Orlando still tops the list of vacation destinations

May 29, 1994|By Orlando Sentinel

Orlando, Fla., tops the list of popular vacation destinations in what travel groups predicted recently would be the busiest summer tourist season in U.S. history.

A record 28.9 million work-weary Americans -- egged on by a strong economy -- are expected to hit the road this Memorial Day, the traditional kickoff for summer vacations, according to the American Automobile Association.

Those travelers translate into 230 million trips of more than 100 miles as Americans replace the tradition of one long vacation with three or more "mini-vacations."

For the fourth year in a row, Orlando leads the list of destinations for AAA's 36 million members, followed by Arizona's Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Williamsburg, Va., and Washington.

Falling from this year's list of the top five destinations were Branson, Mo., and Los Angeles.

"Orlando has topped every travel destination list since AAA began surveying its clubs for that information in 1990," Graeme Clark, AAA vice president of travel, marketing and financial services, says. AAA defines the Orlando area as Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

The rosy domestic travel predictions coupled with the international draw of this summer's World Cup games could add up to a big summer for Orlando, Mr. Clark says.

Mr. Clark and officials of the Travel Industry Association of

America released their findings at a New York press conference May 18. The figures for Memorial Day travel are based on a national telephone survey of 1,500 adults by the U.S. Travel Data Center. AAA also surveyed travel managers of member clubs.

The numbers indicate that 25.4 million people will vacation by car, light truck or recreational vehicle, while another 3.5 million will travel by airplane, train or bus.

Overall travel will be up by 1 percent over a year ago and follows the 1993 Memorial Day weekend's 6 percent increase over the preceding year, the report shows.

The reasons for the upswing include an improved economy, low gasoline prices, stable lodging and meal costs and airfare discounts.

"Consumer confidence is critical to this equation and it's stronger than it has been in years," says Bob Dickinson, TIA national chairman and president of Carnival Cruise Lines. "Americans fight the rat race 50 out of 52 weeks a year, and the rats are winning."

With inflation low and people more confident in their job security, Americans will spend more on their trips as well, Mr. Dickinson predicted -- $1,000 during the longest of their so-called mini-vacations, up from $900 last year.

Joe Mittiga, spokesman for the Orange County Tourist and Visitors Bureau in Florida, said the results of the AAA survey bolster hopes for a strong summer.

Orlando will be one of the sites of the first round of the World Cup soccer championships from mid-June to early July -- traditionally the area's tourist industry's slowest time.

"We see a strong June as a big push for the following season and an indicator of a strong summer," Mr. Mittiga says.

AAA's Mr. Clark agrees, adding that World Cup matches in Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Boston, New York and Washington will help mitigate Europe's weak economy and encourage international travel.

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