Travel Agent Lawton Roberts has his predictions for travel in 2013 and they don't look cheap.
In this handout from the U.S. Coast Guard, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph sits idle February 11, 2013 in the Gulf of Mexico. (Paul McConnell/U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)
SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- "2013 is going to be more expensive. Prices are up," travel agent Lawton Roberts said. More consolidation from the airlines, increased demand and higher fuel prices will lead to higher costs.
But top of mind, how will the Carnival Triumph disaster affect prices and will the industry change in response? "I think it's going to create more regulation from governmental organizations. Not necessarily more regulations because more regulations isn't always the answer but more oversight is needed," Roberts said.
"That ship drifted over 100 miles purely as a result of the wave currents and wind. That's a very dangerous situation and had it occured off the coast of New England it could have been disaster. It could have run aground against the rocks and we could have had another Costa Event."
Because of the Costa ship wreck off the coast of Italy, prices in the Mediterranean have stayed down in order to fill their ships. In some cases offering 2 for 1's and free air. Will that be the case for Carnival in the Caribbean? Lawton says probably not.
"I think there will be a short term effect in reducing prices but it will be very short. Prices across the board are still up year over year," he said. Lawton also says that because of the Costa incident, many people decided to cruise in Alaska instead, causing prices to go up there.
If you don't have any problems going on a Carnival cruise, given what has happened, Roberts recommends you wait. Because of spring break, many cruises for March and April were already booked before last week's incident.
Waiting for the shoulder season of very late April and May might be your best bet to save money. "They're going to watch those very closely and see if they can fill them up. If later bookings drop than you'll see (sales) come out," he said.
Roberts does think prices will drop for Carnival cruises only. It's just a question of how much and how long. And there may be some changes to future safety because of what happened he said. "I guarantee you Carnival is looking at every single ship. Every single engine room.
Every similar design of the fuel source to the engine to ensure that a similar incident doesn't happen anytime soon." But what about if you need a flight to get to that cruise? Expect to pay more!
The recent announced merger between American Airlines and US Airways will continue the trend of higher fares and fewer seats Roberts said. He says to expect "a further strengthening of prices which is only going to help the airlines, not the consumer. And a gradual increase in fares," he said.
And Roberts said airlines are getting bolder and bolder as to what they will charge. "Everything is sticking because they have the power in the absence of competition... The consumer has the ultimate power to try to use a different carrier (but) if they're all doing the same thing where's the power."
Roberts also says that so far Southwest's entrance into the Atlanta market hasn't had that much of an effect. "In fact they are very slowly melding their operation with AirTran and because people liked AirTran, they liked what AirTran offered as a competitor here in Atlanta, they are not as ept to just take that away right away."
And a newly emerging trend in the travel industry is a slight shift away from third party internet booking sites and towards mobile Apps. "Mobile technology is driving a lot of this. Mobile booking capability on your smart phones and on your tablets," Roberts said. He says Travel suppliers have all caught up with what third party sites technology wise and in some cases have even surpassed them.
Nearly all hotels, airlines, cruise companies and rental car businesses have their own Apps putting more power right in the hands of consumer's. "The current trend among hoteliers is to guarantee everyone whose interested in their property that they can get the best deal by booking directly through that hotel," Roberts said.
What are some of Roberts best picks for 2013? He says look for all inclusive deals in the Caribbean. And he also says to look out for the growing market of all inclusive vacation charters. But just about no matter how you spend your vacation dollars this year, your going to spend more.