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The Recession Busts the Boomers

The Recession Busts the Boomers

No one expected 2009 to be a banner year for travel, and as expected, consumer spending overall endured a tremendous amount of strain. According to PhoCusWright’s Consumer Travel Report Second Edition (a Global Edition publication), there was an 11% decline in the incidence of leisure travel purchasers in 2009 compared to 2008.

Chart: Incidence of Travel; PhoCusWright's Consumer Travel Report Second Edition

However, not all consumers responded to the recession in the same way, and a closer look at the incidence of travel by age reveals dramatic differences. In response to challenging economic conditions, older baby boomers (in the 55-64 age group) pulled back on their travel earlier than other age groups. As consumers preparing for or already in retirement, these older travelers became conservative with their discretionary travel spending sooner than others. Due in part to this early pullback, travel incidence for these older travelers was essentially flat in 2009, suggesting that this group simply maintained the more conservative travel incidence it had already established.

In contrast, younger boomers in the 45-54 age range didn’t pull back until 2009. In 2008, the incidence of travel among this group was significantly higher than the older boomers. But in 2009, they displayed the sharpest decline of all age groups, plummeting 18 percentage points. Similarly, the 18-24 age group displayed a sharp year-over-year drop of 15 percentage points. Despite this drastic decline, the youngest group of travelers had the highest travel incidence of any age group in both 2008 and 2009.

PhoCusWright’s Consumer Travel Report Second Edition provides an overview of the state of consumer travel in the U.S. and insights into key indicators for the upcoming year. The report explores a range of topics, including travel incidence, general travel behavior, channel usage and psychographics. For executives who rely on insight into U.S. travelers’ behavior and attitudes, this report is an indispensable resource.


Tomorrow, May 26, PhoCusWright’s Online Event,  Cutting Losses, Rebuilding Confidence: Key U.S. Traveler Insights will reveal key findings and trends from the Consumer Travel Report. This one-hour event (12:00 pm EDT) will be presented by Carroll Rheem, PhoCusWright’s director, research, and will highlight the traveler behavior and trends that are shaping the lodging, air travel and other travel components in the U.S. An audio/video recording and presentation deck are provided to all registrants.