U.S. Travelers May Spend $60 Billion for Holiday Travel

Worries about the economy may put a damper on holiday travel this year, but travelers will still spend nearly $60 billion, according to an annual survey of American travelers by Access America.

Access America’s Vacation Confidence Index – based on 1,000 consumers — found fewer travelers may hit the road this year and those who do plan to travel intend to spend less than they did in 2009.

The combination of fewer travelers and lower trip costs could result in a multi-billion-dollar dip in overall holiday travel spending, which will still account for an estimated $59.4 billion.

"This year's survey reveals both the good and the bad in the current travel market," said Daniel Durazo, director of communications for Mondial Assistance (Access America is the travel insurance brand of Mondial Assistance). "While spending may be down over last year, Americans are still willing to invest in their annual travel plans, to the tune of $60 billion. This suggests that value, careful planning and last minute deals will be foremost on the minds of American travelers this holiday season."

The survey found that just 50 percent of respondents said they were confident they would take a holiday vacation this year. That's down from 61 percent in September 2009 who reported being confident in taking a holiday vacation last year and even with the 52 percent of respondents who said they actually took a vacation last year. Although within the survey's margin of error, the 2 percentage point reduction of holiday travel would translate to 2.3 million more Americans staying home, Aces America said.

According to the survey, Americans are actively looking to save money on holiday travel, especially since they appear to have over-shot their budgets from last year. Of those respondents that reported traveling in 2009, the average amount spent per household on holiday travel was $1,255 for a total of $75 billion in 2009 holiday travel spending. But in 2010, Americans report an average budget of $1,040 for holiday travel plans. If these numbers hold true, the decrease in holiday travel spending could be as large as $15 billion; however, because people often exceed their budgets, the dip could be smaller.

Of those people who did not take a vacation last year but feel confident they will take a holiday trip this year, about one-fifth (22%) reported alternating travel and staying home year by year in order to save money, Aces America said.

Actual spending plans for 2010 holiday travel break down as follows: two percent of holiday travelers are budgeting to spend over $5,000, two in ten (19%) are budgeting to spend $1,001-$5000, one in ten (9%) are budgeting to spend between $501-$1,000, another two in ten (19%) are budgeting to spend between $101-$500 while almost three in ten (28%) have budgeted $100 or less. One in five (22%) say they do not know how much they will spend yet. Almost half (48%) of Americans say an annual holiday trip is important to them and a majority (52%) of Americans say they took a holiday last year where they spent at least one night away from home.

Perhaps a lingering effect of the slow economic recovery, only two thirds (68%) of Americans who say holidays are important to them are confident that they will be able to take a holiday this year. One third (32%) of Americans who also feel their holidays are of importance do not feel confident that they will be able to travel during the holidays this year.

Of those who are confident they will take a holiday trip this year, over a quarter (27%) say they booked, or plan to book, between one to two months in advance. Two in ten (21%) have booked, or plan to book, in three months or more, or between two to three months. Fourteen percent have booked or plan to book between a week and a month before while one in ten (12%) are waiting presumably for last minute deals as they book, or plan to book, one week or less, the survey reports.

Americans have the option of traveling in a multitude of ways on their vacations. Of those who are confident that they will be taking a holiday trip this year, the most common way Americans plan on traveling is by car (61%), followed by air (26%), bus (5%), cruise (2%), train (2%) as well as other ways (2%). Visit www.accessamerica.com.

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