Do Americans see travel as a worthwhile investment even in the face of a recession? Many say yes—even viewing travel as essential spending. Meanwhile, American travelers seem to be experienced with considering and adjusting for natural disasters when it comes to travel planning.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. The key findings presented below represent data from over 4,000 American travelers collected in September 2022.

Navigating natural disasters: Our thoughts are with all impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona. Coincidentally, questions about navigating natural disasters were planned for this latest The State of the American Traveler survey, which was fielded September 15-25th. The survey found that American travelers appear to be experienced with considering and adjusting for natural disasters. Just over one-in-ten (11%) of American travelers say that natural events, hazards or disasters have impacted their travel in some way in the past year alone, with the most common being wildfires (30.4%), heatwaves (28.3%), floods (26.0%) and winter storms (25.4%). Among the 11% who have been impacted more recently, natural events/disasters have most commonly caused these travelers to change the timing of their trip (37.2%), but another 21.6% have also avoided specific destinations and/or cancelled a planned trip (17.7%). When asked which type of natural event/disaster has caused them to cancel trips outright or avoid destinations, wildfires were by far the most common in both situations, followed by flooding. Unsurprisingly, when asked what prompts Americans to think about natural events/disasters when planning travel, the majority (54.9%) cite news stories. Interestingly though, Baby Boomers (63.6%) were much more likely than younger travelers to be prompted by news stories, whereas Millennials and Gen Z are also significantly prompted by posts on social media (31.8% and 40.5%, respectively vs. 9.5% for Baby Boomers).

While Americans see an economic recession looming, many still view travel as “essential” and remain committed to spending on travel even in an economic downturn. Nearly two-thirds (63.6%) of American travelers expect the U.S. to enter an economic recession sometime this year and because of this 65.7% say they are being careful with their money. This is likely contributing to the declining sentiment that now is a good time to spend on travel (currently at 26.4%, down 4 points from the start of summer). Still, 60.8% say they generally consider travel to be a worthwhile investment. Interestingly, an even larger proportion (74.8%) agreed that they still consider travel to be a worthwhile investment during a recession. In addition, 39.3% consider spending money on travel right now to be essential—a sentiment that is strongest amongst Millennials, those who reside in the south and parents of school-aged children. Those in higher income groups (i.e., who have a household income of $100k or more) are also more likely to feel that travel spending is essential in the current environment. American travelers who identify as Black/African Americans (47.8%) and/or as Asian (42.6%) are also likelier to feel travel is essential.

Late Fall/early Winter trip expectations are holding strong—with visiting friends/family, vibe/atmosphere, and food/cuisine driving aspiration. Over a quarter of Americans anticipate taking a trip in either October (26.6%), November (24.8%) and/or December (28.4%). This is notable growth from June, when only approximately one-in-five said they had trip expectations for the fourth quarter of 2022. As expected as we enter the holiday season, visiting friends/family is the top driver of near-term destination aspiration. However, this is followed closely by the desire to return to a destination, general atmosphere and food & cuisine. Interestingly, for Millennials and Gen Z, adventure and food are more significant drivers of aspiration, whereas Gen X and Baby Boomers are likelier to cite wanting to return to a previously visited destination and beaches. As for parents of school-aged children, while their top drivers are also visiting a place before and wanting to return, visiting friends/family and food/cuisine, they are more likely than the average to also cite beaches/water sports (25.4%), adventure (22.9%), theme parks (20.1%) and shopping (19.4%).

Additionally, Americans continue to prioritize having fun and relaxation when traveling, but as destination marketers know, relaxation can mean a myriad of different things to different travelers. To dig deeper into travelers’ personal definitions of relaxation they were asked to define exactly what they consider relaxing while traveling. The majority cited being in a quiet/peaceful location (82.5%) followed by beach time (69.7%), chilling-out poolside (67.3%), enjoying culinary experiences (65.6%) and luxury hotel experiences (60.4%). Interestingly, Gen Z was much more likely than other generations to consider shopping to be relaxing (52.7% vs. 36.9% for the average traveler) and Millennials were more likely to consider being physically active as a form of relaxation when traveling (44.8% vs. 38.2% for the average).

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Every quarter as part of our ongoing The State of the American Traveler study, we take a deeper dive into topics and trends of critical importance to the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, in collaboration with our friends at Miles Partnership. For our Fall 2022 Segments Edition, we looked at trending traveler profiles from The State of the American Traveler’s extensive database—including Adventurers, Wellness-Seekers, Gen Z, Visiting Friends & Relatives, and Luxury-oriented travelers. Since the latter is of particular interest to many right now, following is a summary of the latest travel behaviors and psychographics.

These travelers are defined as those that will highly prioritize luxury travel in their upcoming trips, representing 27% of the American traveling population. As you would expect, this group is top when it comes to tourism economic impact. The average Luxury Traveler will spend $6,260 on their leisure travel in the next 12 months—$2K+ more than the typical American traveler. Demographically, Luxury Travelers skew slightly male and somewhat older than other traveler segments. They are likelier to be parents to young children, are more educated, and more ethnically diverse. And while they indeed have higher household incomes compared to other travelers, a number of these travelers have not yet achieved the six-figure household income threshold yet but are still choosing to spend their discretionary income on luxury experiences in travel.

Some of the belief systems and behaviors of interest among Luxury Travelers include:

  • Luxury Travelers are more eco-conscious compared to other traveler segments
  • They are likelier to make an effort to support minority owned businesses when they travel
  • Luxury Travelers are 3-times as likely as other travelers to want to be able to pay for travel services with crypto currency
  • These travelers are far less likely to have a preference for road trips compared to other travelers—instead preferring air. They are also much more likely to be cruise travelers compared to other travelers.
  • Luxury Travelers are likelier to consume cannabis compared to other travelers
  • Luxury Travelers love their iPhones
  • Luxury Travelers are the Type As out there traveling—the majority of these travelers describe themselves as having “active and energetic,” “outgoing and sociable,” and “dominant” personalities.

Other Behaviors and Preferences to consider about Luxury Travelers:

  • These are the travelers most in love with rewards programs. One-third (33%) used/redeemed travel rewards or points on their most recent overnight trip.
  • Luxury Travelers also have a benefit beyond their own travel as they appear to influence a greater swath of people—59% of Luxury travelers say they are someone others seek travel advice from
  • This travel segment exhibits the highest prioritization of and commitment to travel—both financially and emotionally
  • California and New York take top spots on their destinations list
  • For Luxury Travelers, Food/Cuisine is a top, top destination motivator
  • 32% of Luxury Travelers used an official destination website to plan travel in the last year
  • Luxury travelers are News Junkies: 80% regularly consume content from major national news outlets and sources
  • Luxury travelers are tech-forward: 30% say they are totally up-to-date on the latest travel technologies
  • In fact, 61% of luxury travelers say right now they would be interested in using the metaverse as a way to get travel inspiration

Have further questions or want more information about this and other traveler segments? Destination Analysts can help you dig deeper into your audience segments. We have over 2 dozen Travel Passion Profiles available right now, and we help many destinations and travel brands be more creative and efficient with their marketing strategies through Target Personas Prioritization & Understanding Studies, as well as Awareness & Understanding Studies. Please reach out—we would love to talk!