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Fuel prices could play spoilsport for travel industry

business Updated: Mar 04, 2011 00:18 IST
Patricia Reaney

After a slump due to the recession, the travel industry is booming again but any rebound could be threatened by a fuel price rise, travel experts said.

The mood was buoyant at the New York Times Travel show last week, which featured 500 destinations in 150 countries, but tensions in North Africa and the Middle East, soaring crude oil prices and airline fare hikes were making headlines as travel agents and tourist officials publicised their destinations.

United, Continental, American, Delta and US Airways announced recent fare increases and travel experts fear more are still to come. “The big trend that is about to hit us is the rise in the price of oil. It is going to underlie everything,” travel writer Pauline Frommer said.

“If oil goes higher there is no way the cost of tickets isn’t going to skyrocket.”

For author and European travel expert Rick Steves indication is that things are on the uptake. In a good year 12 million Americans set off for Europe but even in hard times the region attracts 10 million Americans, Steves said. Italy is the European destination of choice for Americans, and Paris is the favourite city. And despite its political woes, travel to Ireland is also strong.

The biggest indicator of good times for experts is a rise in the number of travelers booking 90 days in advance, which has seen impressive growth.