Here are some of the hot spots, trends and statistics for travel in the new year.
U.S. Tour Operators Association: For the fifth straight year, Italy placed first as the most popular international destination for vacation packages and tours, according to an annual informal poll of USTOA member companies. Croatia, followed by China, were the hottest up-and-coming countries for tours and packages.
Yahoo Travel: Yahoo Travel's biggest domestic "Movers & Shakers" — destinations that got the biggest increase in page views in Yahoo Travel Guides — were Lancaster, Pa., Ocean City, N.J., South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Wildwood, N.J., Helen, Ga., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Lonely Planet: Top 10 destinations for 2008, according to a survey of the guidebook publisher's U.S. staffers, are the U.S., with an emphasis on national parks and Hawaii; Mexico, with an emphasis on Mexico City and the Pacific Coast; Argentina; Japan; India and Canada (tied); Australia and China (tied); Spain and France.
JWT top travel trends: Top trends identified by JWT (formerly J. Walter Thompson), the largest ad agency in the U.S.: "Staycations," where travelers stay closer to home and take long weekends instead of weeks away; cruising; volunteer vacations; climate sightseeing (visits to see phenomena threatened by climate change); couch-surfing (using the Internet to find strangers who will put you up in their home when you travel); medical tourism; babymoons (where couples take a vacation before their first baby arrives); and "trans-entertainment" (Wi-Fi transportation making it easier to watch videos or surf the Web while traveling).
National parks: The National Park system received 223.7 million recreation visits January-September 2007, a 1.3 percent increase or 2.8 million more visits than in 2006. The biggest gains were seen in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (in California, up 437,000 recreational visits); the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, up 281,000 visits); Lincoln Memorial (in Washington, up 324,000 visits); the National World War II Memorial (in Washington, up 245,000 visits); Yellowstone (in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, up 284,000 visits) and Yosemite (in California, up 234,000 visits).
Outbound travel statistics: According to the U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, air travel by U.S. citizens January-September 2007 was up 2 percent to Europe; down 3.1 percent to the Caribbean; up 8.6 percent to Asia; up 7.6 percent to South America; up 8 percent to Central America; and down 3.4 percent to Canada. (Source: Top five destinations for U.S. residents traveling abroad in 2006, the most recent year for which figures by country were available, were Mexico (down 3 percent from 2005); Canada (down 4 percent); the United Kingdom (down 14 percent); France (up 1 percent); and Italy (up 8 percent).