or on-the-go.
"Orbitz will focus much of our 2015 efforts in mobile development on creating a cohesive experience for users that, once logged in to Orbitz.com, allows them to pivot from platform to platform and quickly access shortcuts to searches made on other devices. An improved mobile experience will also allow Orbitz to offer better promotions and recommendations," said Ryan Kowalczyk, director of product strategy for Orbitz Worldwide.
Boutique Hotels from Large Chains: Big-name chains continue to embrace the boutique hotel trend this year with more themed, stylish, and aspirational offerings to meet the demand for those looking for a more quaint and personalized experience. While independent properties like The Talbott in Chicago will continue to be customer favorites, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood are expanding their brand portfolios, and the Kimpton Hotel chain is joining the InterContinental Hotels Group. "The authentic sense of place that only boutique properties once provided travelers, is now attainable with consistently unique properties like Aloft, Andaz, Edition, Joie de Vivre, and Indigo," says Peggy Bianco, group vice president of global hotel supplier services for Orbitz Worldwide.
WHERE TO SAVE A BUCK IN 2015
Europe is Within Reach: With an extra strong U.S. dollar heading into 2015, Americans who have put off a trip to Europe will have an extra incentive this year. The Euro is at its lowest against the dollar since 20076, while some destinations tout even bigger savings, such as Norway where the dollar has gained nearly 25 percent7 over the Norwegian Krone. Lower fuel prices will also take some of the pressure off of airfares, all combining for favorable conditions.
Travelers can even find flights to Europe for as low as $600 USD through the end of March, with several top destinations such as Dublin, Ireland and Istanbul, Turkey coming in at $1,000 USD or less on Orbitz.com. Other destinations to watch for deals include Milan, Italy; Budapest, Hungary; Warsaw, Poland; and Salzburg, Austria.
Travelers to Dublin can experience history, traditional music and, of course, the pubs in a modern capital city. Travelers lucky enough to visit March 14 – 17, 2015, can experience the four-day St. Patrick's Day celebration featuring a parade, bands, a festive treasure hunt and the ceremonial greening of city landmarks. From May to October, Milan will host Expo 2015, a world fair, with a focus on food. Tourists will experience entertainment, cooking demos, wine tastings and more.
1New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, http://www.neworleansonline.com/pr/releases/releases/What_s%20New%20in%20New%20Orleans%20July%202014.pdf
2 Canadian dollars: $200 million, http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/tiff-brings-189m-into-toronto-economy-1.1703009
4 Mexican Associations of Insurance Institutions, http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20141202/NEWS09/141209962
5 Orbitz.com fielded a survey from April 14-18, 2014 via insightexpress. 751 U.S. adults aged 18 and older who had traveled within the past 12 months were surveyed.
6 Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-04/dollar-approaches-120-yen-on-u-s-outlook-euro-weak-before-ecb.html
7 Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/USDNOK:CUR/chart
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