Summer is upon us, and you may have seen some of the headlines around the expected surge of American travelers heading to Europe for vacation. NPR reported that the U.S. State Department is seeing record numbers of passport applications, and Allianz Partners anticipates that this summer will see a 55 percent increase compared to last year’s season in the number of Americans traveling to Europe, with Italian destinations at the top of the list of European destinations. Considering that, according to Reuters, airlines were already seeing a boom in online searches for transatlantic flights to Europe in early spring, it’s clear that American travelers can’t get enough of overseas destinations in 2023.  

So, who exactly are these Americans traveling abroad in droves this year? The Destination Analysts team got curious and decided to delve into a profile of U.S. travelers who say they are very likely to travel outside of the U.S. in the next 12 months—what we will refer to as “American International Travelers.” What we found was a mix of the expected and the unexpected.

Starting with the expected, American International Travelers are significantly wealthier than the average American traveler. In fact, this past month, they reported an average household income of $109,910 compared to the $82,872 reported by total American travelers. On average, they have 20.2 days available for vacation in the next year, 4.3 days more than the typical American traveler. Furthermore, 29.8 percent reported to having more than 30 days available for leisure travel. They are more likely to be married (+12.2pp), have completed a graduate degree (+12.8pp), and be employed full-time (+6.0pp), indicating a higher level of overall security in terms of finances and lifestyle.  

Financially, their optimism about their personal finances runs high. American International Travelers are +12.3 percentage points more likely than the average American traveler to say they are better off financially now compared to a year ago (41.4% vs. 29.1%), and they also have a sunnier prediction about their household finances one year from now, with 51.4 percent saying they expect to be better off (vs. 46.3% of the average American traveler).

This optimism spills over into their attitudes toward leisure travel spending; over half (55.6%) say that now is a good time to spend on travel, while only 30.7 percent of total American travelers felt the same (Fig. 1). Moreover, they are planning to spend more than double the amount reported by total American travelers when it comes to leisure travel in the next year ($8,444 vs. $4,082). They also are more inclined to spend more on travel compared to a year ago, with more than half (53.2%) expecting to spend more on leisure travel this year (vs. 33.2% of total American travelers).

This financial optimism also means that high travel prices are less of a deterrent to them, and fears of a recession are less likely to impact their spending habits. Despite their expectations for a U.S. economic recession in the next six months matching those of the general traveler population, only half (51.7%) said they are being careful with their money as a result (-8.1pp compared to total American travelers). In fact, only 37.4 percent said that prices have kept them from traveling in the past month, compared to 45.3 percent of total American travelers.

So, where is all this financial optimism and wherewithal taking them? When asked which foreign destinations they most want to visit in the next 12 months, Italy was the top written-in response, unsurprisingly, followed by Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. In terms of when they are planning to travel for the rest of 2023, while the largest share of American International Travelers have leisure trips planned for June and July, they are also more likely to have trips planned for the shoulder seasons compared to the average American traveler, with over one-third reporting a trip planned for October (34.4%), and one-fourth reporting a trip in November (26.5%) and/or December (25.1%) (Fig. 2).

This aligns with psychographic data for American International Travelers, who are more likely to say they like to travel off the beaten path (+10.1pp), and they prefer destinations that are not necessarily popular with other people (+8.1pp), indicating a general desire to avoid heaving crowds of other tourists.

Given their overall financial health, perhaps it is unsurprising that over half (53.2%) of American International Travelers are likely to stay in a five-star luxury hotel property in the next 12 months (+22.6pp compared to total American travelers) (Fig. 3). Similarly, they say it is important to have at least one luxury travel experience on a leisure trip (63.1% vs. 48.5% of total American travelers.)

What is surprising, however, is that despite this inclination towards luxury and their openness to spending more on leisure travel in the coming year, Americans International Travelers love a good travel deal and place a lot of value on travel reward programs. Two-thirds agree that searching for travel discounts and deals is fun (64.9% vs. 51.1%) (Fig. 4). They also are much more likely to agree that they take pride in finding a great travel deal (81.7% vs. 69.6%). Nearly three-fourths (73.9%) say that travel reward programs are important or extremely important to how they plan their leisure travels, +22.5pp more than the average American traveler. So, while they are generally more open to purchasing leisure travel than most American travelers, travel deals and opportunities to use their travel reward points can be a key factor in where American International Travelers ultimately decide to go.

For further insights into American International travelers, such as what travel reward programs they’re using, what media they are consuming, what travel planning resources they use, and other destinations they are interested in visiting, please reach out to our research team at to purchase your report ($2,500).

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Continued high excitement for, and willingness to prioritize, travel is driving another record summer—but travelers are shocked at the prices, and many are willing to make trip changes as a result.

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 May 2023.

Financial pressure continues to be felt, among steadily high levels of excitement for travel
This month we asked Americans to describe how they feel about travel in one word. The top response? Excited. The next most common response? Expensive. Indeed, Americans’ excitement for travel remains at record high levels (8.3 on a scale from 0-10). However, concerns around finances and travel costs have seen an uptick in the past month as the top deterrents to traveling. The share of American travelers who said personal financial reasons have prevented them from traveling more than they would have otherwise preferred in the past 6 months has increased from over 5-points in the past month to 38%. There have also been – albeit smaller – increases in the percentages of travelers who said that the price of gas, airfare, or travel overall have deterred them from traveling more in the past 6 months.  The percentage of American travelers who agree that high travel prices have kept them from traveling in the past month also continues to increase, now at 47%, the highest it has been to date in 2023. Echoing these cost-driven travel deterrents, the share of Americans who say now is a good or very good time to spend on travel has dropped to its lowest point so far this year, falling 3-points in the past month to 28%. Similarly, the percentage of American travelers who expect to spend more on travel in the next 12 months compared to the most recent 12-month period has also dropped to 29%, the lowest it has been since October 2021. Personal travel budgets have decreased from the over $4,000 average that had held since January to $3,719, the lowest reported travel budgets seen since July 2022. Despite this, Americans remain optimistic. Perceived household financial wellness remains unchanged from last month and, in fact, half of American travelers say they expect to be better or much better off financially a year from now, up 4-points since April.

The Tangible Effects of Travel Sticker Shock
If you are unfamiliar with the term, “sticker shock” is defined as the surprise and dismay a traveler might experience upon being informed of the unexpectedly high price of a product or service. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) American travelers said they experienced sticker shock planning their most recent trip. Over 60% of those who experienced sticker shock when planning their last trip reported that this came from hotel rates, while half named airfare as the culprit. Nearly 47% reported sticker shock from restaurant and dining costs and 42% experienced the same from entertainment, recreation, or attraction costs. On the other hand, cruise prices were the least likely to elicit sticker shock, with just 15% of these travelers citing cruise prices as a culprit. Unfortunately and importantly for travel marketers, sticker shock has an immediate impact on travelers’ considerations of a destination. In fact, over 60% of Americans who recently experienced travel sticker shock said it caused them to reconsider going to the destination they had their sights on, 26% said they actually chose to visit a less expensive destination, and 15% said they actually cancelled their travel plans entirely because of sticker shock. While over 50% of these travelers said sticker shock led them to find less expensive ways to travel or ways to save money, 28% resigned to the high costs and increased their overall trip budget.

Increased Awareness of AI Resources
In the three months since we first fielded questions about ChatGPT usage around travel, there have been marked changes in awareness of AI tools among American travelers. Back in February, only 28% of American travelers had heard of AI chatbots such as ChatGPT. This has increased to a whopping 74% of American travelers who are now aware of ChaptGPT and similar AI chatbots. Want to learn more about AI and other tech adoption amongst travelers? Be sure to attend the webinar presentation of the 2023 Tech Edition of The State of the American Traveler with our beloved friends at Miles Partnership.

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Have a travel-related question idea or topic you would like to suggest we study? Let us know!

We can help you with the insights your tourism strategy needs, from audience analysis to brand health to economic impact. Please check out our full set of market research and consulting services here.