ASTA to Agents: Drive Market Offers Opportunities

With almost three-quarters of Americans saying they prefer to drive to their vacation destination, the market opportunities for travel agents are wide open, according to the Drive Market study, a recent report by Project 85 in which the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) also participated.

The study, conducted in January 2011, examined the habits and attitudes of more than 1,500 Americans toward drive vacations and trips, a market that, according to the U.S. Travel Association, represents more than three-quarters of the $495 billion generated in travel spending among Americans.

“This study really provides great insight into how Americans plan trips, their motivations for choosing to drive and their use of travel agents. For travel agents looking to break into new markets, the drive market is an often overlooked segment but one that holds distinct opportunities,” said ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo. “For example, as cruise lines look to use more diverse ports, an increasing percentage of Americans can now drive rather than fly to their cruise departure port, presenting an opportunity for agents to design a customized itinerary to complement the cruise.


Among the results, the study found that “being comfortable” is the primary reason why 74 percent of Americans prefer to drive to their destination, compared to the 21 percent who choose air travel. Comfort is a driving factor, especially among those over age 50, with 81 percent reporting that they like the flexibility to determine their own schedules, and 71 percent saying they prefer to drive because it allows them to “bring more stuff.”

The study also shows that among drive market travelers, nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) plan trips within a week of departure, and 49 percent plan within two weeks or less.

This particular study was a part of a larger effort known as Project 85, ASTA noted.

The Project 85 Think Tank is a collection of U.S. travel and tourism organizations that have united to collaborate on the development of marketing approaches and solutions for U.S. travelers who drive rather than fly to their destinations. Project 85 is named after the 85 percent of travel that takes place in the U.S. by car, motorcycle, RV or other vehicle.

Project 85 is managed by Solutionz, which along with Mandala Research conducted the study. In addition to ASTA, other project sponsors include AARP, Avis Budget Group, AOL Travel, Mapquest, Panasonic, the Destination & Travel Foundation, Experian’s Hitwise, Travel Guard, WCities and Wyndham Hotels.

ASTA members can receive a discount on the full report and an overview of the results. They are advised to contact Melissa Teates ([email protected]rg), director of research, for more details.