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Bankers’ top trip list

South Africa, by Brian Jewell

Alaska tops bankers’ domestic trip list
From the looks of bank travel programs, 2013 has been a great year to enjoy America, and 2014 will also be. No less than 50 major destinations received multiple mentions in our directory surveys this year, with a dozen or so tying for spots in the top five; another dozen rounded out the second five most popular trips for 2013-2014.

“Every region of the country is represented in this all-star cast of destinations,” said Bank Travel Management publisher Mac Lacy. “Our bank surveys yielded a group that moves from coast to coast across the lower 48 states and places the ever-popular 49th and 50th states up near the very top. This list could easily comprise someone’s red-white-and-blue bucket list if they decided to put one together.”

Alaska was ranked the most popular choice this year, followed by Branson, Missouri, and New York City and state in a tie for second. Third place went to Hawaii and South Dakota with an emphasis on the Black Hills. Fourth place was shared by Nashville, Tennessee, a standard favorite for many banks and two trending choices, the California coast and the Mississippi River including New Orleans as seen from the American Queen riverboat.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta earned the distinction of being the only event in the top five, as it tied with Michigan and Mackinac Island, and the state of Wisconsin for fifth-place mentions.

“Kudos to the American Queen for quickly putting river boating on the Mississippi back into the upper echelon of American travel choices,” said Lacy. “And congratulations as well to Albuquerque for its hot-air-ballooning event that lasts only a week but draws as many mentions as many year-round destinations do.”

The second five American destinations include some major players as well. No less than seven destinations tied for sixth place in the survey. Arizona and the Grand Canyon; New England and its fall foliage; Chicago; Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.; Tennessee; Western national parks; and four favorites from Pennsylvania — Penn Dutch country, Hershey, Gettysburg and Philadelphia — all shared that distinction.

Tying for seventh for 2013-2014 were the Pacific Northwest; the scenic triumvirate of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard; and Montana and its Western Sky Country.

[Top spots in international travel]

Southern Africa claims top spot in International Travel
America’s banks made southern Africa the No. 1 destination this year based on the 2013/14 Bank Travel Membership and Conference Attendee Directory, published in July. When taken as a group, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa topped the list of international destinations on the schedule for travel bank groups, followed closely by Italy, then Ireland.

“This emergence of African countries to the top of the bucket list for bank travelers this year is not too surprising when you look at past years’ patterns,” said Bank Travel Management publisher Mac Lacy. “This is the same group that rated Cuba very highly last year when that country became available to American travelers. Bank groups are adventurous and are leaders, as opposed to followers, when it comes to group travel trends. Tour companies have obviously done a good job of creating demand for African destinations this year.”

After southern Africa, Italy and Ireland, several international destinations shared the next few spots on the travel list. The British Isles, Panama cruises and Cuba tied for the fourth-most mentions for upcoming trips. Tying for fifth place on the list were three very familiar countries or trip types: Switzerland, the Canadian Rockies and Caribbean cruises.

“There are some real tried-and-true destinations here in these next few spots,” said Lacy. “With the exception of Cuba, which is still a newcomer to this group, destinations like the British Isles, Switzerland and the Canadian Rockies are always going to rank highly with bank travelers. These are places you can return to time and time again — they are iconic places to visit, and they are likely to sell well any time you offer them.”

Interestingly enough, three distinct river cruise products all tied for sixth place for most mentions in the survey. The Danube; the Rhine, including Germany as a country; and Russian river cruises all received the same number of mentions by the banks participating.

Rounding out the list of countries that got multiple mentions by America’s banks this year were the following:

Seventh place — Nova Scotia; France, including Normandy and Paris; Australia and New Zealand; and the South American countries of Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina, when taken as a group.

Eighth place — Scandinavia, Jamaica and the Baltics.

Ninth place — China, Mediterranean cruises, Eastern Europe and the Black Sea.