The State of the American Traveler in October 2022—Valuing Travel in a Recession + Dealing with Natural Disasters

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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Luxury Travelers: A Profile

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!

Six Destinations Americans are Dreaming about Right Now

Every month as part of our The State of the American Traveler Study, Destination Analysts asks 4,000 panelists to share—in an open-ended format—which domestic and foreign destinations are at the top of their travel lists for the next 12 months. Here are the top 3 domestic and top 3 international destinations for U.S. travelers as of September 2022.

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Domestic Destinations

#1 – Florida

Overall, 15.7% of U.S. travelers has Florida on their top list of domestic places to go in the next year.

Florida is particularly popular with those travelers who are most excited about going on workcations (20.4%) or guy getaways (19.6%) this year.

Americans were most likely to have Florida on their radar because of—unsurprisingly—its beaches and water sports (26.0%), and theme/amusement parks (25.5%), but also because their friends and family live there (18.2%).

The state is certainly inspiring the younger set. Gen Z-age travelers (22.1%) had the highest likelihood among the generations to name Florida as one of their top domestic destinations for the next year. Looking at American travelers by region, those in the Northeast (21.9%) and Midwest (19.5%) were the likeliest to name Florida as one of their picks for near-term travel, compared to only 7.9% of travelers in the West.
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#2 – New York

New York is just behind Florida with 14.9% of U.S. travelers naming it as a desired destination in the near-term.

Given New York’s penchant for both serious business and serious fun, we weren’t surprised to find that it tops the list for travelers who say they are most excited about taking bleisure trips (20.3%) and workcations (20.3%).

The top reasons behind Americans motivations to visit New York include the city’s arts & culture (27.1%), its nightlife (25.7%), and shopping (23.3%).

New York scored the highest among Millennials (18.4%), while Boomers were much less likely to have it on their radar (10.6%). New York was also much more popular among non-Caucasian identifying travelers, particularly Black/African-American (29.0%) and Asian (25.6%) travelers.

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#3 – Las Vegas

Coming in at a strong third place is Las Vegas (12.3%).

Over one-third of U.S travelers named Las Vegas as one of their top domestic destinations they most want to visit in the next year. What’s inspiring these travelers to have Vegas on their minds? The city’s nightlife (34.7%), mysterious or exotic quality (25.0%) and many shopping opportunities (21.5%).

Las Vegas was the top pick among American travelers who identify as Asian (28.4%). Las Vegas also wins the West—those who live in the Western region of the U.S. were significantly more likely to select Las Vegas (19.8%), compared to other parts of the country.

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International Destinations

#1 – Italy

The love for Italy is clear. When asked to list the international destinations they most want to travel to in the next year, Italy came out on top, with 18.7% naming the country as where they aspire to visit.

Italy is especially popular with travelers who are most excited about taking girlfriend trips (20.5%), romantic getaways (20.4%), and family trips (20.2%).

Interestingly, Italy is even inspiring to those who are a bit more pessimistic about their travel plans in the coming year. Those travelers who said they expected their leisure travel spending to decrease in the next year relative to this year were even more likely than travel-spending-optimists to have Italy on top of their list (23.9% vs 19.0%).

Italy was most likely to be listed by Gen Z-age travelers (22.2%), although it was by far and away the most-cited destination across all age groups. Looking at breakouts by ethnicity, we found that it was the most popular choice for Hispanic/Latino identifying travelers (29.2%).

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#2 – United Kingdom

The United Kingdom took the silver for Americans’ top international destination picks, with 13.5% naming it as where they most want to visit.

Very interestingly, the UK has an edge among travelers who are most excited about solo trips (16.0%).

Illustrative of a diverse set of appealing destination assets, those dreaming about traveling to the UK were as likely to be Gen Z (15.6%) as Boomer-age (15.7%).

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#3 – Mexico

Americans continued to show Mexico their love, with 13.2% of U.S. travelers listing it as one of their top most desired international destinations for the next year.

Looking at who selected Mexico based on what kind of travel most excites them, we found that Mexico was most popular among those who are looking forward to girlfriend trips (15.3%), solo trips (14.7%), and romantic getaways (14.5%).

While beloved by many Americans, Mexico may have to compete a little harder for younger travelers attention. For example, while Gen Z represented the greatest proportion of those naming Mexico as one of the top international destinations they want to visit (15.3%), Mexico came in behind Italy, Japan and Canada for that age group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mexico had the highest share among Hispanic/Latino travelers (19.9%).

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Interested in finding out who else made the list? Curious where your destination ranks? Learn more about how to access the full findings for The State of the American Traveler Study here.

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The State of the American Traveler in September 2022—The Outlook for Fall

Although frustration with the service issues experienced in an uber-crowded summer season and a continued seriousness about financial concerns pose challenges for the travel & hospitality industry, the outlook for Fall travel still looks comforting.

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 August 2022.

With the pumpkin spice latte making its 2022 debut and Labor Day celebrated, Americans said goodbye to summer. Keep reading for a summary of the key findings from the latest The State of the American Traveler report.

The Impact of the Congested, Short-staffed, Often-Chaotic Summer

Fully 62% of American travelers took at least one overnight trip between mid-May and mid-August. As was the case last month, 40% of these summer travelers reported experiencing at least one service issue on their trips, with problems caused by staffing shortages topping the list. In fact, 38% continued to agree it seemed like businesses in the travel industry were having trouble providing adequate service to their customers (although this metric is declining from a high of 42% in June). Nearly half (48%) of those who had a service issue on their trip rated their experience as more than moderately frustrating—with Gen X travelers exhibiting the highest levels of frustration, while Boomer-age travelers appeared more patient with the situation.

If you are wondering if these service issues have had an adverse impact on sentiment towards future travel, it certainly has taken hold in some travelers’ minds. In our latest survey, 31% of those who reported moderate to extreme levels of frustration with the service issues they experienced on their recent trips said that they are reconsidering their Fall travel plans specifically due to these frustrations. In addition, crowds/too many people traveling (17%) and the possibility of flight cancellations were among the top 10 travel deterrents Americans cited for why they didn’t travel more in the past few months.

The Outlook for Fall and Beyond

Despite the challenges facing travel, nearly two-thirds (64.7%) of American travelers still expect to take at least one overnight leisure trip in the next three months, and nearly half (47%) plan to take an overnight trip specifically to visit friends or relatives in this time frame. Currently, 29% of American travelers say they have a leisure trip planned in September and 30% have a leisure trip planned in October—on the rise since last month. Looking further ahead, a growing number of Americans say they are open to travel inspiration (68%; up nearly 7-points compared to July) and are increasingly excited about their travel in the future (80% report high levels of excitement for travel, up 4-points in the last month).

In terms of disruptions due to Covid, even with the latest variants, the virus’ impact on Americans’ ability to have meaningful travel experiences is in retreat. Now only 30% of travelers say Covid is still negatively impacting their travel experiences (down 17-points from the start of the year).

However, with so many believing the economy is—or will be soon—in a recession, the top travel deterrents remain firmly financial: the cost of gas, airfare, and travel in general being too expensive, as well as their own personal financial situation. Although falling gas prices have released some of the cost pressures travelers are facing—and, in turn, the proportion who say that they will be taking fewer road trips or road trips closer to home has declined from highs seen in June—inflation continues to be a significant issue. Over 30% of American travelers say recent inflation in consumer prices has led them to cancel an upcoming trip, and 45% say high prices have kept them from traveling in the past month. Over the past year, those who feel their personal financial situation is stronger than it was relative to the year prior has fallen from 41% in August 2021 to 27% in August 2022.

Nevertheless, many Americans remain optimistic about their pocketbooks and future travels. This month saw a more than 5-point increase in the proportion of travelers who feel that a year from now, they will be better off financially than they are now (45%). Expectations for travel over the next year are also up. When asked if they expect to take more or fewer trips in the next 12 months (compared to the previous 12 months) 31% of travelers said they’d be taking more trips, up from 28% in July.

Travel Attitudes & What’s Hot Right Now

Here are some highlights of what American travelers are finding particularly appealing about travel right now:

  • The most desired domestic destinations that leisure travelers want to visit in the next 12 months are Florida, New York, Las Vegas, California and Hawaii.
  • The topmost desired international destinations that leisure travelers want to visit in the next 12 months are Italy, Mexico, Canada, France and Spain.
  • American leisure travelers are most excited to take family trips and romantic getaways in the next 12 months. Their top travel priorities are spending time with loved ones, visiting new places they haven’t been before, having fun, relaxing and being happy.
  • Luxury travel is also on trend for leisure travelers, with 37% of American travelers reporting that luxury travel experiences are typically important components of their leisure trips. They also prefer visiting new places (53%) and having “active time” vacations (45%).
  • Travel transportation preferences remained the same compared to last month, with almost half of travelers reporting they prefer road trips (46%). One-quarter prefer trips on a commercial airline (26%) and 12% say they prefer taking a cruise line.
  • This month, 27% of leisure travelers agreed that they are more interested in traveling outside of the United States than inside the United States. This remains consistent with the levels we saw in July.
  • While interest in international travel has held steady with last month’s findings, American leisure travelers are now expressing a higher likelihood to travel outside of the United States for leisure travel in the next 12 months compared to July. 31% of respondents reported that they are likely or very likely to travel internationally in the next year, up from 26% last month.

Marketing Travel

To help the industry understand how to target American travelers with travel-related messaging, regardless of where they are in the travel planning process, we track which streaming services, news sources, and magazines (printed or online) they have used regularly in the past 12 months. Here are some highlights from this month:

  • When it comes to general media consumption habits, the streaming services American travelers primarily consume include Netflix (68%), Amazon Prime Video (56%), Hulu (47%) and Disney+ (40%). Looking at generational differences, Millennials or younger tend to outpace older generations in their usage of Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. Gen Xers are more inclined to subscribe or watch Amazon Prime Video, Peacock and Paramount+, while nearly a quarter (24.3%) of Baby Boomers or older do not subscribe to the streaming services we asked about.
  • The top news sources used on a regular basis include CNN (23%), ABC News (23%), Fox News Channel (22%), NVC News (22%) and CBS News (21%). In contrast to their consumption of streaming services, Baby Boomers or older are more likely to consume news content compared to younger generations. In particular, Boomers have a higher propensity to use ABC News, Fox News Channel, NBC News and CBS News.
  • As for magazines, whether printed or online, AARP (16%), People (12%) and Travel + Leisure (11%) are the most consumed publications among American travelers. Far and away, Baby Boomers or older are more inclined to consume AARP content (magazine or bulletin).
  • Looking more deeply into American attitudes toward travel messaging, one-third (34%) say they do not see themselves represented in travel advertisements. There is an opportunity to diversify travel messaging to ensure all travelers feel welcomed to the destination.
  • In terms of planning windows for marketers to bear in mind, American travelers are planning their domestic leisure trips about 11.4 weeks in advance on average for trips with a length of stay of one week or longer.
  • As for where marketers can best reach travelers, Americans are most receptive to learning about new destinations through websites found via search engine (32%), followed by Facebook (23%), review websites (23%) and online content (22%). TikTok was by far the most popular channel for Gen Z travelers to learn about new destinations (44%), while Millennials were most likely to select Facebook (31%). Websites found via search engine were the top choice for Gen X (35%) and Baby Boomers (36%).

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The State of the American Traveler in August 2022—Air Service Challenges, Financial Anxieties

Air travel woes and service shortages are providing some reasons for Americans not to increase their travel, but not more so than looming financial concerns.

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 July 2022.

Read below for a summary of the key findings from the latest The State of the American Traveler report.

Compounded Impact of Crowds, Air Service Issues & Labor Shortages with the Looming Economic Situation

If you haven’t heard—or experienced firsthand—a lot of people are traveling this summer. In fact, over half of American travelers report having taken at least one trip in the last month alone. Unfortunately, travel industry businesses’ ability to staff has not rebounded to meet the level of demand. Thus, over 40% of recent travelers report experiencing a service issue on their last trip—from poor service specifically due to staffing shortages, to overcrowding and price-gouging. An identical proportion agree that it seemed like businesses in the travel industry were having trouble providing adequate service to travelers on their most recent trip—similar to where we were in the Summer of 2021.

One area that the media has particularly focused its attention on is air service. About a third of those we surveyed who traveled by commercial airline in the past month reported experiencing a flight delay, and 14% reported they experienced a flight cancellation. Among all American travelers, 75% said they were aware of current issues with the U.S. air travel system, such as flight cancellations, delays and long security lines. Among those who were aware of these issues, 30% agreed that specifically due to this situation, they have decided not to travel by air this summer. However, thankfully 38% said these issues have not deterred them from air travel this season.

What’s more substantive in American travelers’ minds is financial-related. When asked what has deterred them from traveling more than they would have otherwise preferred in the past 6 months, the top reasons are gas is too expensive (47%), the general cost of travel being too expensive right now (39%), personal financial reasons (31%) and airfare is too expensive (27%). (In comparison, COVID concern is the fifth most commonly reported travel deterrent, with 24.5% saying the risk of contracting COVID kept them from traveling more.) Additionally, the proportion of travelers who feel that the present is a good time to spend money on travel has dropped to 28%, the lowest level recorded so far this year. Overall, American travelers’ optimism about the financial future is dimming somewhat, as the proportion of travelers who feel they will be financially better off next year compared to this year has declined 4-points in the last month to 39%.

How is all of this impacting sentiment towards travel? There is some notable strain: the percent of American travelers who say that travel will be a high budget priority has declined 6-points in the past month to 56%—the lowest it has been in 6 months. Expected annual travel budgets dropped to $3,597 from $4,345 last month—this is the lowest reported since October 2021. The percent of American travelers who say they currently have no trips planned has also crept up 6-points in the last month to 24%. Nevertheless, there are positive signs for travel sustaining. When asked to think about the economics of their most recent trip, 71% of Americans who took a trip in the past month agreed they were satisfied with the overall value for the money they received from their travel expenditures. While optimism about even greater travel volume and spending in the next year may be waning, nearly half of American travelers say they expect to travel the same amount—and spend the same amount on travel—next year as they did this year. Although the degree of excitement has come down somewhat, still 76% of American travelers express high levels of enthusiasm about travel in the next year. As such, more than 75% have done some travel dreaming and planning in the last week alone.

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The State of the American Traveler in July 2022—What Rising Concerns about Costs, Crime & Safety Mean for Travel

Rising costs continue to mean a rising impact on Americans’ travel volume potential. Current levels of concern about crime-related issues while traveling are also elevated and notable. Meanwhile, the U.S. dropping COVID testing requirements for entry has caused a surge in Americans’ likelihood to travel internationally this year.

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 June 2022.

Read below for a summary of the key findings from the latest The State of the American Traveler report.

Rising Travel Costs & Inflation

Data tracking American travelers’ sense of financial well-being continues to show mixed signals. Comparing the first quarter of 2022 to the most recent one, the proportion of travelers who feel they are financially better off than at this point last year has dropped from 33.6% to 31.0%. On the other hand, optimism remains high. The proportion of travelers who feel they will be better off next year has grown slightly from 42.8% to 43.4%, quarter over quarter. Unfortunately, however, the proportion of travelers who reported that now is a good time to spend money on leisure travel has dropped significantly. In the first quarter of the year, 39.2% said they felt it was a good or very good time to spend on leisure travel. This figure dropped to 32.6% in the second quarter. Half of American travelers (49.5%) say high travel prices have kept them from traveling in the past month, jumping nearly 8-points in the last four-weeks. In addition, well over one-third (36.3%) agree that recent inflation in consumer prices has caused them to cancel an upcoming trip—a 6-point increase in the last month.

Nevertheless, leisure travel continues to be a high budget priority for American travelers. In June, 61.8% of travelers said leisure travel was for them a “high” or “extremely high” budgetary item. This figure has remained stable over the first six months of 2022. Maximum expected annual travel budgets grew in June, reaching an average of $4,345, an increase of 10.5% from May.

The number of Americans traveling may start to retreat somewhat. The percent of American travelers who expect to take at least one leisure trip in the next 12-months has dropped nearly 8-points since February—from 93.3% to 85.8% now—and those with trip plans has dropped 3-points to 82.3% in the same period. However, Americans still appear to be holding on to their Fall travel plans—with 25.0% of American travelers reporting trip plans in September, and 20.7% reporting trip plans in October. While the level of excitement Americans are expressing about their travel future may have dropped from the high recorded in April (now at 7.5, down from 7.8 on scale from 0-10), the typical American traveler (66.6%) remains highly open to travel inspiration.

Perceptions of Crime & Safety in Travel

While general safety has always been a top consideration when Americans evaluate their travel destinations, their current level of concern about crime-related issues are notable. Nearly 43% of American travelers say they have elevated levels of concern about their personal safety when thinking about traveling domestically. These concerns are even stronger and more common among Millennial and Gen Z-aged travelers. When asked about their specific concerns as it relates to safety when traveling in the U.S., theft (36.7%) and mass shootings (34.0%) are top. Additionally, 42.0% said there are in fact destinations within the U.S. they would absolutely not visit due to safety concerns.

Witnessing significant homelessness on domestic trips also impacts travelers’ perceptions and behaviors. Of the nearly three-in-ten (28.6%) travelers who visited a destination with a significant homelessness issue in the last 12 months, 40.6% said what they experienced made them less likely to return to specific destinations and a larger 46.3% said they were less likely to recommend that destination to friends/relatives.

Word of mouth, internet searches, news stations and social media are the top information sources Americans use to evaluate the safety of a leisure destination.

International Travel and the Impact of Dropping Testing Requirements

In an indicator of pandemic mindset reversal, a record low 45.2% of American travelers are saying they are avoiding international travel.

With negative COVID-19 tests no longer a requirement to enter the U.S., American travelers’ likelihood to travel internationally this year jumped to 34.3% from 28.4% in the past month alone. In fact, 31.0% of American travelers say that the dropping of the COVID testing requirement to enter the U.S. has specifically made them more likely to travel internationally this year. An increasing number of American travelers are reporting they have greater interest in traveling outside the U.S. than domestically—30.1%, up from 25.1% in February. When asked to name the foreign destinations they most want to travel to in the upcoming months, Italy, France, Canada and Mexico top Americans’ lists.

Other Noteworthy Trends

  • American travelers are showing an increased preference for visiting places they have never been to over places they’ve visited before (58.5%, up from 53.5% in April).
  • More American travelers are exhibiting an environmental consciousness. Now 56.1% say they usually make an effort to limit their personal impact on the environment when traveling (up from 53.5% in May).
  • Don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar.

    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Have a 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 services here.

    The State of the American Traveler in June 2022—The Role of Psychographics, High Prices and Ad Imagery

    Yes, high travel prices are having an impact although travel demand remains strong. Travelers still get their heart strings pulled by landscape and sunset images in travel advertising. As always, marketers would be wise to dig deeper into pyschographics to target their most fruitful audiences.

    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 2022.

    Traveler Psychographics & their Impact on Likely Travel Behaviors

    Our job at Destination Analysts is constantly digging into “the why” behind travel motivations and decisions, so we use our monthly survey of 4,000 American travelers to pinpoint and track a range of traveler psychographics. Here are some of the interesting ways that travelers’ identities and tendencies appear to influence their travel behaviors right now:

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    Travel Spending–People who describe themselves as having dominant personalities, as well as those who describe themselves as active & energetic, plan to spend more on travel than they did previously (45.4% vs. 36.2% among all travelers). Active energetic types also have the highest reported travel budgets for the year at $5,200 (vs. $3,900 for the average traveler). As you might expect, people who describe themselves as worriers are more sensitive to what they perceive as “expensive” travel prices right now, and plan to spend less on leisure travel than they previously did (23.8% vs. 18.5% for all travelers). In fact, over 40% of worriers say right now is a “bad” time to spend on travel.

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    Travel Planning and Media Consumption–Those that identify as creative are the likeliest to be talking to friends and relatives about travel right now (40.1%). These creative types are also more apt to plan a week-long vacation in under 2 months; in contrast, self-described worriers need an additional week on average compared to other travelers (11 weeks vs. 10 weeks for other travelers). Adventurous types, as well as the active energetics are those travelers most likely to be glued to their phones looking at travel information (76% vs 63.1% for the average traveler). Travelers looking for a new romantic partner are more likely than others to use digital influencers to plan travel (34.0% vs. 19.8%) and more likely to use online video resources for trip planning (48.4% vs. 33.1%). These romance-seekers prefer to visit new places over ones they have been to before and, perhaps unsurprisingly, are less likely to want to see beautiful scenery in travel ads and more likely to want to see nightlife. Those that identify as calm, as well as those that describe themselves as sensitive, are both more likely to be found using online resources rather than offline. In fact, it’s the adventurous and dominant types who use more resources to plan travel–online and offline–overall. When it comes to TikTok versus Instagram Reels, it’s the worriers who have a TikTok preference (32.0% picked TikTok over Instagram Reels when presented the choice; 28.0% picked Instagram Reels and the rest said neither). Meanwhile, self-described calm travelers prefer Instagram Reels (31.8% picked Instagram Reels over TikTok, 24.7% picked TikTok and the rest said neither).

    _

    Drivers of Destination Aspiration–When asked what factors are motivating them to pick the top destinations they aspire to visit this year, interesting differences emerge based on the types of destinations travelers typically prefer, including:

  • Food & Cuisine: City Travelers
  • Adventure: Mountain Destination Travelers
  • Connecting with Nature: National and State Park travelers
  • Shopping: Theme Park Destination Travelers
  • Arts & Culture: International Travelers
  • History: Cruise Travelers
  • Wanting to Return to a Previously Visited Destination: National Park Travelers
  • _

    Marketing & Advertising Travel

    Travel continues to be hot and Americans open to inspiration. Overall, 86 percent of American travelers expect to travel in the next 12 months and the typical traveler expects to take 3 leisure trips in this period. Americans continue to show an increasing desire to venture further again, with 28.4% planning to travel internationally this year. Over 63% say they have a strong degree of openness to learning about new travel experiences and destinations to visit.

    _

    Yet, even as travel brands’ advertising increases to capitalize on the strong demand, more people are feeling unrepresented in the travel marketing they see. This month, 36.7% agreed with the statement “I’ve noticed that travel advertisements usually do not reflect people like myself”– up 5-points in the last four-weeks.

    _

    One angle to explore travel advertising from is the image-based content that consumers find most desirable. Our team has been charged with a lot of creative testing for our clients of late, and we used this month’s national survey to examine 20 of some of the most common image-themes used in travel advertising. The question we posed was “Please think about how destinations could appeal to you in travel advertisements. Which of these images would you generally find most appealing in a travel advertisement?” Below are the top 10 rated:

    _

    Beautiful scenery-landscapes 40.9%
    Sunsets 26.3%
    Families enjoying the beach 25.0%
    Wildlife 23.9%
    Friends enjoying the beach 23.5%
    Famous iconic attractions 22.0%
    Museums or cultural attractions 20.7%
    Scenes from a fun road trip 19.0%
    People dining in a restaurant 18.6%
    People having fun at theme parks 17.5%

    _

    Image themes receiving the least overall appeal rating included Theatrical performances, Solo travelers in nature and Scenes at a sporting event.

    _

    Rising Travel Costs & Inflation

    With the peak summer travel season begun, more Americans are agreeing it’s a good time to spend money on travel (33.4%). Additionally, 61.7% percent say that leisure travel will be a high spending priority – the highest level it’s been since July 2021.

    _

    Yet inflation and prices are indeed having an impact. The percent of American travelers saying that if gas prices don’t come down, they will take fewer road trips this summer (61.1%) and/or stay closer to home (63.0%) both increased 3 percentage points. High travel prices as an impediment to travel also climbed 3-points in the last month to 41.8%.

    _

    30.1% say they have cancelled a trip they had planned or considered because of high prices. When asked to rate how much a deterrent specific travel costs are, the two most commonly seen as “deal breakers” are gas (22.9%) and airfare (11.8%)

    _

    Feelings about COVID

    Americans are splintering again on Covid. Although a larger proportion of Americans feel optimistic about how the Covid situation will progress in the next month (32.3%), a growing proportion now feel it will worsen (up to 25.3% from 21.5% last month). More also feel that the virus is impacting their ability to have meaningful travel experiences (up 5-points in the last month to 38.2%). In addition, amongst those who have taken an overnight trip in the last 3 months, 27.3% said they had more than moderate anxiety on their most recent trip (up over 8-points in the last month). Despite relaxed mask requirements on commercial aircrafts, a majority of travelers (59.3%) would still prefer that all passengers wear masks while onboard the plane. In fact, those preferring that masks continue to be work surpasses the proportion of those who would not prefer this by a ratio of nearly three-to-one. Nevertheless, 34 percent of travelers say relaxed masking requirements increases their interest in traveling by air, compared to about 25 percent who disagree with this sentiment.

    _

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    The State of the American Traveler in May 2022—Inflation-Induced Considerations

    Although their high enthusiasm and commitment to travel remains intact, gas prices and inflation have a number of American travelers predicting they will make some adjustments to their upcoming trips.

    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 4,000 American travelers collected in April 2022.

    Inflation. Gas Prices. COVID. Back-to-the-Office. Read on below for an update on how these affect The State of the American Traveler:

    The Impact of Inflation, Gas Prices & Other Economic Factors on Travel

    • Many Americans seem to feel economic headwinds are inevitable. Right now, 59.0% of American travelers believe it is likely an economic recession will begin in the U.S. this year. Just 27.8% believe inflation will weaken this year and just 24.2% believe the U.S. will experience strong economic growth.
    • Inflation in consumer prices has led 23.2% of American travelers to cancel an upcoming trip, while 38.3% of American travelers agree that high prices have kept them from traveling in the past month.
    • If gasoline prices don’t come down, 58.0% of American travelers predict they will be taking fewer road trips this Spring and Summer, and 60.4% predict they will be staying closer to home on their road trips.
    • Fewer American travelers are now saying that luxury travel experiences are important to their leisure trips (35.6% down from 40.0% last month). While the average reported leisure travel budget for the next 12 months is at $3,857, this is still down from February, when it was at $4,283.
    • Americans feeling that the present is a good time to spend on travel is at 31.8%, a 10-point decline since the start of the year.
    • Nevertheless, Americans are still prioritizing their leisure travel. Nearly 90% have trips planned—3.0 on average. And despite the economic concerns, 60.6% continue to say their leisure travel is a high priority in their budget for the next 3 months. Americans recorded another record level of excitement about their leisure travel, as well. Over 80% did some trip dreaming and planning just in the last week alone.
    • While down slightly from the start of the year, many Americans also continue to feel optimistic about their financial future. 42.4% believe they will be better off financially next year compared to now.

    Expectations for the Pandemic

    • More than half of American travelers—and over 60% of those Millennial or Gen Z age—feel largely that there is normalcy, a 20+ point climb from the start of the year.
    • Now only one-third of American travelers feel COVID will have a meaningful impact on their travel experiences, and fewer than one-in-five recent travelers felt pandemic anxiety on their last trip.
    • Interestingly, after more than two years of COVID-19, American travelers do reveal a wariness about the pandemic’s future. Over 45% of American travelers feel it’s likely that a dangerous new variant of COVID-19 will emerge in the U.S. in the remainder of this year. In addition, those that feel the pandemic situation will get worse in the next month has more than doubled over the last several weeks—to 21.5% from 8.7%. However, this wariness has not currently impacted their excitement for travel nor their confidence in their ability to travel safely.

    The State of Business Travel

    • Nearly two-thirds of of American travelers feel it’s likely companies will require more employees to return to the office in the remainder of the year. However, only 36.5% of American travelers expect that business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, as 64.7% believe that virtual meetings will continue to replace many in-person meetings.
    • Business travelers are certainly on the road, though. Over half of business travelers will take a business trip in the next 3 months—1.3 of these trips on average.

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    The State of the American Traveler in April 2022—Changed but Highly Motivated

    Despite concerns about inflation and gas prices potentially impacting trip volume, Americans’ strong excitement for travel sustains. While today’s traveler is still trending towards shorter, closer to home and more carefully planned trips than before the pandemic, they are more motivated to travel than ever.

    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 4,000 American travelers collected March 15-23, 2022.

    The Outlook for Travel

    COVID continues to retreat, while Americans’ strong excitement for travel sustains.

  • 87.6% have current trip plans.
  • The months of May, June and July show 2-point increases in the percent of Americans reporting trip plans in them since last month.
  • 81.0% of American travelers report strong excitement for their travel this year and 86.2% are in a ready-to-travel state-of-mind.
  • 71.8% of Americans did some trip dreaming and planning in the last week.
  • A record high 57.9% feel we are closer to normal in the U.S.
  • Americans perceived impact of COVID on their ability to have meaningful travel experiences is at a record low (35.9%).
  • Avoidance of conventions and conferences reached a record low (40.9%).
  • International Travel and the Impact of War in Ukraine

    Even with the heartbreaking war in Ukraine, Americans’ current propensity to seek new travel experiences has kept up interest in international travel, while aspiration for Europe has not been disrupted.

  • Americans saying they are avoiding international travel is down to a record low 52.0%
  • Nearly 30 percent of American travelers say they are likely to travel internationally this year. In fact, 28.0% of American travelers say they are more interested in traveling outside the United States right now than domestically—up 3 points in the last month.
  • Europe still makes up 7 of the top 10 foreign destinations that Americans name as where they most want to visit this year, and Europe remains the top region Americans say they are likely to visit in the next 3 years.
  • Financial Sentiment

    Inflation and gas prices are an issue for trip volume, but Americans still plan to spend on travel.

  • 24.7% said that recent inflation in consumer prices has led them to cancel an upcoming trip.
  • 55.8% agree that recent inflation in consumer prices will likely cause them to rethink the budgets for upcoming travel.
  • 55.8% say that if gasoline prices don’t come down, they will be taking fewer road trips this spring/summer.
  • 59.8% agree that if gasoline prices don’t come down, they will be staying closer to home on road trips this spring/summer.
  • 61.3% still say travel is a high budget priority for them.
  • 40% still say luxury travel experiences are an important part of their trips.
  • The Post-Pandemic Traveler

    While no one is simply returning to who they were in February 2020, now that many feel the global pandemic receding, it is a good time to ask: who are you as a traveler now? We asked Americans several questions about how they plan to travel in the future and their current travel preferences, and how this compares to their pre-pandemic selves.

    • Americans will be seeking out new experiences for travel. 55.7% prefer places they have not been to before—up over 8 points since February.
    • Compared to pre-pandemic:
      • 23.2% take trips shorter in length, 17.0% take trips longer in length
      • 32.0% take trips closer to home, 13.7% take trips further from home
      • 56.5% more carefully plan trip details, 3.1% are less careful in planning
      • 46.9% are more motivated to travel, 17.1% are less motivated
      • 24.2% are more interested in visiting cities, 20.0% are less interested
      • 42.2% are more interested in outdoor destinations, 6.3% are less interested
      • 64.2% more sympathetic to frontline travel/hospitality staff

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      We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

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      Have a 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 services here.

    Feeling the Strain? A Look at American Travelers’ Current Financial Sentiment

    Be it inflation, rising gas prices or other economic concerns, some financial strain is beginning to be evident in American travel sentiment.

    If you are like all the travel industry professionals we’ve heard from recently, you are probably thinking (or worrying) about the potential impact of surging gas prices, inflation and other economic-related issues on travel. And you are smart to be. As an example, in the nearly two decades we have conducted an ongoing study of American travelers, gas prices have been a top indicator of American travel sentiment (save for the height of the COVID pandemic period, of course). When gas prices drop, Americans’ optimism about their travel rises, and the inverse. Here’s what our latest research on American travelers finds about the current situation.

    American Travelers’ Financial Sentiment

    While 41.2% of American travelers still agree now is a good–or very good–time to spend on travel and 61.5% continue to say that travel will be a high budget priority over the next three months, be it due to inflation or gas prices, some financial strain is beginning to be evident in American travel sentiment, including:

  • The percent of American travelers with at least one leisure trip planned in the next 12 months dropped six points in the last month to 87.2%
  • American travelers who feel that they/their household will be financially better off a year from now has dropped to 39.2% from 45.1% at the end of January
  • Expectations to travel more (35.9%) and spend more on travel (36.7%) this year compared to last year have both dipped.
  • The amount that Americans estimate they will spend on their travel this year fell to $3,788 from $4,283 reported the week of February 14th.
  • 58.5% of American travelers say travel prices are too high right now.
  • One-third of American travelers (33.6%) report that high travel prices have kept them from traveling in the past month.
  • You can download a summary of findings related to American travelers’ financial wellness here.

    If you need these and other insights custom to your destination or audience, please feel welcome to reach out for options. And don’t forget to register for our next webinar where we will cover all the latest findings on American travel trends, as well as take a deeper dive into Gen Z, hearing directly from this newest generation of independent travelers!

    *We would like to extend love to Ukraine and people being impacted by war–We hope for imminent peace.

    NOTE: The findings above are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data from 1,200 American travelers collected February 23-25, 2022.

    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Have a 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 services here.