Last week I attended a conference hosted by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Their guest speaker was renowned travel and tourism consultant, Judy Randall from Randall Travel Marketing in Charlotte N.C. Judy is well known throughout our industry as a leading voice in forecasting travel and tourism trends. In addition to attending her seminar, I also scheduled a one hour private consultation with her.
Judy spoke about the 2008 economy downturn and its effects on the tourism industry over the four years that have followed. She spoke about the slow recovery we are currently in and how the culture of travel and tourism has changed during this period.
Some of the things Judy mentioned is the fact that tourism as an industry faired extremely well compared to other industries during this period with most southeastern destinations showing numbers that were equal to or better than pre recession numbers. The areas hurt most were the bigger destinations like Disney and Vegas. The lower cost destinations such as North Alabama have weathered the downturn quite well and in our case showed small growth three out of the last four years and were flat one year. Judy talked about the current trend of travel which includes people traveling less distance and going to lower cost destinations, like us. The desire to travel and have a vacation has increased as people feel stressed at work and they feel they are working longer and harder with incomes that are not growing to match their efforts. This has spawned the desire to take more frequent, shorter vacations usually done over weekends plus a Friday or Monday. Our particular area is extremely conducive to this type of travel since we have 11 million people living within a one tank of gas trip to get here. In fact all of North Alabama fits perfectly into Judy’s forecast of destinations that will show a solid trend toward growth despite high gas prices, time starvation and changing consumer spending habits. Judy said all of the current travel trends in the US favor us. She says our time has come. Judy also said many people are looking for quieter more relaxing get-a-ways to offset their more hectic metro life styles. Again we are a perfect fit. Judy also mentioned that the days of double digit growth are over for the foreseeable future. We are in an economic environment that does not support much growth in any segment. We are moving out of the recession but, very, very slowly and she feels that will continue into the foreseeable future.