When 'less bad' is as good as it gets for tourism business

If he could've shown one PowerPoint slide to encapsulate the tourism outlook for 2010, a marketing researcher from the U.S. Travel Association told area business leaders this morning that it would read, "less bad."

"The good news is that we appear to be coming out of it, but it appears to be very slow," said David Sheatsley of the recession's impacts on the tourism industry at the Tourism Market Summit sponsored by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning.

There will be slight increases or smaller declines in demand for travel, hotel occupancy, average daily rates and the revenue per available hotel unit, but this will not make up for the losses suffered in 2009, he said.

There are about 119 million Americans who say they have intentions to travel next year, 50 million who are undecided as to whether they'll travel and another 56 million who have no plans to travel, according to some of the data collected by the association, Sheatsley said.

The large number of people who have not yet made up their minds are potential travelers that tourism and business leaders should not forget about, he said.

"Those (destinations) who have closed down and are out of the marketplace are not going to tap into this market," Sheatsley said. "I maintain that the destinations that are still marketing and marketing even stronger than the past, they’ll come out of the recession better than the rest of them."