SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Despite a recent deluge of bad economic news, American travelers are surprisingly optimistic about their future leisure travel and spending, according to the findings of a special edition of Destination Analysts’ The State of the American Traveler survey released today. The survey of 800 American leisure travelers conducted in mid-November shows that while the public is still hesitant to travel and spend at levels seen just one year ago, positive signs have emerged.
In July of this year, traveler sentiment dramatically darkened, with the percent of American leisure travelers saying they were planning to travel less for leisure jumping to 28.8 percent. In this most recent survey, however, this figure retreated to 21.2 percent. In addition, when asked about their spending priorities in the next six months, one-third of survey respondents identified leisure travel as a “high” or “very high” priority. Nevertheless, while this encouraging outcome is certainly good news for the industry, when considered in historical context, traveler expectations for the future are still extremely weak.
Since the summer survey, retail gasoline prices have been cut roughly in half and airfares have sharply fallen, which may account for these nominal improvements in traveler sentiment. Americans are profoundly automobile-centric in how they travel for leisure, and fluctuations in gasoline prices weigh heavily on their minds when planning leisure trips. In fact, this most recent survey showed a continued increase in the percent of leisure travelers who say that gasoline prices have led them to cut back on their leisure travel. When asked what factors may have led them to travel less than they would have otherwise preferred in the past 12 months, fully 68.5 percent of Americans now cited gasoline prices, up from 57.8 percent in July. Personal financial reasons and high airfares have also become increasingly detrimental to leisure travel, both jumping sharply in the most recent survey.
In this climate of economic uncertainty, travelers are showing a marked interest in travel deals and offers. Fully 65.6 percent of leisure travelers say that they will be actively looking for travel deals or bargains when planning their travel in the next 12 months, up from 53.3 percent in July. In questions asked throughout the survey, travelers expressed an elevated level of interest in saving money on their travels, again highlighting the need for travel businesses and organizations to clearly show a value proposition to their customers.