And the survey says…travel sales and travel in general rebounding with gusto

Its confidence boosted by recent surveys as well as travel spending reports from the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), Eagle Creek has reported the company, along with its dealers, expects double-digit growth over the next eight to 12 months.
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Its confidence boosted by recent surveys as well as travel spending reports from the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), Eagle Creek has reported the company, along with its dealers, expects double-digit growth over the next eight to 12 months.

The Travel Industry Association (TIA), for example, reports the following:

  • An increase in domestic air RPMs (revenue passenger miles) by 7 percent from March 2004.
  • International air RPMs in March jumped 14.9 percent from 12 months earlier.
  • Travel spending by U.S. residents is expected to rise by 5 percent in 2005, bringing domestic spending on travel to $551.6 billion.
  • There will be a 2.3 percent increase in leisure travel with 328 million leisure person-trips scheduled during June, July and August. A person-trip is one person traveling 50 or more miles, one-way, from home.
  • However, while the number of trips is up, the duration is down, from 7.6 nights last summer to 7 nights this summer.
  • The top three planned activities this summer will be visiting friends and family (75 percent), going to a beach or lake (70 percent), or visiting small towns or rural areas (64 percent).
  • 17 percent of travelers plan to use an RV, while 16 percent say they are going to an all-inclusive resort.

Shifting from a focus on the consumers, an April 2005 Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)/Michigan State University trade study revealed the following from surveying 117 adventure travel businesses:

  • 63 percent of respondents believe adventure travel is gaining recognition and popularity compared with only 29 percent in 1997.
  • 50 percent of the adventure travel businesses believe their clients will spend more this year, and when combined with the 47 percent who believe their clients will spend the same as last year, a rosy picture is painted for spending.
  • When asked to rate a level of optimism regarding the business outlook for 2005, 79 percent reported feeling quite optimistic.

And, rounding out the numbers, Eagle Creek has surveyed its dealers each year in May for the last three years asking them essentially the same questions about the state of business. During the past two years, business reports have shown the travel category to be essentially flat. However, this year, 83 percent of the retailers responding stated that their travel business would be up double digits over last year.

In addition, Eagle Creek surveys its consumers, and this year, when asked about travel intentions, the percentage responding to the statement, "I intend on traveling more this year," jumped from 44 percent to 54 percent. Adam Ziegelman, marketing director for Eagle Creek, told SNEWS® that between 700 and 900 consumers respond to the survey each year.

Buoyed by these consistent, favorable indicators, Eagle Creek is bolstering its infrastructure in design, sales, marketing and customer service, and adding news positions to handle current and anticipated growth. The Eagle Creek design team has introduced two new in-house design and product development positions, marketing is hiring for a new brand manager position, and customer service is filling entry-level customer service/sales positions.

"We have things really in our favor now," said Ziegelman. "We have great product. Consumer demand for travel and travel-related products is up. Retailers are recognizing travel as a hub activity. And on top of all that, we have promotions at retail to keep the Eagle Creek brand on the front burner, or at the very least in the minds of both the retail staff and the consumers this summer."

And Ziegelman believes those promotions will generate a lot of buzz. In June and July 2005, Eagle Creek will be promoting a trip give-away Brazil sweepstakes program with its retail partners that benefits both consumers and retail sales associates. From August to September, Eagle Creek will be offering a $25 rebate on any Eagle Creek product purchase when any round-trip ticket is purchased at Travelocity.com. Both promotions will be marketed heavily at retail as well as in print with its partner Outside magazine, and online at Travelocity, Outside and Eagle Creek.

Also aiding Eagle Creek is the change in the airline business climate, with more airlines cutting services to trim costs.

"USA Today says we have the best travel pillow on the market, and that doesn't hurt business when airlines are dropping pillows and blankets. We also have great earplugs and eyeshades ready to go," said Ziegelman.

Weight restrictions, on the minds of many travelers these days and garnering lots of press both here and abroad, is making Eagle Creek's practice of printing the weight of its bags on the POP materials and hangtags seem downright brilliant.

SNEWS® View: Eagle Creek is grinning from ear-to-ear right now, and it should be. Several years ago, the country was immersed in the middle of, excuse the over-used phrase, a perfect storm of travel killers. There was the war in Iraq, the economy was all over the board, SARS was making headlines, and if that weren't enough, there was a little matter of a national election to deal with. Now, while there is still a war in Iraq (we know, the President says it is NOT a war, but puleeze, who's he kidding?) and the economy isn't exactly roaring along, things have gotten more predictable, and Americans predictably like predictable. More importantly, for Americans, being able to travel is considered a right and the demand has been building for some time now. So, while gas prices are high, and the international and economic pictures are not really rosy, they are stable enough and that is all the good news travel-hungry U.S. citizens need to see.

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