The State of the American Traveler in June 2023 — Sticker Shock Results in Trip Changes Amidst a Record Summer Travel Season

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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