Tourism Industry Still Plagued by Cautious Travelers

January 5, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Financial Services | Travel & Hospitality | Youth & Gen X

While half of Americans foresee no change in their travel spending in 2010 compared with 2009, a larger proportion plan to spend less this year than say they will spend more, especially when it comes to air travel and hotel stays, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.

The study found that the percentage of Americans saying they will spend less on vacations in 2010 exceeds the percentage saying they will spend more by a slight margin, 27% vs. 22%.

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Less on Airline Flights

In addition to broad changes in vacation spending, nearly three in 10 Americans (29%) plan to spend less on airline flights in 2010 than they did in 2009, while 16% say they will spend more, and about half say they will spend about the same. The same pattern holds for hotel stays, with 30% planning to spend less and 16% planning to spend more.

Age and Income Differences

The poll also found that there is little variation in Americans’ 2010 travel spending intentions according to household income. All income groups – from those earning $75K+ each year to those earning less than $30K -? plan to spend less rather than more in each travel area.

Some significant differences are evident by age, with young adults expressing the greatest likelihood of increasing their travel expenditures. This is seen most clearly when asked about spending on vacations in general, as this is the one area where a higher percentage of those ages 18-34 plan to spend more rather than less (30% vs. 25%). By contrast, adults ages 35-54 and ages 55+ are more likely to say they will spend less in each area, not more.

The spending intentions of young adults slightly less robust relative to airline travel and hotel stays than they are for vacations. Roughly equal percentages plan to spend more rather than less on airline travel (24% and 25% respectively), while a slightly higher percentage plan to spend less rather than more on hotel stays (29% vs. 22%). Still, the spending intentions of young adults are greater than those of older adults in all three areas.

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These findings somewhat mirror data from the same poll showing 15% of Americans planned to travel over the holidays this year without taking steps to significantly cut back on costs, while 20% are either not traveling or reducing their holiday travel costs because of the economy.

However, Gallup noted that consumer attitudes about their overall travel spending in 2010 may actually differ from how they ultimately behave. The latest government report on travel and tourism reports a significant rebound in US travel spending in Q309 compared with the same period a year ago, reflecting increases in both business and leisure travel. This coincides with an increase in the US gross domestic product more generally and is likely to extend through the fourth quarter. If so, the current data may simply, but importantly, indicate that Americans remain vigilant about their spending and therefore that airlines, hotels, and resorts must continue pushing major discounts and package deals in order to attract consumers’ travel dollars.

About the study: Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,025 US adults ages 18+. Fielding took place from Dec. 11-13, 2009. Interviews were conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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