NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Travel and leisure spending helped the global economy by $7.58 trillion last year, according to Statista.com and you can thank shifts in the economy, new technology, and contemporary parenting. These factors have had a measurable impact on the rapid and sustained growth of this travel segment, specifically how it is packaged, planned and paid for.

Lindsey Ueberroth, president and CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, which represents a diverse global portfolio of independent hotels and independent hotel experiences, told Jill Malandrino that there is a large U.S. baby boomer demographic now becoming grandparents, living longer and have more money to spend on travel with their families. This demographic is doubling at twice the rate as before, Ueberroth said.

While the grandparents are funding the trips, it's the millennial generation making 77% of the destination and 65% of activities decisions because they do all the research and use social media as a tool in that process. Social media exerts more influence than ever because the millennials do 70% of their research that way.

While social media is the platform for research, Ueberroth said most of the bookings occur with a travel agent. Domestically, Orlando, Fla., remains a top destination as well as national parks because that is a driving market and fuel prices are much lower now. Internationally, the Caribbean is always a hot destination and western Europe is popular with a cheaper euro and reasonable airfares.

Ueberroth says travel remained strong even during a downturn in the economy following the financial crisis, even though the luxury segment struggled a bit. As the economy started to improve, luxury rebounded sharply and the momentum is now off the charts.

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