FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
It was a sea of humanity on Waikiki Beach last Fourth of July. The turnout may be greater next year if an American Express survey is correct about Hawaii being Americans' preferred vacation spot in 2004.
select Hawaii as top
A survey says more vacationers
plan to fly next year than in 2003
and anticipate spending more money
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. >> Hawaii tops the list of destinations where American travelers plan to go in 2004, according to a survey released yesterday.
The survey of American Express travel agents also indicated that Honolulu; Orlando, Fla.; New York, Las Vegas and Miami are expected to be the top U.S. destinations for the rest of the year.
More than a quarter of Americans plan to travel before the new year, particularly during holidays, the survey said.
Overall, American travelers are planning to spend more next year, take to the air more often and visit both international and domestic destinations.
On long vacations, travelers surveyed said they planned to spend an average of $2,962 on airfare, accommodations and other vacation expenses in 2004 -- $799 more than in 2003. In addition, the number of travelers planning to spend more than $5,000 on long vacations in 2004 nearly doubled, to about 11 percent of those surveyed.
Still, the vast majority of travelers across all income groups, called themselves "value-minded."
The survey also predicts a jump in air travel -- 55 percent of those surveyed said they were planning a domestic or international flight, compared to 44 percent in 2002. More than three-quarters of airline travelers said they are attracted to discount airlines, such as JetBlue, Southwest and Song.
Other top destinations for 2004 included Alaska and Las Vegas.
Cynthia Valles, senior vice president in the Consumer Travel Network at American Express, said cities' efforts at family focused programs have become crucial to attracting tourists. Many people are planning trips far from home for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Valles said, and are increasingly interested in traveling with their family.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Young swimmers hung onto a wave-break wall earlier this month at Waikiki Beach.
"The events over the past several years have a profound effect on traveling," she said at the American Society of Travel Agents' World Travel Congress in Miami Beach.
The survey shows that more people are thinking about traveling internationally. American Express travel agents predicted the top destinations in this category in 2004 will be Rome; Cancun, Mexico; London;, Athens, Greece; and Paris.
Though 45 percent of travelers said they use the Internet to plan trips, the majority of travelers still prefer to book their trips over the phone or through an agent, the survey showed.
Some credit the state of the economy for the anticipated jump in the travel industry.
"It appears that consumer confidence is a little stronger," said Rocco Laterzo, a senior vice president at Establishment Services at American Express.
The American Express Leisure Travel Index was based on a telephone poll of 1,356 adults nationwide conducted between Sept. 23-29. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points. The people surveyed were not necessarily American Express customers.