Americans are continuing to travel but intentions remain somewhat restrained compared to pre-recessionary levels, which is not surprising given the uneven nature of the modest economic recovery to-date, according to David Huether, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association.
"We are carefully monitoring the on-going surge in gas prices, which could erode travel perceptions about the affordability of travel as we edge closer to summer," Huether said in his analysis of the new report released by the U.S. Travel Association and MMGY Global.
The new report provides insights into the state of travel in the United States, based on the quarterly travelhorizons survey. It offers current perceptions of travel among U.S. adults through the Travel Sentiment Index (TSI). It also assesses business and leisure travel intentions during the next six months, as well as revealing trends in the past year of travel.
The latest results of the travel horizons quarterly report are based on a survey of 2,200 U.S. adults taken in February 2012.
The major findings include:
• The share of U.S. adults taking a leisure trip edged up to 69 percent in February 2012 compared to 68 percent a year earlier. After two years of consecutive declines, this latest news is a positive sign that leisure travel is on the mend. The number of trips taken by leisure travelers in the past year remained relatively constant at 4.0 trips.
• Looking at intentions, a little more than half (56%) of U.S. adults plan on taking a leisure trip in the next six months. This is lower than the 59 percent who answered similarly in February 2011, but the same as February 2010.
• After falling precipitously from 39 percent in February 2008 to 24 percent in February 2011, the share of U.S. adults who took a business trip in the 12 months ending in February edged down to 22 percent in February 2012.
• More than 4 in 10 (41%) of those who traveled for business in the past year were general business or "transient" travelers, while 31 percent were traveling for conference or convention purposes. The fact that general business travel was a larger share of overall business travel than the prior three February surveys signals that general business travel appears to be recovering faster than meetings and conventions.
• Business travel intentions for the next six months remain essentially flat compared to a year earlier (15% versus 16%), indicating that economic growth in general will likely be moderate in the near term.
Travel Sentiment Index
• Perceptions of travel among U.S. adults, measured quarterly since 2007 by the Travel Sentiment Index TM (TSI), rose to 93.6, the second-highest level since April 2007 (March 2007=100).
• Though still below the level of 95.2 reached last February, the TSI was measurably higher in February compared to the prior three quarters, with the gain mainly driven improvements in the finances of travelers and the affordability of travel.