There may never be a better year for Americans to travel overseas.
Or a busier one.
This opinion was expressed by scores of industry figures this week in a nationwide poll by The Times' Travel Section. As forecast in 1984, they predict another bullish year for international travel.
The explanation is simple: A strong dollar is expected to lure U.S. visitors to every continent on Earth during 1985. Europe in particular is being targeted by Americans. Already hotels across the Continent report heavy bookings. Some are full into the fall months.
The boom in travel extends around the world--to the South Seas, South America, Africa and Asia as well as Europe.
So while the strong dollar indicates huge bargains for Americans, the major obstacle will be crowded conditions, particularly in Europe.
One industry leader repeated his forecast of a year ago: The "sold out" sign almost certainly will appear in many European destinations by early summer.
Other industry leaders made these points:
--South America is experiencing a comeback, particularly Brazil, Peru and Equador.
--Canada can expect heavier traffic from the United States due to Heritage '85, which is being celebrated nationwide this year.
--Mexico, despite its recent adverse publicity, is looking for 5 million visitors and will be competing with Hawaii for the tourist dollar. (Area director Alberto Abdo of the Mexican Government Tourism Office said the number of foreign visitors to his country increased in 1984 by 27%).
--More and more Americans will be combining visits to China with trips to other countries in the Orient.
--The South Pacific will boom (especially Tahiti, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand).
--Cruising from the West Coast is expected to break all previous records in 1985.
--Movement to the Caribbean will be on the increase.
In New York, Eric Friedheim, publisher of Travel Agent Magazine, told The Times that Europe will be overrun by tourists even if the dollar weakens.
"Thousands of travelers have already paid for their trips," he said. "They are ready to go."
Friedheim reminded an interviewer that many Americans will visit Europe merely to take advantage of shopping bargains. Only last winter London's leading department store, Harrods, placed ads in the U.S. advising Americans that they could pay for their trips with the dollars saved on shopping sprees.
Besides the strong U.S. dollar, Friedheim attributes the European travel boom to lower air fares as well as dozens of low-cost travel packages.
"Americans," he said, "should have confirmed hotel reservations in Europe before leaving home. They probably won't sleep in the streets, but getting a room will be difficult."
This will extend even into the fall, Friedheim forecasts.
James Murphy, president of Brendan Tours, told of a two-week journey through Ireland during peak months that includes first-class hotels, most meals, sightseeing and entertainment for $728, which is $60 under the figure for 1983.
The same company is spotlighting a 10-day tour that takes in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Luxembourg and France for $448, and a 14-day escorted tour of Yugoslavia for $588. In both cases, air fare is extra.
At the low end of the scale, Brendan is promoting B&B tours of Britain for $29 a day that include a car. Another package features five nights in a hotel on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland with breakfast and dinner for $240.
Weeklong Tour of England
Meanwhile, Arthur Frommer has produced a one-week tour of England for $1,229 with round-trip airfare from Los Angeles.
For travelers starting early, CIF Tours International is bannering a one-week Ireland self-drive package for only $99. The offer, good until mid-April, features a car with unlimited mileage and accommodations in country homes and farmhouses.
Mexico tour operator Richard Gaona is promoting a one-week trip with air fare to Mazatlan for $410.
Another company, Euro Asia Express, is selling eight-day trips to Hong Kong for $635.
And both Wrightway and Ipanema Tours are providing seven-day land packages in Rio for under $200.
Other attractive packages:
--A tour of Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland (15 days) for $698.
--A 20-day swing through England, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and Greece for $1,148.
--An eight-day London Theater week, $259.
--A four-day Rhine cruise, $400.
--Seventeen days featuring Spain and Morocco, $798.
Sunbeam Tours of Costa Mesa is booking a 20-day New Zealand/Australia tour that prices out to $1,949, including airfare and free home pickup.
One of the season's thriftier buys is a 15-day tour of Spain/Portugal offered by Singleworld that takes in Lisbon, the Algarve, Seville, Torremolinos, Granada, Toledo and Madrid for $535.