WASHINGTON, DCÊ—Ê A new War Impact Survey produced by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) shows that Americans won’t be traveling much overseas this spring and summer, potentially creating a significant economic loss to countries who rely on the influx of American tourist dollars. The survey also found that business and air travel continues to suffer considerably. Urban areas will be hit doubly hard this spring and summer as they feel the effects of the downturn in international inbound visitation and the downturn in business travel. To a lesser extent, these urban areas will also be affected by lower interest in leisure travel visitation from Americans.
According to TIA’s survey, 71 percent of Americans are not interested in traveling overseas, 31 percent of whom say that it is a direct result of the war and the weak economy. A significant exception is a strong attractiveness rating for travel to Canada. Between 2000 and 2001, U.S. travel spending overseas already dropped 13 percent or $10.4 billion. Data for 2002 are not yet available.
There is a glimmer of good news in the War Impact Survey, however. Eighty-one percent of Americans still plan on traveling for leisure this spring and summer and bargains will abound. Late booking patterns persist, however, as nearly half of these travelers (46%) have not yet started to make their plans, making it difficult for the industry to predict advance bookings. These late booking patterns may be influenced as much by recent trends in Internet usage and travel pricing tactics as by uncertainty due to the war and a weakened economy.
“We’ll probably set two new records this year. The number of Americans traveling overseas may be at historic lows. And the number of Americans choosing to take a driving vacation within the U.S. may approach all-time highs,” remarked William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America. “There`s reason for cautious optimism when it comes to leisure travel.”
The impact of the war and the weakened economy continues to affect business travel, already down more than 10 percent since 2000, with more than one-quarter (26%) of business travelers traveling less or not at all this spring or summer compared to last year. Only 9 percent say they’ll travel more. Of those planning to travel less or not at all, reasons given included reduced travel budgets (39%), no need to travel (38%), high cost of travel (29%), not wanting to be away from home (21%), and restriction of trips by employer (15%).
The TIA survey also found that the economy, not the war, was the most important factor for domestic leisure travelers who decided to change their travel plans. In fact, 33 percent of past year travelers have made changes in their leisure travel plans due to a weakened economy compared to only 22 percent due to the threat of war.
Of those leisure travelers who made changes to their plans because of the economy, 43 percent traveled closer to home, 41 percent delayed planning for their spring/summer trip, 37 percent took shorter trips, 28 percent avoided using air transportation and 26 percent changed their hotel type in order to obtain a better rate.
The survey confirms recent leisure travel trends with travelers saying they are more interested in travel by auto, RV or motorcoach, staying within the U.S. and visiting small towns and rural areas. These trends have become more prevalent in the past 18 months. In fact, driving trips increased 2 percent in 2002. In response to this increased interest, TIA, in partnership with the Department of Transportation, created the See America’s Byways program to promote great drives throughout America that celebrate many of the nation`s scenic, cultural and historic attractions. Hundreds of driving itineraries in every state ranging from one-day trips from major gateway cities to one-week trips and more are now available through www.SeeAmerica.org.
“We believe that Americans will indeed travel this summer. The See America`s Byways program gives them a large number of affordable trips to choose from all across the country,” remarked Norman.
The first wave of the survey was conducted March 20-25 using web-based surveys among 1,200 online Americans. It was conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America and a consortium of TIA member organizations, including NYC & Company, Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Florida, Choice Hotels, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and the Canadian Tourism Commission. Three additional waves will be conducted over the course of the next two months.