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.