Agents Identify Top Travel Destinations

Heart Tail

As the seasons change, so do the rankings of top travel destinations. So says Travel Leaders Group in its most recent nationwide survey of travel agents.

For the first time, the top rankings for domestic and international bookings belong to Maui, Hawaii and London. The 1,100-plus travel agency reps name the top destinations they are reserving for the remainder of the year. Results are based on actual booking data.
Two items in the news at various times during the year – Zika and the Brexit vote – may be contributing factors.

“The ‘Brexit’ vote and resulting fluctuation in the British pound has been incredibly favorable for American travelers, whether for leisure or business trips. While London has always been among the top international destinations on our list, this is further proof that travelers are very willing to adjust and seize upon a prime opportunity when there’s increased value in a particular destination,” states Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko.

“Domestically, Maui has long been among the most sought after destinations for American travelers, but had never surpassed Orlando, Las Vegas or New York City for the top spot. Because the Zika virus has had an impact on some individuals’ travel decisions, particularly those who are pregnant, Maui’s positioning has been bolstered by having no cases of locally-transmitted Zika.”

The rankings:

1. Maui, 34.1%
2. Orlando, 32.4%
3. New York City, 30.5%
4. Las Vegas, 28.0%
5. Cruise – Alaska, 25.5%
6. Los Angeles, 19.6%
7. Honolulu, 18.8%
8. San Francisco, 17.2%
9. Chicago, 14.2%
10. Washington, D.C., 12.4%

1. London, 31.0%
2. Cruise – Caribbean, 30.1%
3. Cancun, 29.1%
4. Rome, 23.2%
5. Paris, 17.7%
6. Cruise – Europe (river), 17.5%
7. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, 17.5%
8. Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean), 13.6%
9. Montego Bay, Jamaica, 10.8%
10. Florence/Tuscany, Italy, 10.0%

Seventy-nine percent of agents said booking were higher or on par with last year at this time and more than 72% were optimistic about their business for the remainder of the year.

Steak ‘n Shake to Shake Up Big Apple

Over 8 million New York City residents and its myriad visitors are getting a major awakening today — and it doesn’t involve New York Jets coach Rex Ryan verbally assaulting anyone. (Hooray!) Today, they’ll be privy to what Hoosiers have been enjoying for decades — the wonders of a Steak ‘n Shake steakburger.

Steak ‘n Shake®, one of the most beloved and longest established brands in the premium burger and milk shake segment of the restaurant industry, is introducing its first Steak ‘n Shake Signature® restaurant on January 12, in New York City, immediately next to the Ed Sullivan Theater in Times Square.

The new, contemporary Signature restaurant will be smaller in footprint than existing Steak ‘n Shake formats, and will feature a counter-service-only model with a simple menu, primarily serving popular core items such as Steakburgers(TM) and milk shakes.

In addition, the opening of the New York City location will debut "The Signature Steakburger(TM)" – a 6 ounce 100 percent USDA certified Organic Steakburger. The Signature Steakburger is made of only the top grade of the finest cuts of meat including ribeye and New York strip, devoid of preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics.

The restaurant also will feature thin ‘n crispy fries that are fresh, hand-cut daily in the restaurant, and created from the finest russet potatoes. The innovative concept will also feature beer and fine wine.

"Steak ‘n Shake Signature prepares 21st Century fare delivering only the finest in quality burgers, fries, and shakes," said Sardar Biglari, Chairman and CEO of Steak ‘n Shake. "The ambiance is unmatched. The architecture was designed for Signature to appear sleek, modern, exotic, inviting and suitable for everyone’s enjoyment."

Biglari continued, "There are a lot of consumers who grew up with Steak ‘n Shake but now reside in New York City. We are reconnecting with them as well as introducing the brand to all burger aficionados who seek authenticity and distinction in quality and taste. Restaurant-goers today are discerning — they want to know about the source and preparation of the food. We always strive to give our patrons the best in quality — and at the lowest possible prices. The Signature concept is unmatched because every item we are going to serve New Yorkers will be the finest: from our 100% organic Signature Steakburger to fresh-cut fries, and hand-dipped milkshakes — we simply do not compromise on quality."

NY See You Later! Many Young New Yorkers Plan to Leave Empire State

If you’ve even visited New York City, you know the cost of living is more than a smidge higher than anything you’ll find in Indiana. Part of that, of course, is because of taxes. But even outside of Manhattan, a lack of jobs is pushing residents of the suburbs — and upstate — to other parts of the country. According to a recent poll, many New Yorkers under 30 plan to flee the state soon. Here’s the report from the Daily News:

Escape from New York is not just a movie – it’s also a state of mind.

A new Marist College poll shows that 36% of New Yorkers under the age of 30 are planning to leave New York within the next five years – and more than a quarter of all adults are planning to bolt the Empire State.

The New York City suburbs, with their high property values and taxes, are leading the exodus, the poll found.

Of those preparing to leave, 62% cite economic reasons like cost of living, taxes – and a lack of jobs.

"A lot of people are questioning the affordability of the state," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

An additional 38% cite climate, quality of life, overcrowding, a desire to be closer to family, retirement or schools.

The latest census showed New York’s overall population actually increased, though parts of upstate shed population and jobs.

A full 53% think the worst is yet to come for the state’s economy, while 44% say things should start improving.

"As the state of the economy fails to recover, New Yorkers see this not as a sluggish rebound, but as a sluggish economy," Miringoff said.

During a visit to Buffalo yesterday, Gov. Cuomo yesterday said attracting and retaining jobs is a priority for his administration.

"We have to keep jobs here and we have to develop new jobs," he said. "And we want to start bringing back jobs from other parts of the country."

Bloomberg Takes on Gridlock in NYC: Well, He Has Ambition…

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tackled some tough issues during his tenure, but now he’s seriously considering taking on the city’s traffic problem, according to Newsweek. If you’ve ever been to the Big Apple, you’ll realize this task is about as easy as riding in a subway car with 150 people in July — and not coming out with your suit smelling like onions.

What’s interesting is that his solution is not to build more roads, but rather, shut some of them down:

In general terms, traffic is caused by too much demand (from vehicles) meeting too little supply (roads). One solution is to increase supply by building more roads. But that’s expensive, and demand from drivers tends to quickly overwhelm the new supply; today engineers acknowledge that building new roads usually makes traffic worse. Instead, economists have suggested reducing demand by raising the costs of driving in congested areas. The best-known example is the "congestion pricing" plan London implemented in 2003. Drivers now pay about $11 a day to drive in the central city. According to one study, the program has reduced traffic by 16 percent.

In 2007 Bloomberg proposed a congestion-pricing plan for New York, but last year state legislators rejected it as an elitist move. In response, Bloomberg began tinkering with the city’s roads in ways that required no legislative blessing. He banned vehicles from Park Avenue for three Saturdays in August 2008. He closed two lanes of traffic on Broadway below 42nd Street. "Bloomberg is taking the position that as long as it’s within the two curbs, it’s [city] property and he can decide how to use it," says Sam Schwartz, the city’s former traffic commissioner.

These pilot projects fit in with a larger counterintuitive theory that’s gaining traction with urban-planning wonks: that closing roads can reduce congestion. During the 1990s, a British transit engineer named Stephen Atkins read about how San Francisco congestion decreased, rather than increased, after an earthquake knocked out a key freeway. He observed the same phenomenon in other cities that closed roads, too. "In a lot of places, the traffic was not just displaced—a lot of it disappeared," he says. In a 1998 study he commissioned, researchers studied 60 cases of road reductions and found that when roads were closed, drivers took steps to avoid the area. In economic terms, closing roads raises the perceived costs of the trip (because drivers anticipate hassles), reducing demand.

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Tony Spataro for the article.