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Recession Still Impacts Near-Term Leisure Travel

February 24, 2010 By: George Dooley

More than half (56 percent) of U.S. adults expect to take at least one trip primarily for leisure purposes during the next six months. However, this marks a seven-point decline from the percentage that expressed the same intention precisely one year ago, according to projections from the current travelhorizons survey co-authored by Ypartnership and the U.S. Travel Association.

The study also projects that business travel will continue its slow recovery with more than one in seven (15 percent) adults planning at least one business trip during the next six months, up from 13 percent recorded one year earlier. The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,251 U.S. households conducted February 4 - 12, 2010.

Of the estimated 127 million U.S. active travelers, half expect to spend the same amount of money on leisure travel services as they did last year. One-quarter expects to "spend more" on those trips and 26 percent plan to "spend less."

"Although we have yet to turn the corner, we are seeing signs of recovery this year with growth projected in both leisure and business travel volume," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Although leisure travelers will continue to watch their spending and look for the best deals possible, it appears that the decline we have observed in demand for travel services over the past 18 months may have finally abated."

The U.S. Travel Association projects a slight increase in both business and leisure travel for 2010 over 2009. On an encouraging note, the Traveler Sentiment Index has remained essentially unchanged since October of 2009. The index is a derivative of six individual measures of perceptions that affect travel. It now stands at 91 (compared to the baseline of 100 established during the first calendar quarter of 2007) versus 90.5 last fall.

Of the six components from which the index is derived, two reflected sizable gains over the previous 90 days: "money available for travel" and "time available for travel."  "Interest in travel" and "perceived affordability of travel" both declined slightly.

The most significant change, however, was in the "perceived safety of travel," declining from 93.8 in October 2009 to 84.8 in February 2010. This is presumably due to lingering concerns about the "Christmas Bomber" incident that occurred in Detroit over the recent holidays, the survey reports.

The data suggest that leisure travelers will continue to demand excellent value for their travel dollars this coming summer and are likely to be responsive to new promotional incentives expected from airlines, hotels, attractions and cruise lines in the months ahead.

"Although the industry would obviously be more encouraged by a significant uptick in the index, this is a still a wonderful time for consumers to succumb to their natural sense of wanderlust as suppliers read the tea leaves and start rolling out attractive incentives to travel this summer, particularly for leisure," said Peter C. Yesawich, Chairman and CEO of Ypartnership.

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By George Dooley | February 24, 2010
More than half (56 percent) of U.S. adults expect to take at least one leisure trip during the next six months, but it marks a seven-point decline from the percentage that expressed the same intention last year.
Filed under : Trends-Research