The State of the American Traveler in December 2022—Holiday Travel Inspiration & the Importance of Deals and Rewards

Over half of American travelers say they are taking a vacation or other trip this holiday season, and the majority of these holiday travelers are still open to ideas and destination inspiration. Meanwhile, as many Americans feel a recession looming, deals, discounts and rewards programs are gaining importance.

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 November 2022.

First…Happy Holidays! We wish you and yours much joy and merriment this season.

Americans Looking to Travel this Holiday Season—Still Open to Ideas
The holiday travel season is upon us and well over half (55.1%) of Americans plan to take at least one leisure trip between now and January 7th, and 29% plan to take two or more such trips in this timeframe. Although 47.4% of these holiday travelers plan to stay in the home of a friend or relative on these trips, 58.4% will also in paid lodging (23% at a 3 or 4-star full-service hotel, 15.3% at a budget hotel, 11.4% at a 5-star hotel and 8.9% in peer-to-peer lodging). On average, the duration of these holiday trips will be 5.3 days.

American’s top holiday season travel priorities include spending time with family (81.4%), relaxation (69.7%) and of course enjoying family traditions (67.7%). In addition, nearly a quarter will prioritize meeting new people (24.8%) and/or traveling outside the United States (23.9%). While 48.4% say these holiday trips are being taken to celebrate a specific holiday, 42.3% say at least one of their trips will be purely for vacation or a weekend getaway.

In terms of the types of destinations Americans plan to visit, small towns (32.7%) and cities (32.5%) will be most common followed by beach destinations (23.1%), state/regional parks (15.0%) and theme parks (14.5%). And in good news for destination marketers, over half (52.4%) of holiday travelers say the destinations they plan to visit this holiday season have not yet been firmly decided.

Deals, Discounts & Rewards Gain Importance as Travelers Get More Careful with their Money
Fewer Americans now say that inflation in consumer prices has led them to cancel an upcoming trip. Now, only 28.7% say they have, which is down nearly 8 points from June. Similarly, the proportion of Americans who say they will take fewer road trips this winter if gasoline prices don’t come down has dropped to a low of 52.4% (which is down 16 points from its peak in June). Additionally, when we look at what has deterred Americans from traveling more than they would have otherwise preferred in the last 6 months, fewer are now citing the expense of gas (41.1%; down 6 points from July), airfare being too expensive has also declined (26.3%; down nearly 5 points since October) as has concerns over the possibility of flight cancellations (9.7%; down 6 points from August).

Despite these improvements, nearly 60% of Americans still expect the U.S. to enter an economic recession sometime in the next 6 months and therefore 64.7% of all travelers say they are being careful with their money now. In this vein, nearly three-quarters (74.4%) of Americans agree that travel deals and discounts are more important to them now compared to 6 months ago. Our latest survey also found that nearly 31% of Americans have used credit card points/rewards for travel-related purchases in the past 12 months alone, with the most common purchases being airline tickets and hotel stays (52.7% and 50.8%, respectively). Far fewer of these credit card point redeemers have used their rewards for upgrades to their hotel room (13.3%) or airline seat (11.7%).

International Travel Interest & Japan’s Reopening
Currently, 29.8% of Americans say they are likely to travel abroad in the next 12 months (which is down 4 points compared to October) with Italy, Canada, the U.K., Mexico, France and Japan being the most desired foreign destinations currently. And because Japan just reopened their borders to tourism for the first time since the start of the pandemic, we further gauged American’s interest in visiting this island Asian nation. Just over one-in-three Americans (35.7%) said they were aware of Japan’s border reopening and one quarter (25.1%) say they are interested in visiting in the next 12 months. Of these interested parties, their top drivers of aspiration for visiting Japan includes food and cuisine, history/heritage sites, arts and culture, unique activities, adventure and being a bucket list destination.

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The Important Work of Making Travel Accessible

 

During Destination Analysts’ November 2022 webinar update on The State of the American Traveler, we sat down with representatives from Wheelchair Travel, Accessible Travel Solutions, as well as Travel Oregon and Visit Mesa to discuss broadening accessibility to travel experiences and increasing the industry’s ability to be more welcoming to all. You can watch in the video above and read below for our key takeaways from this important discussion.

According to John Morris of Wheelchair Travel, while disabilities vary between people, and everyone has different needs, so it is important for destinations to reach out to their travelers to see how they can meet those needs. This is especially key when considering that seniors overlap significantly with the disabled population, and accessibility comes into play for both groups.

Some of the main barriers in accessible travel in the current landscape include misunderstandings at the decision-maker levels about the accessible travel market and the definition of accessible travel. It is challenging for destination leaders to evaluate the opportunity and understand how best to move forward. The need for expertise is part of this obstacle, and this in turn feeds into resources. Oftentimes, organizations do not have an accessibility expert and there is limited knowledge around what tools exist, according to John Sage of Accessible Travel Solutions.

It is also an awareness issue, says Morris. There is a lack of understanding of the size of the community of travelers with disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26% of the U.S. population has a disability. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 12% of the population with a disability use a wheelchair. But there is a need for awareness around the opportunities that exist in the marketplace. Because of the lack of accessible environments, travelers with disabilities are less likely to be visible in the population of travelers visiting destinations, which exacerbates this issue. But in fact, there is an opportunity for destinations to really make a foray into that market, given the size of the population and the universal desire to travel that is shared by all travelers, regardless of their background.

Our panel shared resources that are available to organizations for support in their efforts to become accessible destinations and businesses. Among these, Travelability is a wonderful resource, according to Visit Mesa; the organization has a summit next summer that is highly recommended. Visit Mesa also recommends using community resources such as Facebook Groups to learn directly from travelers with disabilities about what their pain points are. Travel Oregon suggests turning to city managers, as cities often have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators who can provide information on accessibility in the community. The local community of people with disabilities can also be a wonderful resource.

We want to take the opportunity to once again thank Wheelchair Travel, Accessible Travel Solutions, Travel Oregon and Visit Mesa for sharing their learnings and best practices with the greater travel industry and for their incredible efforts in expanding travel’s accessibility.

Americans Surpass a COVID-19 Milestone – In a Good Way

Amidst the hubbub around the midterm elections and continued whispers around recession fears, American travelers quietly passed a milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic in the most recent The State of the American Traveler study, fielded from October 15-22, 2022.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic over two and a half years ago, the proportion of American travelers who are unconcerned about contracting COVID has surpassed those who are concerned. The percentage of travelers who say they are highly concerned about contracting the virus has dropped to just 38.4% of American travelers this month (see Fig. 1). This follows the trend we have been seeing since the omicron variant wave in winter 2021, with this month marking the lowest percentage since Destination Analysts started tracking this metric in March 2020.

American travelers’ confidence in their ability to travel safely in the current environment is also at an all-time high, with 60.4% saying they feel confident or very confident. In a similar vein, the share of travelers who say they are not very confident or not at all confident that they can travel safely right now is at its lowest point (9.3%).

Similarly, when asked what factors have kept them from traveling more in the past 6 months than they would otherwise have preferred, we continue to see a steady decline in the number of Americans who reported that safety concerns around the risks of COVID-19 are a travel deterrent (see Fig. 2).

These optimistic trends around COVID-19 safety concerns align with the continued upward trajectory in perceptions that we are returning to “normal” in the U.S. At another all-time high since the start of the pandemic, in this most recent wave nearly two-thirds (65.3%) of American travelers said we are more than halfway back to normal in terms of the resumption of typical leisure activities such as dining out and travel.

While these indicators have maintained their positive trends in recent months, Destination Analysts will continue to monitor American travelers’ sentiment and perceptions around COVID-19 and other health-related travel concerns on a quarterly basis in 2023.

To stay up-to-date on traveler trends, sign-up to receive monthly updates and Key Things to Know from our State of the American Traveler Study here.

The State of the American Traveler in November 2022—Holiday Travel on the Horizon, More Cautious Spending

Economic anxiety is increasing, and a period of more cautious travel spending appears imminent. Fortunately, holiday season trips and the near-term outlook for travel remain healthy.

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 October 2022.

Economic Anxiety—and the Desire to Tighten the Purse Strings—are Increasing
American travelers expect that the U.S. will enter a recession soon, with two-thirds now believing this economic outcome to be imminent (interestingly, this belief spans generations, geographic regions and income levels). As such, 68% of American travelers say they are being careful with their money as a result of recessionary fears. Of this group tightening their wallets, 79% said this includes reducing expenditures on travel. In fact, the percent of Americans saying travel is a priority in their budget right now has hit a 10-month low (at 54%) and the percent saying the present is a good time to spend on travel is the lowest it has ever been since we began asking the question back in July 2021 (at 25%). The top deterrents to travel Americans report continue to center around financial and cost issues, with gas being too expensive, travel in general being too expensive, personal financial reasons and airfare being too expensive topping the list as reasons that have kept Americans from traveling more than they would have preferred.

Near-Term, Holidays + International Travel Expectations Still Healthy
Despite the growing concerns around travel spending, the near-term outlook for travel still appears healthy. Over 82% of American travelers say they already have existing trip plans. More specifically, in the next three months, 58% have a leisure trip planned, 51% have a trip to visit friends and family, 15% have business travel, and 9% have convention/conference travel. More than 28% report having plans to travel for leisure in the month of November (which is up 4-points compared to one month ago) and over 30% plan to travel in December (up 2-points from last month). Looking at travel for the upcoming holidays, 26% of American travelers report presently having plans to travel for Thanksgiving (up from 20% in 2021), 30% report Christmas travel plans (up from 27% in 2021) and 14% plan to travel for New Year’s (up from 12% in 2021).

Also in spite of economic anxiety, international travel interest has also grown to a year-to-date high. Currently, 31% of Americans saying they are more interested in traveling outside the U.S. than domestically (a 6-point increase compared to February 2022). Additionally, 34% say they are likely to travel outside the U.S. in the next 12 months (a 7-point increase compared to April 2022). The top international regions Americans are most likely to visit in the near future are Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands.

Among the most optimism-inspiring findings about the current sentiment towards travel is that Americans’ excitement about their future travel is back up to February 2022 levels (measuring 7.7 on a scale from 0-10, and among the highest levels recorded in the last 3 years). Nearly 80% of American travelers report doing some trip dreaming or planning in the last week, and 42% even agree that they daydream or fantasize about their future travel frequently.

Positive Sentiment Towards Air Travel Grows, But So Does Concern about Safety
Although Summer 2022 was a challenging period for air travel, in this latest wave of our The State of the American Traveler survey, air travel as a transportation preference has gained share from road trips. One-third report that they prefer air travel over road, cruise and train travel—up 4-points in the last month. Meanwhile, 40% prefer road trips, down 4-points since September.

Unfortunately, concerns about personal safety while traveling domestically are on the upswing. When asked how concerned they are about their personal safety when traveling within the U.S., 46% now say they have more than moderate concerns, which represents a 6-point increase in the last month. Over 7% of American travelers report that concerns about their personal safety even deterred them from traveling in the past six months.

Podcasts are Playing in Travelers’ Ears
Nearly 30% of American travelers report that they listen to podcasts on a regular basis. While true crime, comedy, news and entertainment themed content tops their playlists, 16% say they regularly listen to travel podcasts.

Greater Consideration for the Environment Being Exhibited
More than half of American travelers now say they usually make an effort to limit their personal impact on the environment when traveling, and 38% report that they planned carefully to reduce the environmental impact of their travel on their most recent overnight trip. Further findings about traveling consumer sentiment towards sustainability, climate change the environment will be explored and presented in our upcoming webinar on the Destination Management Edition of The State of the American Traveler on November 15th. You can register here.

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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.