Forrester’s New 2011-2016 US Online Travel Forecast: Restrained Growth Ahead

We just published Forrester’s 2011-2016 US online leisure and unmanaged business travel forecast report (if your firm is a Forrester ForecastView subscriber, you may download the complete detailed forecast here). The forecast covers spending for airline tickets, hotel/motel accommodations, rental cars, cruises, and tours, with year-by-year amounts for each in the report. The forecast doesn’t include travel spending on mobile sites or apps, nor does it include ancillary product sales (such as airline checked baggage fees or hotel Wi-Fi) and destination activities and services, like sightseeing tours.

We believe several macro factors will affect the travel industry, and thus the revenue figures in our forecast, during the next five years. These include the state of the US economy and consumer confidence, a permanently high-priced energy environment (critical to the airline and cruise sectors), industry consolidation and the resultant restraint on industry capacity growth, and pricing, which we expect to remain relatively high thanks to capacity discipline (especially in the airline, hotel, and rental car sectors) and of course those high energy costs. We developed the forecast far before the current US debt ceiling crisis had become, well, a crisis. In preparing the forecast, we anticipated that though the US economy may be uneven, it would continue to recover, albeit at an uneven pace through 2012 (we anticipated that the US economy would be more stable from 2013 onwards).

A few highlights from the forecast:

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The Best Airline Experience You Haven’t Heard Of Yet

There’s a personal story behind why we invited one of our speakers to be on the main stage at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011.

A few months back, I had to take a trip from Boston to Toronto. My colleague Jeff Thurston said, “You’ve got to fly Porter.” I asked why, and he just said “trust me.” Well, I do trust Jeff so I went ahead and booked a flight on Porter Airlines.

When I got back to Boston I concluded two things. First, the only way I was going to fly to Toronto from now on was via Porter. Second, I needed to get someone from Porter on stage to talk about the butt-kicking customer experience I’d just had.

What’s so great about Porter? Let me give you my take. It starts with flying into Billy Bishop airport, which is basically in the city of Toronto — as opposed to Toronto Pearson International airport, which is a long cab ride outside of Toronto. So when you get off the plane at Billy Bishop, you just saved yourself about 15 miles worth of traffic.

That’s the convenient part. Now for the cool part. The flight experience is retro 1960s (maybe earlier, I wasn’t flying in the 60s). The seats are wide and comfortable. The crew treats you like they want your business. You get snacks that are basically meals plus wine or beer — and it’s complimentary! I almost fell out of my leather seat when  the flight attendant told me that.

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