Travel industry experts are in agreement on one thing: Consumers will be paying more for airline seats, hotel rooms, and rental cars this summer. Rising fuel costs have led some analysts to revise their forecasts, but they all predict travelers’ wallets will be lighter than in 2010.
Here's what to expect:
• Airfares. Whether you're looking short-term or long-term, prepare to pay more for an airline seat this year. For spring vacations, the "fareologists" at Bing Travel estimate the average ticket price will be 10.5 percent higher than in 2010. American Express notes that domestic ticket prices rose "significantly" in 2010—up 21 percent in economy and 39 percent in business class—and recently predicted airfares are "likely to remain on an upward trend" this year. Similarly, Advito's 2011 Industry Forecast calls for economy class increases of 7 percent within North America and 6 percent internationally. Earlier this month, the International Air Transport Association revised its 2011 worldwide forecast due to rising oil prices, but still predicted better revenues for North American carriers, which translates into higher fares.
• Hotels. STR, a leading hotel industry analysis firm, predicts good news for the lodging industry this year, which means higher prices for you: Average daily rates will increase by 6.8 percent (up to $109.16). Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers also forecasts average daily rates will increase this year, by 5.1 percent. American Express also predicts that rates for non-business travelers will rise this year as well.
• Car rentals. There's mixed news here. On the one hand, American Express predicts base rates will remain the same this year, or might even decline by as much as 2 percent due to excess inventory. However, Amex also notes: "Higher cancellation charges and new taxes and fees could drive the actual price per trip higher."
—William J. McGee