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).
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    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).

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    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
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    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.

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    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.

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    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:

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    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%

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

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    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.

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    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%.

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    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%)

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    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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    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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of February 28—Going to New Places, Traveling Sustainably

    The pandemic’s lessening impact and Americans’ heightened enthusiasm makes for a strong outlook for travel. Americans are demonstrating a propensity to seek new travel experiences, and thus more will be headed on international trips this year. With the increasing amount of travel, fortunately, the majority say they will make an effort to limit their personal impact on the environment when traveling.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ 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 collected February 23-25, 2022.

    *Our hearts and thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. May peace and justice prevail.

    Here is what our latest research found about Americans and travel:

    The Lessening Impact of the Pandemic
    Americans further regained their sense of normalcy, rising over 5 percentage points to 47.3%. Over half of Americans think the course of the pandemic will improve in the next month, while less than 10% think things will worsen—a dramatic reversal from the start of the year. COVID is slowly but surely losing its effect on Americans’ perceived ability to have meaningful travel experiences, now down to 43.5% from 46.8% in January. More Americans than ever since the start of the pandemic want tourists in their communities, exceeding those that do not want them 35.1% to 31.3%. Even the related impact on service appears to be lessening. The percent of Americans reporting that travel businesses were having trouble providing adequate service on their most recent overnight trip declined from 39.6% in January to 31.3% this week.

    The Outlook for Travel
    Strong excitement for travel continues to grow amongst Americans, now at 82.1%. Fully 70.0% of Americans did some trip dreaming and planning in the last week alone, and 61.5% say travel is a high budget priority for them. Timing for Americans’ upcoming leisure trips shows strong intentions for Spring travel—the months of April and May both have 20% of American travelers reporting trip plans in them. As always, June and July will be peak travel months—right now each of these months has 25% of American travelers reporting trip plans in them. The planning window for trips remains relatively shortened—over 40% of Americans say they would plan a week-long trip in under 2 months. New York, Florida, Las Vegas, California and Hawaii top the list of destinations Americans say they want to head to this year.

    Travel Ideologies & Preferences
    As we have been reporting, family trips and romantic getaways are the travel Americans are currently most enthusiastic about. However, more than a third of American travelers say they have high levels of excitement for girlfriend trips, solo trips and reunion trips this year. Americans say they are looking to travel most for fun, relaxation, finding happiness and escaping stress. In addition, as they look to travel this year:

  • 54.2% prefer visiting places they have never been to over places they have visited before
  • 53.6% usually make an effort to limit their personal impact on the environment when traveling
  • 47.6% tend to prefer “active time” to “down time” on vacations
  • 40.6% say friends and relatives often ask them for travel advice or opinions
  • 39.0% say luxury travel experiences are usually an important part of their leisure trips
  • 35.3% say they are the kind of person that often makes new friends while traveling
  • 33.4% of Americans say if a new trip planning technology comes out, they are excited to try it
  • 28.9% usually make an effort to support minority-owned businesses when I travel
  • International Travel Recovery
    With the propensity for seeking new travel experiences, more Americans look to be headed on international trips in the coming year. Avoidance of international travel continues to decline (now at 54.7%), while 29.7% of American travelers say they are likely to travel internationally this year. In fact, 25.1% of American travelers say they are more interested in traveling outside the United States right now than domestically. Europe (especially Italy and France) tops the list, followed by Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Asia (especially Japan).

    Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of February 14th—A Lovely Outlook for Spring Travel

    Americans look to be in love with travel, as their travel excitement and desire for inspiration is at record-breaking levels. With many trip plans already underway, the outlook for Spring looks happily robust.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ 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 collected February 9-11, 2022.

    Based on our latest Travel Sentiment Index findings, it looks like Americans asked travel to be their Valentine!

    Americans’ excitement to travel over the next 12 months is the highest it has ever been in the pandemic era. Over 80% of American travelers exhibit higher levels of excitement for their prospective travel future and those in a ready-to-travel mindset hit an all-time high 84.6%. More Americans than ever, since the onset of the pandemic, plan to take at least one leisure trip in the next 12 months (93.3%). Americans’ optimism about the pandemic’s course in the next month leapt 10-points (to 51.2%), while the proportion highly concerned about contracting the virus dropped (57.4%). Americans’ confidence in their ability to travel safely and their perception of travel activities’ safety are nearing all-time highs—ones not seen since last Summer. In addition, for only the second time in the past two years, the proportion of American travelers who want tourists in their own communities exceeds those that do not (34.4% vs 32.8%). Still, over 70% of American travelers do agree it is important to maintain pandemic safety protocols.

    The outlook for Spring travel looks robust. Americans’ excitement to take a previously unconsidered trip—and soon—is also at a record-level (7.1). The last time it hit this peak was July 2021. On the same vein, openness to travel information is at a near all-time pandemic era high, not having been near this level since last June. Over 20% of American travelers already have trips planned for April and May (Note: Summer also already looks strong with over 30% with July trip plans). When it comes to upcoming holiday travel, while 13.1% plan to travel specifically for the upcoming Easter Holiday, a slightly higher proportion, 14.8%, plans to travel for Spring Break this year. Amongst upcoming Spring break travelers, just under half (48.2%) have selected the specific destination they will visit, marking a notable opportunity for marketers to reach and convert those who are still in the destination decision phase. When asked which types of destinations they are likely to visit on Spring Break, in good news for urban recovery, 42.9% will head to cities. Meanwhile, 37.3% plan to visit beach destinations and 28.4% will be visiting small towns or rural attractions.

    In this highly enthusiastic and open mindset, exploration looks to be back in vogue this year. While only one-in-three American travelers said, “I strongly prefer to travel to places I have been to before,” more than half (53.0%) said that “visiting new places they hadn’t been to before” would be an essential of high priority to them this year. Similar to the last two years, however, enjoying the outdoors will again be a high priority for American travelers. When asked how they feel about various types of destinations the two most popular were beaches and National Parks. More than half of travelers (56.2%) said that enjoying nature would be an essential or high priority to them. More than half (52.3%) also said “being outside and reconnecting with nature motivates me to travel” described them as an 8-10 on a ten-point scale. Americans love for family travel is also remaining strong. When asked what experiences they would be prioritizing this year, three-in-four (76.2%) said family experienced would be either an essential or high priority. Similar proportions (72.1%) said that the statement “Spending time with family and making memories with them is important to why they travel” described them, rating this as an 8-10 on a ten-point scale. Further, when asked what trip types they were excited for this year, family travel topped all other options.

    Travel marketers do need to be cognizant that America’s contentious political climate is indeed still having an impact on destination decisions. A significant proportion of American travelers (25.3%) strongly rated that the statement, “I won’t vacation in places in which their local political culture is sharply different from mine,” described them. Nevertheless, many American travelers are not averse to visiting places where residents might live and think quite differently from themselves. Almost half (48.5%) strongly agreed that they “travel to open my mind to new cultures and experiences.”

    Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of January 31st: Hope Returns in Omicron’s Wake

    American travel sentiment has recovered from Omicron and in some areas even soared to levels not seen since the Summer 2021 vaccine rollout-high. In this positive mindset, Americans have a strong openness to travel inspiration, seeking ideas from a variety of media.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ 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 collected January 26-28, 2022.

    As we previously shared, the Omicron wave did not impact travel the way previous variants did, and this week’s findings from our survey of 1,200 American travelers show that travel sentiment has recovered from Omicron and in some areas even soared to levels not seen since the Summer 2021 vaccine rollout-high. American travelers optimistic about the course of the pandemic over the next month climbed over 11 points in the last two weeks, reaching 41.9%—exceeding the post-Delta recovery. Even the feeling that COVID will be with us for the long-term dropped 5 points in the last two weeks, from 69.4% to 64.6%, and Americans are feeling an increasing sense of normalcy (up 3 points to 36.9%). In addition, a growing number of Americans admit they often feel that life should go back to normal despite the pandemic (63.1% vs. 60.3% two weeks ago).

    This greater pandemic optimism can be seen in Americans’ feelings towards travel, and their anticipated trip behaviors. This week, 81.5% are in a ready-to-travel state-of-mind, up over 5 points in the last two weeks and, more importantly, among the highest levels it has ever been in the pandemic era. Nearly 77% of American travelers report high levels of excitement to travel in the next 12 months and are expressing greater likelihood to travel internationally and attend large gatherings like conferences/conventions in the near future. More than three-quarters have dreamt and planned travel in the last week alone, a rate not seen since Summer 2021. 92.1% of American travelers will take at least one trip in the next 12-months—in fact, they anticipate taking 3.3 leisure trips on average this year, the highest reported figure in 14 months. In terms of the pandemic’s cloud, while 44.3% still feel COVID is impacting their ability to have meaningful travel experiences and 23.8% remain expectant that their travels plans will be impacted by the virus in the next 6 months, these sentiments are both on a continued decline. Taking a timely look at ski & snowboard related travel as a case study, the percent who say such a vacation is safe has nearly doubled from last season to this season.

    In this positive mindset towards travel, Americans are seeking travel information and ideas. In fact, strong openness to travel inspiration is up to 69.6%. Family travel looks to be king motivator in 2022 with nearly two-in-three travelers saying this type of travel is something they are highly excited about, far surpassing the closest other trip type, romantic getaways. Not surprisingly, spending time with loved ones is also one of Americans’ highest priority travel experiences. Over 70 percent of travelers say this is a high or essential priority to them. Only “having fun” and “relaxation” scored higher as travel priorities in the upcoming year. Food, visiting historical attractions, shopping and international travel continue to be top activities American travelers are passionate about. New York, Florida, Las Vegas and California still top where Americans say they most want to go in 2022.

    With increased desire for travel inspiration, Americans are using a variety of media. The top sources they say they are most open to travel messaging include online articles & blogs, websites found via search engine, streaming video services, email, Facebook & Instagram, and printed travel & lifestyle magazines. In addition, over 40% recently turned to an official destination resource produced by a DMO when planning a trip. And if you are a marketer lucky enough to have an ad in the Super Bowl broadcast this February 13th, you will have a large audience of travelers. Over half (52.9%) of American travelers say that they will watch this year’s Super Bowl matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

    Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of January 17th: The Dichotomy of this Virus & Travel

    Measurements of American travel sentiment continue to illustrate the dichotomy in the American psyche of the seriousness of the pandemic situation and the love for travel. Even with continued strong concern for COVID safety, societal exhaustion with the pandemic and a cultural propensity for optimism have resulted in increasing excitement for travel.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ 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 collected January 12-14, 2022.

    This week’s findings from our ongoing research on American travel sentiment continues to illustrate the dichotomy in the American psyche of the seriousness of the pandemic situation and their love for travel.

    With Omicron-fueled COVID case records continuing to disrupt life in the U.S.—from staffing shortages to full hospitals—Americans concerned about personally contracting the virus rose over 7-points in the last two weeks to 65.4%. This exceeds levels during the Delta-variant and is the highest it has been since February 2021. In fact, 71.9% report that at least one person in their personal circle has contracted COVID just in the last month alone (2.9 friends, relatives and/or coworkers on average). Omicron also continues to impact trips, with 40.8% of American travelers reporting either a cancellation or postponement specifically due to the variant—an 8-point gain from the start of the month. Nearly 30% have said that the challenges procuring COVID tests have stopped them from traveling in the past month. About 30% of recent trip-takers reported a high-degree of COVID anxiety and three-quarters of all American travelers say they are or will be more careful when traveling because of Omicron.

    Nevertheless, while 44.6% of American travelers have frequently worried that people are giving up on COVID safety when they shouldn’t, 30% admit to frequently feeling exhausted in the past month from having to deal with the COVID-19 situation and 35% say they have frequently had the thought that “life should go back to normal” despite the pandemic. Optimism that the pandemic will improve in the next month has soared 10-points in the last two weeks to 30.6%.

    In fact, this combined societal exhaustion with the pandemic and cultural propensity for optimism have resulted in increasing excitement for—and engagement with—travel. Nearly 80% of American travelers have trips currently planned in 2022. Over 70% have engaged in travel planning and/or dreaming in the past week alone—a 7-point increase over the past month. Excitement for an unplanned getaway (70.0%) and openness to travel inspiration (66.2%) both increased 5-points in the past two weeks. Overall enthusiasm for leisure travel and the number of anticipated leisure trips in 2022 are also on the rise. This week 72.8% of Americans expressed higher levels of excitement for their prospective travel future—reaching the highest level it’s been since the Omicron wave began. In fact, when asked for the one word that describes how they feel about travel right now, “excited” is the top response. The average number of anticipated leisure trips Americans plan to take over the next 12 months has hit its highest peak during the pandemic era at 3.1. In addition, more Americans now say that travel will be a spending priority in the next 3 months (58.2%—a 3-month high).

    What resources are American travelers turning to for getting inspiration and planning the travel they have on their minds? It appears the typical American traveler has used a wide array of travel planning resources recently. Digital channels naturally dominate destination marketing receptivity. When asked about the channels they’d be most receptive to learning about new travel destinations to visit, website found via a search engine (29.9%), email (24.0%), Facebook (21.3%), streaming video services such as YouTube or Hulu (19.3%) and online content such as articles and blogs (18.0%) topped the list. Instagram is also a top resource for Millennials, while printed travel and lifestyle magazines are key for inspiring Baby Boomers. When it comes to travel planning, Americans are commonly using Facebook (27.0%), YouTube (26.0%) and Instagram (20.9%), online travel agencies (24.6%), online content such as articles and blogs (22.4%), printed travel or lifestyle magazines (16.7%) and television programming (14.4%). American travelers are also looking to official resources such as the official destination website (21.9%) and an online visitor guide (14.7%) or printed visitor guide (11.8%) to plan their travel.

    What might Americans be searching for when it comes to travel inspiration and planning? By far the types of trips Americans are most excited about taking in the next year include family trips and romantic getaways. Millennial and Gen Z-aged travelers exhibit much higher levels of excitement for many different trip types compared to older travelers. In terms of interest in specific activities in the next 12 months, Americans are most interested in enjoying scenic beauty, warm weather outdoor activities, road trips, dining in regional restaurants, visiting historical sites and enjoying street food during their travels.

    Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    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.