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Just Released from the Cape May County Department of Tourism First tourism survey of the year shows promise for the 2009 summer season.

A brief survey sent to 2000 visitors to the Department of Tourism website who requested vacation information in 2008 indicated that 77% of the respondents are planning to vacation in Cape May County in 2009. The survey was conducted to help the business community as well as aide the department in determining a more concise marketing plan and to better target key audiences.

When asked if their 2009 vacation plans have changed, a resounding 80% said no, with 18% saying yes, and 2% not sure. The next question asked if gas prices or other economic factors would impact their vacation plans. Of those respondents, 56% said they would not impact their vacation plans, while 35% said they would. The 35% who said gas prices and other economic factors would impact their plans, we then asked them how. We allowed more than one answer to this question and found that the following factors would be considered when making vacation plans to Cape May County in 2009; 22% will vacation closer to home; 12% will take drive vacations; 26% will take fewer vacations; 22% will take shorter vacations; and, 18% will take more day trips.

Packages, coupons and other discounts will help in determining vacation destinations and options for 54% of the respondents; with 33% indicating that they could possibly sway their decision; and, 7% saying they would not impact their decisions at all. Other surveys conducted on the national level have shown that many travelers are looking more for value out of their vacation dollars and not necessarily deep discounts. Today's travelers are expecting to get the best deal and are shopping around to find it.

The makeup of the Jersey Cape Vacationer for 2009 is about the same number of couples as families with children. Couples will represent 31% of our visitors and families that include children will be 32%. Those traveling with friends are 13% and those traveling with parents/grandparents or extended families is 18%. Keep in mind that Baby Boomers control 80% of the wealth and most are of the age to be grandparents.

How visitors to Cape May County are getting their vacation information are was another question asked in the survey. Interestingly, 42% are getting it from the Internet; 11% newspaper travel sections; 22% television; 22% visitor centers; 19% friends and family. Respondents could select more than one answer.

Accommodation options included; 33% Hotel/Motel; 12% Bed & Breakfast Inn; 9% Condominium; 21% house or apartment rental; 9% campground; 6% visit friend or family; second/vacation home 3%; and, 7% undecided.

Travel Trends for 2009

Its Official, the emerging 2009 travel trends, reported in NewsLines, and based on surveys and research conducted by the Cape May County Department of Tourism (CMCDOT), are confirmed by Peter Yesawich, President and CEO of Ypartnership, America's leading marketing, advertising and public relations agency serving travel, leisure and entertainment clients.

Cape May County is in a position to get a clear picture of how other tourism-based economies are faring in today's market. As South Florida's tourism season opens, we can sit back and measure the impact that the U.S. Economy has on the bottom line of their largest industry.

We know that our visitor will be looking for added value-expecting larger vacation experiences on a smaller budget. Packaging and discounts coupons will be a way to get the vacation planners attention. Families will stay on a budget, likely willing to shorten their vacation rather than eliminate favorite activities. This year, it will be important to make sure your website has more for the visitor to do to fill an exciting multi-day itinerary.

We also know that travelers are using the Internet to 'shop' for the best vacation value. Provide all the information needed to book their vacation and keep in mind that a vacation is rarely decided on one image. Cape May County's sell is mostly visual and there are plenty of exciting images that will evoke pleasant memories of past vacations or exhilarating activities to plan for the next vacation. One stop shopping within a few clicks will help to seal the deal faster. The time-starved travel planner wants to make a decision and move on.

It is reported that 75% of all households in the U.S. and Canada now have access to the Internet, and furthermore 94% use the Internet to decide where they are going on vacation. Internet inquiries to the Cape May County Department of Tourism office for vacation information rose from 31% in 2007 to 42% in 2008. It is important to note that travelers are typing in activities not places to search for vacation information. In order to appear high on the search list of the Internet-user, keyword optimization will get your site high on the search engine and easily accessed.

The Canadian dollar trading at par for much of last year helped increase overnight stays in the U.S. with recent statistics from ITT (International Office of Travel and Tourism) reporting a 17% increase in Canadian Visitors. Spending by Canadian visitors rose 8.8%, over $3.1 billion. Cape May County realized the impact of the international visitor with Canadians from the Province of Quebec returning in record numbers. Last year, the U.S. saw the highest second quarter for overnight Canadian travel since 1993.

According to research conducted by Ypartnership, the travel intentions of Americans remain robust with 71% of active travel households planning at least one overnight trip during the next six months, the same as one year ago. "Our most recent tracking surveys reveal there is still plenty of demand for travel services in the marketplace for those who are aggressive and clever enough to capture it," says Yesawich.

Yesawich Cites Other Trends for 2009

"There will be no shortage of challenges in 2009", according to Yesawich. "But the year ahead is also one that holds great opportunity for those who amend their marketing practices to reflect the manner in which consumers live, work and travel today."

- Value Is king. Expect consumers to demand more in exchange for what they pay. They won't necessarily opt for the least expensive alternative, but they will shop aggressively to ensure they don't overpay for what they consider rightfully theirs in the current economic climate: a good deal. They are also more likely to purchase inclusively priced travel services to exercise greater control over the total cost of the trip before they depart.

- Both vacations and business trips will get shorter. Two thirds of active travelers who participated in the October 2008 travelhorizons(TM) survey stated that "staying fewer nights" was one of the strategies they intended to employ to manage the cost of their travel in the year ahead

- Consumers will use the Internet differently. While the percentage of American travelers who go online to plan and purchase travel has remained essentially unchanged during the past two years (approximately two thirds), consumers are increasingly enamored of the Internet's ability to assist with comparison shopping. The growing popularity of Meta search engines such as Kayak and Farecast pull prices for competitive products and services from multiple supplier Web sites and display them in a user-friendly manner will accelerate this phenomenon.

- Marketing will go mobile. Almost eight of ten Americans own a cell phone, yet only 15% of them are Internet enabled. This percentage will rise quickly in the year ahead given the growing popularity of the iPhone(TM), Blackberry Storm(TM) and similar devices. With this growth expect more travelers to plan and purchase travel services with these devices. In fact, according to the 2008 NEXTGEN Traveler(TM) survey, fully one out of four "next generation" travelers plan to use their mobile phone or PDA to make or change travel plans (other than through voice communications) in the next two years.

- All vacations are Not Created Equal. As revealed in a survey of over 4,000 adults conducted by Ypartnership for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, vacations are increasingly perceived as an appropriate way to recognize certain life events (e.g. anniversaries, school graduations, retirement, etc.). Vacations taken to celebrate life events tend to be special by practically every measure: they are planned further in advance, budgeted at a higher amount, longer in duration, and include more people in the traveling party. Fully seven out of ten adults have taken a "Celebration Vacation" before, insight which inspired one of next year's most innovative promotional offers: free admission to any Walt Disney park on your birthday in 2009. For more information about Disney Celebration Vacations, visit http://wdwnews.com/viewvideo.aspx?videoid=111872&siteid=1

- Travel Agent Usage will continue to rise. Travel agents are not down for the count. On the contrary, three out of ten American travelers use the services of a travel agent on a regular basis, and this percentage is growing for two reasons: 1) many travelers now place a higher value on the time it would take to pick through multiple Web sites to find the best options/prices than the fee they have to pay an agent to do the work for them, and 2) consumers see agents as "in the know" and a potential source of otherwise unadvertised deals (of great interest when value is king).

- Going Green is good for business. Although most Americans are unfamiliar with the term "carbon footprint," fully 85% consider themselves to be "environmentally conscious." An impressive four out of ten now state they would consider shifting their patronage to a travel service supplier that demonstrates environmental responsibility. Most, however, are not willing to pay a premium fare or rate to green suppliers as they expect them to be good stewards of the environment in which they operate.

- Diversity awaits discovery. Two thirds of Americans are non-Hispanic whites, yet this percentage will decline to 50% by the year 2043 and become the minority (46%) by the year 2050. At that time, Hispanics will represent 30% of all Americans. African Americans will represent 13%, and the Asian population will represent 8%. Hence, diversity represents a powerful market force, and one that will gain considerably more recognition in the year ahead given the recent election of President-elect Obama.