The results of the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich Partners 2002 National Travel Monitor reveal that the travel industry is shaking off the aftershocks of 9/11 and both business and leisure travelers expect to hit the road more in the months ahead. Lingering concerns about the economy, however, still represent a potential drag on travel demand.
The results, released today in the nation`s capital, were calculated from nationally representative polls of 1,351 leisure and 1,200 business travelers taken during the first quarter of 2002. All estimates are accurate to within +/-2.8% at the 95% level of confidence.
Consumer attitudes toward travel have improved dramatically in recent months, said Peter C. Yesawich, president and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown, an Orlando-based marketing services firm that co-authors the highly regarded annual survey with Yankelovich Partners. This is the 11th year the firm has published the national study of the travel habits, preferences and intentions of Americans.
The results of the survey reveal that over one-third of leisure travelers plan to take more trips in the next year. This would translate into a six percent increase in leisure trips taken by Americans if the plans expressed by those surveyed actually come to fruition.
Future Travel Intentions of Leisure Travelers:—36 percent say they will take more trips than last year—39 percent expect to take the same number of trips as last year—25 percent say they will take fewer trips than last year (or no trips).
The future intentions of business travelers were even more optimistic. Over four out of 10 business travelers plan to take more business trips in the coming year, compared to 22 percent who expect to take fewer trips. Overall, the results suggest there will be an eight percent increase in business trips this year versus last.
The results of this year`s survey indicate clearly that the industry is poised for a recovery, Yesawich said. There is still a small minority of travelers hesitant to travel too far from home, but there are far more people who are ready to reclaim their vacations from the fear and emotional trauma that devastated the industry in the aftermath of September 11th. The numbers bode well for the forthcoming summer travel season.
Concerns about the sluggish U.S. economy remain the primary deterrent to the travel industry`s full recovery. Among leisure travelers who plan to travel less, current economic conditions and financial reasons were cited as the reason why by 37 percent. Only five percent of leisure travelers said air travel is now too big of a hassle, and just four percent believe it is not safe to fly.
For business travelers, the economy is by far the major concern. Nearly four in 10 business travelers who plan to take fewer trips in the year ahead cite company restrictions because of concerns about the economy (22 percent) and that current economic conditions make it difficult to travel (15 percent). Only three percent say air travel is now too big of a hassle, and less than one percent feel it is unsafe to fly. Both percentages represent a dramatic decline from the level of concern expressed about the same issues in four other national surveys conducted by Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown since September 11th.
Recent reports about the growth of the U.S. economy during the first quarter augur well for the travel industry, however. The recovery of the travel industry will undoubtedly mirror the economic upturn, particularly demand for business travel services, said Dennis Marzella, YP&B`s senior vice president of research. The corporate road warriors of America appear ready to hit the road again in increasingly larger numbers.
Nevertheless, it is clear that one of the legacies of the tragic events of last fall, the introduction of increased security measures at the nation`s airports, has added to the frustration of business travel. Specifically, fully 32 percent of business travelers feel that the new security procedures make business travel a big hassle, and 18 percent actually report flying less because of the associated inconvenience.
The 2002 National Travel Monitor also reveals that Americans are becoming more comfortable with the use of the Internet to make travel plans and purchase travel services. This is particularly true for leisure travelers, 53 percent of which now report using the Internet during the previous 12 months to obtain information or rates online (up from 47 percent last year). More than half (55%) of business travelers consulted the Internet to obtain information, fares and rates during the past 12 months, the same percentage as last year.
Americans Going Online for Travel Planning:—39 percent of travelers who go online and use travel agents think the Internet is easier and faster to use for travel planning than a travel agent. Forty-four percent of business travelers feel the same way—32 percent of leisure travelers actually made a reservation online during the past 12 months. Among business travelers, the percentage was 33—90 percent of both leisure and business travelers state that the web site feature they value most is being able to check the lowest rates for airfare, hotels and car rental companies.
Even though Internet usage is higher among leisure travelers today than in 2001, it is important to note that fully three out of every 10 leisure travelers still use the services of a travel agent. This is particularly true among older and more affluent travelers. Contrary to the expectations of some industry analysts, travel agents still play a very important role in directing leisure travel demand, Yesawich said.