Tourism is expected to bounce back this year

A national travel and tourism expert confirmed Friday that the travel business is on the mend.

But he also told the approximately 120 people attending a Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau luncheon that leisure travelers are going to become even more important in the travel industry.

The luncheon was part of Go Wichita's recognition of National Travel and Tourism Week. It was held at the National Center for Aviation Training.

During the luncheon, Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of the Ypartnership in Orlando, Fla., told the audience of city officials, hoteliers and restaurateurs that people across the country are planning more travel this summer.

That's based off of a quarterly survey of 2,300 U.S. households that's done by Yesawich's firm and the U.S. Travel Association. Results of the survey are compiled into the Traveler Sentiment Index.

The index comprises measures such as affordability of travel, interest in travel and money available for travel.

Speaking on a conference call with slides projected onto a large screen, Yesawich told the luncheon group that the index rose to 95.2 in February, up from 91 in the same period in 2010.

"That's roughly where it was back in the spring of '07," Yesawich said.

According to the survey, he said, 59 percent of U.S. adults expect to travel for leisure by July. A year ago that figure was 56 percent, he said.

He said trends suggest that the future of the travel industry will be shaped by leisure travelers, not business travelers.

And because of the recession, leisure travelers have become more thrifty.

"The new mantra for the consumer and traveler today is the new frugal," Yesawich said.