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Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '08: Travel trends and product report

Although many travel companies promised big things to come for Summer Market '08, they still had a few new things to show off at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008.

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The SNEWS® trade show reporting team, which was 15 editors strong thanks to the addition of our Backpacker magazine comrades, scampered around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out or you cry Uncle. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned — we do know you love your company’s product, really. However, we’re only covering product that stood out to us, so if you’re not mentioned we either didn’t think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result — you pick one. With that in mind, here’s our take on trends and new products for Travel.

Despite the fact that domestic airlines delays in ’07 were the second worst on record and there was evidence of thrifty spending by American families, the travel industry is predicting a 5.2-percent increase in travel spending for 2008.

The Travel Industry Association (TIA) reported the U.S. travel industry will post moderate gains in nearly all sectors again in 2008, according to its annual forecast. Travel-spending by domestic and international visitors in 2008 is forecast to increase 5.2 percent, to $778.2 billion, up from projected full-year 2007 travel spending of $740 billion, which would be a 5.7 percent increase over 2006.

While experts say Americans may take shorter trips in 2008 or choose destinations closer to home where their dollar goes further, they will still travel. The most recent consumer study from The Conference Board, the organization behind the Consumer Confidence Index, found 45.8 percent of Americans intend to take a vacation within six months, down just a tad from 46.4 percent a year ago.

Domestic leisure trips are expected to continue an upward trend of modest growth in 2008, climbing 2 percent to 1.6 billion trips, TIA said. Domestic leisure trips are expected to finish 2007 up 2.5 percent over last year.

Domestic travel could benefit from the weak dollar and other trends. Although reported international hot spots for ’08 include Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, Beijing and Italy, guidebook publisher Lonely Planet’s No. 1 destination pick for 2008 is most telling — the United States — with an emphasis on national parks and Hawaii.

The National Park system got a 1.3-percent bump in recreation visits from January-September 2007 as 223.7 million folks filed through the parks. That equaled about 2.8 million more visitors than in 2006. Among the biggest gainers were Yellowstone, up 284,000 visits, and Yosemite, up 234,000 visits.

Statistics for travel beyond the U.S. are a mixed bag. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Travel & Tourism Industries said 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.

While trips to Latin America and spa vacations are expected to be all the rage in 2008, other notable travel trends include:

>> Volunteer vacations — also known as volunteerism — continue to be a growing trend, especially popular among baby boomers. As the name implies, they combine volunteering with vacation and have been on the rise since 9/11.

>> With no special training required, expeditionary travel lets the average Joe and Jane help researchers and conservationists in the field.

>> Family adventure vacations allow family bonding with an emphasis on nature, cultural interaction, education and active travel. Think dude ranches, houseboat rentals, whitewater rafting, horse pack trips and trail rides.

>> “Climate sightseeing” trips allow travelers to see phenomena threatened by climate change — a way to relish these wonders while they still exist in their current form. Travelers have been checking out glaciers in Alaska and polar bears in Manitoba, Canada, but Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa has been a recent hot destination because of its melting glacier.

What’s new at Winter Market ’08

Although many companies promised big things to come for Summer Market ’08, they still had a few new things to show off at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008.

>> Eagle Creek: Saving its big product launches for summer, Eagle Creek still kept busy working on a new brand message and tinkering with various accessory categories. Shifting to a more aspirational travel message in an effort to update how it conveys the travel experience message to consumers, it switched its motto from “Making travel easier” to “Inspired by travel.” Eagle Creek’s Stasia Raines told SNEWS®, “We’re still focused on making travel easier, making the best products and offering the best warranties. We can do all that and also still speak to those things about travel that really motivates all of us.”

In its updated undercover security line, Eagle Creek is incorporating design details into the new MicroFlex neck and waist pockets you usually see from apparel companies: no-stitch zipper technology and moisture-wicking, antimicrobial material. Designed to wear discretely under clothing, each pocket (MSRP $24-$30) weighs about 2 ounces and is form fitting. “Travelers are more active. They need flexible, small and convenient products,” Raines said. The company’s new Comfort Plus pillows are inflatable with a layer of Primaloft stuffing, offering what the company calls Dual Support Technology. The Comfort Plus Neck pillow (MSRP $35) has an earplug pouch with a set of earplugs, and the Comfort Plus Transit pillow (MSRP $25) folds into its own pocket.

Eagle Creek revisited the Day Travelers day bag collection, looking at security in a new way and making the styling a bit more feminine. Shoulder bags, like the Vagabond (MSRP $65), have the opening on the back of the bag closer to the body rather than the traditional front flap opening. Available in neutral colors, Day Travelers bags all come with a toggle system on the zippers that tighten down to keep sticky fingers out, and have a revised travel-focused organization panel that can hold electronics including a GPS.

>> JanSport: With little to report for winter, JanSport staff hinted to us there was a spring ’09 collection that takes cues from its Adrenaline backpack series – designed for fast motion with a motocross influence. We hear it’ll be targeted at the mature (college age – that’s mature, right? OK, don’t answer that) male consumer and have a rugged but less outdoor look. Its All Terra travel collection will also be updated.

>> Keen:
The Hybrid Transport line of shoulder bags, daypacks, totes and duffel bags from Keen boast recycled rubber bottoms, aluminum components and interior liners. It offered up the new Redmond duffel (MSRPs $70-$80) in two sizes; on the smallish side, they’re good for stashing souvenirs collected on a trip. Expanding on the eco theme prevalent in the overall line, it debuted the Harvest collection (MSRP $10-$70) with two shoulder bags and two totes made of reclaimed rice bags, recycled rubber and aluminum. The rice bags serve as the fabric for the body of the totes and feature writing and graphics from the rice companies who originally used them.

>> Mountain Hardwear: Expanding the travel line it launched in summer ’07, Mountain Hardwear added a couple notable pieces on opposite ends of the spectrum size-wise. Initially a promotional piece for media, the PR Bag (MSRP $45) is now being produced for the masses. Compact in size, the 300-cubic-inch shoulder bag has an internal organizer for various electronic gadgets for travelers on the go. The Juggernaut Expedition Duffel (MSRP $350) comes with wheels and is fairly bare bones, so it can do its primary job — haul gear. Made of durable HardWear Tarp and nylon materials, it has a 9,150-cubic-inch capacity, so if users stuff it to capacity, they shouldn’t be surprised if they exceed an airline’s weight limits.

>> Mountainsmith: For the camera enthusiasts, Mountainsmith now has a sling-style camera pack that carries full-size SLR camera bodies, up to three lenses and accessories. The Sideline II (MSRP $70-$80), available in small and medium sizes, has a sling style shoulder strap with dual zip side access to the main compartment, as well as a top access media pocket, large front pocket and mesh side pocket. It also comes with a removable storm cover. The medium size has additional storage capacity for a larger DSLR body and lenses. The company also expanded its Modular Hauler storage systems to include the K9 cube (MSRP $50) for four-legged travelers. The R&D folks have thought of everything: a drop-down food tray with collapsible food and water bowls attached with Velcro, removable food container, interior divider for organization, and a top pocket with a slit to access doggie doo-doo bags. Rover never had it so good!

>> Ojai: Known for its lifestyle apparel, Ojai is branching out a wee-bit with a small collection of bags that are truly unique. The Eco Plastic bag line is made of plastic bags rescued from India’s overwhelmed landfills. Local women go to the landfills, pick through the trash for the bags and clean them at home. Then the bags are compressed together into a flexible plastic-like fabric in bright, striped colors. Handy for travelers are the messenger bag, travel pouch and tote (MSRP $17-$54). A wallet and yoga mat bag (MSRP $32-$50) are also available.

>> OlovesM: We’re not sure how many people get divine inspiration when doing yoga poses, but OlovesM’s owner Merle O’Brien can thank the downward dog pose for her company. While in class, she wondered what happened to yoga mats that were no longer used. Her research found a lot of mats get tossed into landfills, so she made it her mission to lighten their footprint by making them into bags, totes, clutches, purses and, naturally, a yoga mat bag. O’Brien also uses upholstery and fabric scraps that would have been thrown away to create select bags with additional style pizzazz. You can organize travel accessories, toiletries, cosmetics, etc., in the Eco-Mini, Cosmo or Mailbox Bag (MSRP $12-$45). For bigger loads, check out the large, unlined tote called the Merle Bag (MSRP $50-$60).

>> Osprey: Osprey is wearing its green consciousness on its sleeve…or its pack strap, that is. All the bags in its ReSource series are made from a minimum of 70-percent recycled materials by content — and the exact percentage of recycled materials by weight is stamped on each pack. Now loyal Osprey pack owners can expand their lifestyle/travel bag “wardrobe” to include these eco-conscious bags for everyday use. New for fall are two daypacks, three shoulder bags and two couriers — some boasting close to 90-percent recycled materials by weight. The Veer caught our eye as an ideal piece for scooting around town at home or abroad. The petite shoulder bag (MSRP $69) holds the necessities — wallet, phone, MP3 player, camera, and also offers organizer pockets and a water bottle holder.

>> Pacsafe: To be a true “travel” company, Pacsafe was told it had to have a toiletry bag. It put its own safety spin on the Secure a Toilet bag (MSRP $39) by incorporating a hard-to-find secret pocket for valuables and locking strap to dissuade snoopy hostel roommates and maids. Pacsafe is considering two sizes and plans to launch it in October. For the flashpacking (click here to read our 2006 story on flashpacking if you’re not sure what this is) crowd, it’s offering two shoulder bags (MSRP $79-$99) designed to hold all your tech-savvy gadgets with various padded pockets and has a next-to-body opening for added security. It’s also working on a see-through top pocket for solar panel compatibility to power all those electronic toys, and considering more sizes. The company is also working on a business line of bags for spring ’09.

>> Rickshaw Bags: You may not know the president’s name, but you know the company he helped put on the map. Mark Dwight, formerly the president of Timbuk2, has started a new messenger bag company called Rickshaw Bags. With a soft launch at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Rickshaw is planning a big splash at the TED Conference in Monterey, Calif., at the end of February where it will give each of the 1,000 or so attendees a bag.

A bit more fashion forward to differentiate it from the messenger bag pack, Rickshaw is incorporating upholstery fabrics, embroidery and multiple customization possibilities into its bag designs. The folks at Rickshaw tell us they have about 1,600 unique color combinations available. The bags have clean lines, incorporate various eco-friendly materials, offer a padded computer slot and organizational pockets, and there are plans to develop a range of removable inserts. Being a fashion maven, though, comes with a price: $120-$200.

>> Victorinox Swiss Army: Victorinox released the next generation of its Mobilizer NXT 4.0 line. Updates include the use of high-density 2,100-denier ballistic nylon, revised organizational panels, and a longer handle system that reaches 43 inches in height on wheeled bags. The collection has a wide selection of pieces including wheeled uprights, garment bags, duffels, travel kits and totes (MSRP $65-$550). Also, the company said wheeled bags in the Werks Traveler 3.0 collection are 30 percent lighter than competitors through the use of re-engineered components, lighter materials and new designs.