It’s been said that, to Americans, a vacation is a birthright, and the results of the new “Portrait Of American Travelers” survey clearly confirm this.
This new survey reveals that, the Great Recession notwithstanding, American travelers took an average of four trips for leisure purposes during the past 12 months (comparable to the average number taken in previous years). But they were far more resourceful in their pursuit of affordable fares and rates on those trips.
The survey, co-authored by Ypartnership and Harrison Group, polled just over 2,500 U.S. households in February 2010. And the results augur well for the travel industry: a slightly higher percentage of travelers plan to take more (16%) than fewer (14%) leisure trips in the year ahead. Among affluent households with an annual income greater than $125,000, fully 20 percent plan to take more trips (versus nine percent planning to take fewer). Those planning fewer trips cited concerns about their household budget and reductions in discretionary spending as the primary reasons why.
Reasons for cutting back on travel next year:
- Household budget concerns/cutting back on discretionary spending (54%).
- Concerned about economy/own job (39%).
- Airfares are too expensive/costs too much (36%).
- Travel in general is too expensive/costs too much (33%).
- Gas prices are too high (20%).
- No time/too busy (14%).
- Can’t get time off from work (11%).
- Need/want to do some projects I have been putting off at home (11%).
But the overwhelming majority of leisure travelers (67%) plan to take the same number of trips this year than last. They have a renewed sense of confidence in their ability to maneuver the financial uncertainty that still prevails, and moderated their shopping and consumption behavior accordingly:
- 86% agree: “These difficult times have helped me to focus on the things that matter most in my life.”
- 86% agree: “I have done a good job of making my household more fiscally responsible.”
- 79% agree: “I have become a much smarter shopper thanks to today’s economic situation.”
They have done so through their relentless pursuit of “deals” and “special offers,” trading down and a growing willingness to wait for goods and services to go on sale before making a booking.
Currently doing versus a year ago:
- Using coupons/direct offers – 36% doing more, 5% doing less.
- Waiting for items to go on sale – 35% doing more, 3% doing less.
- Purchasing generic brands – 28% doing more, 5% doing less.
- Shopping online – 26% doing more, 11% doing less.
- Shopping at discount stores – 24% doing more, 7% doing less.
- Purchasing with credit cards – 12% doing more, 27% doing less.
- Buying exclusive brands – 3% doing more, 33% doing less.
- Shopping at malls – 4% doing more, 38% doing less.
Not surprisingly, their preferred “tools” for managing the process include some of the latest advancements in online travel-planning technology that permit users to comparison shop fares and rates at will, including well-established online travel agencies and new “meta search” engines that aggregate fares and rates from multiple travel-service supplier websites.
“Tools” typically used to book travel:
- An online travel agency site such as Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz (66%).
- A branded travel service supplier site such as AA.com, Hilton.com, or Hertz.com (48%).
- A meta search site such as Kayak.com or Dealbase.com (15%).
Although the “new resourcefulness” of consumers suggests that value will remain in vogue when it comes to vacations for months to come, the trend is reassuring to many travel service suppliers as it reaffirms, once again, that to most consumers a vacation is truly a birthright. Most Americans are simply not prepared to relinquish that sacred time away from work each year, even if it means they have to look a little harder and wait a little longer to find the right deal.
The ongoing recession and tight credit will continue to affect RV sales in 2009, according to the latest research of economist Richard Curtin, director of Consumer Surveys at the University of Michigan.
In his Summer issue of Roadsigns, which is prepared for members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), Curtin said RV shipments are expected to decline to 136,500 units this year. While this estimate is well below his forecast of 186,600 issued last November, it is a slight improvement from his forecast that appeared in the Spring 2009 Issue of Roadsigns, when he estimated total shipments this year would retreat to 130,100 units
Curtin will expand upon his latest forecast as one of the featured speakers at RVIA’s Committee Week, which gets underway today in Washington, D.C.
“They (shipments) reached a lowpoint in the first quarter of 2009, and can be expected to begin posting small seasonally adjusted gains in the balance of 2009 and into 2010,” Curtin stated. First-quarter shipments totaled 30,400, off 63% from the first quarter of 2008.
“The gains will be focused on conventional travel trailers during the next year or so, although all types of RVs will improve,” he said.
Further, he stated, “The recession is expected to end by the close of 2009 due to the favorable impact of the stimulus package and the revival of more normal credit conditions. Unfortunately, the recovery is expected to be abnormally slow. The economic outlook still remains quite uncertain, which has clouded prospects for the RV industry as well.”
“The pace of the recovery in RV sales,” Curtin continued, “will be slowed by the shift in priorities among consumers away from spending and toward debt repayment and the building of savings and reserve funds, including their diminished retirement accounts. Although credit will not be as free-flowing as in the past, RV buyers are excellent credit risks and can be expected to return to the market.”
By segment, Curtin offered these shipments forecasts for 2009:
- Travel trailers, 82,600.
- Fifth-wheels, 29,500.
- Folding camping trailers, 10,900.
- Truck campers, 2,000.
- Class A motorhomes, 5,400.
- Class B motorhomes, 900.
- Class C motohomes, 5,200.
Uncertainty Clouds RV Forecast
Curtin concluded with the observation that his forecast bears some uncertainty. He said, “When the economy finally reaches the bottom of its cycle, the initial phase of the recovery is typically anticipated to be as rapid as the descent into recession. That’s a natural assumption since it mirrors the typical cyclical pattern of the past.
” The current recession, however, is hardly typical as it involved a virtual freeze of credit markets and the deepest and longest decline in production and income during the past half century. The full restoration of normal credit flows will be a painstakingly slow and uneven process.
“Moreover, the impact of the new financial regulations, which are as yet largely undeveloped, will continue to add uncertainty to financial markets and lenders. While RV shipments are forecast to be 136,500 in 2009, the range about this forecast is unusually large, plus or minus 15%, with a comparable range for all various types of RVs covered in this forecast.”
The University of Michigan also prepares a monthly report on Consumer Confidence, which took a big jump in May, according to the report.