Summer Leisure Travel Outlook Remarkably Stable in Down Economy

Americans are expected to take 322 million domestic leisure person-trips during June, July and August 2009, according to the annual summer travel forecast by the U.S. Travel Association.  Although a decline of 2.2 percent from summer 2008, leisure travel remains resilient in the current economic climate. Consumers are expected to take an average of two trips this summer, stay approximately seven nights away from home and spend more than $900 on their longest summer trip.

"Travelers' resilience is good news for the travel industry and the entire American economy," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "According to our forecast, Americans will do their part this summer to stimulate the economy, save and create jobs and strengthen communities from coast-to-coast."

The April 2009 travelhorizons survey by the U.S. Travel Association and Ypartnership, a critical component of the summer travel forecast, shows that an estimated 54 percent of American households are planning to take at least one leisure trip this summer, compared to 50 percent at the same time last year. While Americans are still watching their travel budgets and other discretionary spending, more than half (51 percent) of these leisure travel planners expect to spend the same amount on their summer vacations this year.

"Consumer spending intentions for this summer are consistent with the patterns we have observed in earlier travelhorizons and other recent survey work," said Peter C. Yesawich, chairman of Ypartnership. "Americans continue to shop aggressively for value pricing when purchasing travel services."

The travelhorizons survey also revealed that nearly six out of 10 (57 percent) intended leisure travelers expect to spend the same number of nights away from home this summer compared to last; and that slightly more (22 percent) travelers expect to spend "more" nights away from home this summer than "fewer" nights (20 percent).

Americans plan to take more day trips or long weekend getaways in lieu of week-long vacations. On a positive note for travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Price Index, the cost of lodging and airfares is down by 6.8 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, through the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

Travel deals may entice Americans to travel, especially at the last minute. And the market of "undecided" leisure travelers looms large: an estimated 38 million U.S. adults have not yet decided whether or not they will take a leisure trip this summer through early fall.

These Americans are waiting to see if the economy and their personal finances improve in the coming months. Travelhorizons reveals that 45 percent of travelers will plan their trip and 39 percent will book it within two months of departure. Consumers are seeking out packages to book and comparison shopping, especially online, to save money.

While gas prices were the primary deterrent to travel last summer -- hitting an all time high of $4.11 for a gallon of unleaded regular -- gas prices should be less of an issue this summer as they are expected to hover just over $2 per gallon.

While the domestic leisure travel market has been fairly resilient, a more concerning trend is the expected 9 percent decline in international travel to the United States for full-year 2009, including a 7 percent decline in overseas travel.  Because international travelers spend more money, averaging $4,500 per trip to the U.S., increasing travel to the United States is the most efficient form of economic stimulus.


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