Americans Still Planning to Travel in 2010, Remain Cautious with their Money

According to a recent Gallup Poll, while half of Americans foresee no change in their travel spending in 2010 compared to 2009, more respondents plan to spend less in the coming year than say they will spend more, particularly relative to air travel and hotel stays. 

While nearly 3 out of 10 Americans plan to spend less on airline flights specifically in 2010 than they did in 2009, 16% say they will spend more, and about half say they will spend about the same. The same pattern is seen for hotel stays, with 30% planning to spend less and 16% planning to spend more.

According to the poll, there is little variation in Americans' 2010 travel spending intentions according to household income. All income groups, ranging from those earning $75,000 or more, to those earning less than $30,000, plan to spend less rather than more in each travel area.

Some meaningful differences are evident by age, with young adults expressing the greatest likelihood of increasing their travel expenditures. This is seen most clearly when asked about spending on vacations in general, as this is the one area where a higher percentage of those aged 18 to 34 plan to spend more rather than less (30% vs. 25%). By contrast, adults 35 to 54 and 55 and older are more likely to say they will spend less in each area, not more.

The spending intentions of young adults are a bit less robust relative to airline travel and hotel stays than they are for vacations. Roughly equal percentages plan to spend more rather than less on airline travel, while a slightly higher percentage plan to spend less rather than more on hotel stays. Still, the spending intentions of young adults are greater than those of older adults in all three areas.

With the economy still uncertain, it may be no surprise that when Americans are asked to look ahead to their vacation, airline ticket, and hotel spending in 2010, they are at least slightly more likely to say they will be spending less than they spent in 2009 rather than more.

However, consumer attitudes about their overall travel spending in 2010 may differ from how they ultimately behave. Indeed, the latest government report on travel and tourism reports a significant rebound in U.S. travel spending in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, reflecting increases in both business and leisure travel. This coincides with an increase in the U.S. gross domestic product more generally and is likely to extend through the fourth quarter. If so, the current data may simply, but importantly, indicate that Americans remain vigilant about their spending and therefore that airlines, hotels, and resorts will have to continue pushing major discounts and package deals in order to attract consumers' travel dollars.

"Gallup Poll," conducted by Gallup Inc., December 2009.  Website: www​.gallup​.com.