Have money, will travel


Despite bad news continuing on nearly every economic front, holiday travel still strong among upper-earners, while middle and lower income Americans are staying home and spending much less this year, a new poll has revealed.

According to a recent Maritz poll, wealthier Americans plan to spend, on average, nearly $1000 more this year on holiday travel, compared to 2007. However, lower middle-income earners plan to spend half as much on holiday travel compared to last year.

“Holiday travel has been consistently one of the most resilient practices of Americans. It has withstood economic ups-and-downs since Maritz started tracking it in 2001,” said Rick Garlick, Ph.D., director of consulting and strategic implementation, Maritz Research. “However, these are unprecedented times. The data from this study show that the incidence of holiday travel is expected to decline, particularly among lower wage earners.”

According to the Missouri-based research firm, the exception to this year’s bad news is wealthier Americans. “Although a few more upper-earners may have stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, this group plans to hit the airways and highways for the winter holidays at the same pace as last year and plan to spend even more money than in the previous year,” Maritz said in a release.

The Maritz study looked at four different categories of household earners: those earning between $35,000 and $74,999 (lower middle income); those earning between $75,000 and $99,999 (middle income); those earning between $100,000 and $249,999; and those earning $250,000 or more (upper income.) Those in the study were asked about their recent Thanksgiving travel compared to 2007, as well as their plans for the upcoming winter holidays (Christmas, New Year’s and Hanukkah).

Holiday travelers were asked to estimate their total spend for holiday travel this year, Maritz said. “Those in the lower income category plan to spend less than half of what they spent in 2007. Middle and upper-middle income earners were planning to spend approximately the same amount. However, the wealthiest Americans planned to increase the average spent on holiday travel by nearly $1000.”

Martiz claimed that it found some decline in the incidence of Thanksgiving travel, although the declines were not dramatic. For example, the percentage of those that stayed home for Thanksgiving increased slightly among every category except for those in the middle-income category. Similarly, there was a slight decline in the percentage of those that traveled outside their local area for Thanksgiving in all but the middle-income category.

According to its research, Maritz found that plans for the winter holidays, however, are a slightly different story. “While there are similar decreases for planned winter holiday travel in the lower and middle-income categories, those in the upper middle and upper income earner categories show no signs of slowing their holiday travel. The incidence of holiday travel among this group is expected to remain steady.”

Maritz conducted the survey on December 9 and 10, 2008. The 1,150 respondents were split evenly between males and females and randomly drawn from a national e-mail panel.