Americans will prioritize travel in their household income’s spending in the coming months—over home improvements, clothing, entertainment and even dining out in restaurants.
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 February 2023.
Travel Tops Spending Priorities
Given the deserved attention on how economic conditions will impact the travel industry’s performance this year, it is important to more fully understand how travel fits into consumers’ priorities. We know travel is something that evokes strongly positive emotions, but where does it fit among many other beloved things people can choose to invest in? So this month we asked 4,000 American travelers to think about how they expect to spend their household income in the next 12 months. They used a scale from “extremely high priority” to “no priority” to rate how much of a spending priority a number of products, services and hobby-pursuits will be. Domestic leisure travel took the top spot, with 35% of American travelers saying that it will be a high or extremely high priority in their household spending this year. It beat out restaurants (32%), education (24%), home improvement (21%), clothing & accessories (20%) and entertainment (18%). Additionally, over 20% of American travelers said they would be highly prioritizing international leisure travel and 14% said they would be prioritizing luxury travel in their household spending. (Note: Despite restaurants taking the #2 spot to travel in budget priorities, restaurants will still be key beneficiaries of travel spending…in fact, two-thirds of American travelers say they engaged in foodie-ism behaviors on a recent trip.) The prioritization of travel includes time as well as money. The typical American traveler reports having 15.9 days available for leisure travel this year.
Financial Concerns Still an Impediment But Travel Volume Strong
When asked what has deterred them from travel recently, 39% of Americans say travel prices are too high right now, 36% say gas was too expensive and 32% cite their personal financial situation. Yet while economic concerns continue to be an impediment to travel, travelers are feeling somewhat better off financially than they were a few months ago. Now 30% say their financial situation is improved relative to a year ago and 47% expect to be better off next year relative to where they are now. Although the majority of American travelers (53.6%) still expect the US will enter a recession in the next six months, fears of an impending recession continue to abate, sliding 10 points since last year. Fewer travelers are exercising spending caution due to concerns about a recession–down 7-points in 6 months to 58%. Importantly, travel volume remains strong—50% took an overnight leisure trip in the past month and 89% of American travelers have existing trip plans right now. The outlook for the next several months looks bright, as well. Americans’ excitement for travel broke last month’s record and reached another high (8.2 on a 0-10 scale). 43% of American travelers are back to prioritizing luxury travel, and average expected annual travel spending hit $4677. Looking at our travel sentiment indices, current travel enthusiasm has been moving forward in the past 2 months and expectations for future travel are at the levels they were a year ago. In perhaps another sign that Americans are feeling good, comedy unseated true crime as the top podcast genre among the 28% of American travelers who regularly consumer podcast content.
The Emergence of ChatGPT
With such notable levels of excitement, integration and adoption, ChatGPT (and other AI) appears poised to be transformative in many ways. In our latest survey, 6% of American travelers report having used ChatGPT for any reason—so far, 2% have used it specifically for travel inspiration or trip planning. But interest is emerging. Over 26% of American travelers overall (and 40% of Millennial-aged travelers) say they are “interested” or “very interested” in using ChatGPT for travel inspiration and/or trip planning going forward.
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