SOURCE: United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)

December 11, 2008 11:00 ET

Italy Keeps Lead in Annual USTOA Poll

Latin America, National Parks & West Score in Member Survey

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - December 11, 2008) - Americans continue to favor Italy, according to the U.S. Tour Operators Association (http://www.ustoa.com/), whose members send 11 million people a year on vacation packages and tours. In USTOA's annual informal polling of member companies, Italy -- for the sixth consecutive year -- placed as the top international country for 2008 as well as the top destination overall for packaged travel.

New for 2008 in the hottest international destination category, Egypt ranked a distant second to Italy. Latin America, for the first time, was the most popular international region, and Rome was cited as the top international city.

Domestically, Americans go west and outdoors

Mirroring the growing trend toward more outdoor and adventure travel, as well as interest in the environment, the most popular U.S. regions for packaged travel were the West to the Rockies, and the National Parks. Number two was Alaska, followed by Las Vegas, Nevada.

China offers best value

China overwhelmingly registered as the best value, followed by Egypt and Mexico. Beijing was voted the best value for a city or region.

Middle East is hottest up-and-coming area

The Middle East as a region -- particularly Egypt, Jordan and Israel -- placed first as the hottest up-and-coming area for tours and packages. China, which continues to grow in terms of tourism, ranked second.

"China has been on the rise for several years now, but the Middle East as a hot up-and-coming area is no surprise to those of us who know these countries. Now that the Middle East has been relatively peaceful, increasing numbers of people are discovering the rich history and natural attractions of Egypt, Jordan and Israel," notes USTOA president Bob Whitley.

Survey results were based on responses from 50 brands, representing 80% of USTOA's corporate members.

For more information and a listing of USTOA member companies by destination, visit www.ustoa.com or www.ustoa.travel. Or phone 1-800-GO-USTOA (1-800-468-7862).