U.S. Travel Spend Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels

New data from Affinity Solutions indicates U.S. travel spend has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Affinity Solutions’ "Consumer Purchase Insights," based on actual credit card, debit card and transaction data, was observed from January 2019 to June 2023.

According to the data, the percentage of unique travel shoppers totaled 11.7 percent in 2019, with total spend reaching 4.5 percent. The category saw significant declines during the COVID-19 pandemic, with total spend falling to 2.5 percent in 2020. The category bounced back in 2022, with unique shoppers reaching 12 percent and total spend hitting 3.9 percent.

The average spend per travel transaction reached $244.97 in 2022, which is in line with (even above) pre-pandemic levels, where the average spend was $219.38. From July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, transportation was the leading spending category, comprising 39.8 percent of all travel purchases. Lodging ranked second at 34.9 percent followed by travel agencies (13.4 percent), cruises (8.3 percent) and entertainment (3.3 percent). Flying was also the most popular mode of transportation. When looking at transportation spend specifically, airlines dominated the category at 81.9 percent. Comparatively, car rentals totaled 17.1 percent, while passenger railways and bus lines hit 0.9 percent and 0.04 percent, respectively. Cardholders invest $288.89 per transaction on average in air travel, with each unique traveler purchasing 2.1 times annually.   

The data also showed that March and June 2023 were peak spending seasons, with each seeing a 9.7 percent share in travel spending. July 2022 and April 2023 came in at 8.8 percent.

Baby Boomers make up the majority of travel spending, at 53 percent, followed by Gen X (28 percent) and Millennials (19 percent). Baby Boomers spend on average $297.79 per travel transaction, which is 11 percent higher than the average. Comparatively, Gen Xers spend $257.79 per transaction, while Millennials spend $206.95.

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