Trumping pre-recession data, the most recent survey reveals that 70 percent of Americans plan to take at least one leisure trip between now and October 2013, compared to 65 percent in March 2007, just as the country was slipping into the Great Recession.
Although leisure travel intentions have reached a new high since the quarterly travelhorizons™ survey began in 2007, the survey also revealed a sharp decline in Americans’ perceived “safety of travel,” presumably as a result of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, Boeing’s safety problems with its new Dreamliner, as well as both mechanical and hygiene challenges experienced by select cruise lines.
The Traveler Sentiment Score (TSS), tracked every calendar quarter since March 2007, is a derivative of six factors that reflect Americans’ attitudes toward travel, and serves as a predictor of travel behavior during the coming six months. A score above 100 means the current perception is more positive than negative compared to the benchmark measure recorded in 2007.
The April 2013 “perceived safety of travel in the U.S.” score dropped from 99.2 (February 2013) to 91.8, settling into the lowest point since the 2009 Christmas Day “underwear bomber” terrorist incident (88.2). It should be noted that the April 2013 survey was fielded two days following the Boston Marathon bombings which, as reflected in the data, had a palpable negative effect on the perception of the safety of travel in the U.S.
The travelhorizons™ survey also tracks changes in customer satisfaction with the services provided by four categories of travel service suppliers: airlines, lodging companies, rental car companies, and cruise lines. The biggest change observed in customer satisfaction during the most recent calendar quarter was for the airline industry, for which the results tumbled eight points from February 2013 (95.5) to 87.5 in April. Satisfaction with rental car companies (114.4), lodging companies (112.2) and cruise lines (119.6) all remained within three points of their respective February 2013 scores.
Americans also reported their finances still weigh heavily on their leisure travel decisions. Concern about the price of gasoline, which topped the list of financial concerns in February 2013 and has been the factor cited most often since this question was added to the survey in 2008, displayed an eight-point drop from April 2012 (from 60 to 52 percent), likely based on the $0.34 decline in the cost of a gallon of unleaded regular fuel between the midpoint of the April 2012 and April 2013 surveys. The price of air travel is now cited by the majority (54 percent) of respondents as the greatest financial deterrent to leisure travel.
Among the 27 financial factors measured in the survey that are known to influence demand for travel services, concerns increased for 22. The “high level of credit card debt” (53 percent), the “expectation that either the respondent or spouse/partner would lose their job” (52 percent), and “making less money this year” (52 percent) were most significant.
The most frequently-cited non-financial factor influencing travelers’ decisions is “lack of time,” mentioned by 20 percent of U.S. adults who are planning to take fewer leisure trips during the next six months. The TSS "time for travel" index also dropped from 98.2 in February to 96.7 this April – the first such decline since April 2012.
For more information about these insights, or to order the full travelhorizons™ report, visit http://www.mmgyglobal.com.