Lackluster travel forecast

Activity in the travel and tourism industry will be flat in 2010.

That was a key message coming out of the Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau's 2009 Travel Industry Outlook Annual Meeting on Friday at Exploration Place.

Go Wichita officials said about 225 people attended the meeting.

Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based Ypartnership and the meeting's keynote speaker, said leisure travel nationally will be down slightly and business travel will be unchanged.

"The forecast is partly cloudy with a few rays of sunshine," Yesawich said.

The challenge for Wichita then becomes how to make the most of attracting leisure and business travelers to the area.

"You have to be aggressive to get your share," he said.

Yesawich, whose firm produces the National Leisure Travel Monitor and the National Business Travel Monitor, said that between October and April, 53 percent of leisure travelers were planning a trip, down 3 percent from a year ago.

He said 18 percent of businesspeople were planning travel in that period, the same rate as a year ago.

"What's the horizon look like? Flat."

Yesawich said value is in vogue among travelers.

"In this environment, not all vacations are equal," he said.

Some cruise lines are offering deals so steeply discounted that they can compete with land-based recreation, he said. And that's a first.

"That's never happened before," Yesawich said.

He said travel marketers can use "flash marketing" to lure travelers in this value era. Flash marketing is a concept in which travelers are offered a deeply discounted airfare or hotel stay through an e-mail or text message, with the offer only good for a short time, such as 24 hours.

People are also spending fewer days on vacation because they have less leisure time. That means they want to make the most of the time they have, which could affect the distance they travel for vacation.

He encouraged marketers to focus their regional marketing efforts in a smaller radius because of travelers' time crunch.

Yesawich said one thing clearly in Wichita's favor in 2010 is the Intrust Bank Arena.

The arena will serve to be a "wonderful" draw regionally, especially in its inaugural year, he said.