Holiday bookings surprisingly strong
Bookings for holiday travel are surprisingly strong, travel agencies report. Early indications are that Christmas travel, at least to luxury destinations, is on track to rebound almost to 2000 levels, creating some unexpected sellouts.
And while everything from a war to the weak economy could shift things quickly, travel agency Carlson Wagonlit says that already about 25 percent of its agents are reporting stronger Christmas bookings from a year ago. Another giant, Liberty Travel, says holiday bookings are up 45 percent so far.
Economists are predicting that travel may be one of the economy's brighter spots in an otherwise weak holiday season. But while that may be good news for a beleaguered travel industry, high-end travelers may need to scramble a bit to find everything from pricey suites to nonstop flights.
Indeed, airlines have scaled back capacity for the holidays about 11 percent this year, double the amount they normally do at that time of year, according to the Air Transport Association. Big online booking company Hotwire, meanwhile, reports a 30 percent increase in reservations from a year ago.
Singapore offering tourist bargains
In a bid to lure more tourists from neighboring countries, Singapore's government tourism board is offering free trips to the island's famous zoo and dining vouchers at posh hotels.
More than 30 local and regional travel agencies will distribute 34,000 "visitor kits" worth $136 each to visitors from the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Singapore Tourism Board said in a statement.
Several other countries, including Britain and Australia, have warned their citizens not to travel to Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore, following the Bali bombings.
Continental CEO sees tough times
Continental Airlines Inc. Chief Executive Officer Gordon Bethune said he doesn't expect airlines to return to profitability next year.
"We've got a long row ahead of us," Bethune said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "Some of us are going to fall by the wayside. I can see that clearly. That may change the landscape after the end of next year."
The Sept. 11 attacks, coupled with the U.S. recession, caused a drop in air travel. US Airways Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in August, and UAL Corp. is seeking to restructure United Airlines outside of bankruptcy.
Swiss hotels expect decline in visitors
Swiss hotel bookings will probably decline for a third consecutive year in 2003 as slow growth and a strong Swiss franc deter visitors, a study said.
The number of overnight stays will drop about 6 percent this year and 1 percent next, economic research institute BAK said in report released in parliament. Hotels reported a 1 percent drop in business last year.
Visits to Switzerland became more expensive for guests from outside the country after the franc gained 14 percent against the dollar and 3.7 percent against the euro since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Also, Switzerland counted fewer business trips as economies slowed worldwide.
"The tourism industry remains in a slump," BAK says in the report. "An economic recovery in Switzerland and abroad can be expected only in the course of 2003."