As the summer travel season officially kicks off, a new survey shows that a growing number of U.S. travelers who plan to take a trip in the next six months will spend more on their vacation than they did last year.
That’s good news for travel agents since consumers’ interest in more expensive and elaborate itineraries could lead them to seek the services of a travel professional, said Steve Cohen, vice president of MMGY Global, the travel marketing firm that conducts the quarterly poll as well as other research reports.
“In our research, we see a resurgence in the use of agents,” Cohen said, and while the rise itself is modest what’s saying is that it’s being led by millennials.
“Millennials didn’t grow up with a travel agency in every strip mall,” he said, “but contrary to the belief that they want to do everything online, they’re telling us they don’t have time to do it [trip planning] themselves.”
While the latest survey of more than 2,300 U.S. adults also revealed slight drop in the number of those who said they plan to take at least one leisure trip—from 69% last year to 66% to this year—those who do go will be more willing to open their wallets.
Twenty-seven percent stated they plan to spend more, up five percentage points from the same period in 2014. Only 15% of those polled said they would spend less than they did in 2014.
Cohen said the survey, conducted during April, revealed that some consumers who are putting off a vacation this year are doing so because they’re gearing up for a major trip later on.
“The millennials especially say they’re saving up their time to take that really big trip.”
One key trend is the rise in overall confidence about the economy and consumers’ ability to pay for a discretionary item such as a vacation.
The survey also includes a “Traveler Sentiment Index” (TSI), which uses responses to questions on six different factors to create a snapshot of Americans’ attitudes towards travel. The TSI increased 20 points this past quarter, from 148 in April 2014 to 168 now.
In particular, the perception that travel is affordable registered a significant increase over the previous year, said Cohen, fueled mainly by the strength of the U.S. dollar against the Euro, which in recent months has risen to its highest level in more than a decade.
And the drop in the price of a gallon of gas, which is, on average, about a dollar less than it was a year ago, is encouraging more consumers to hit the road.
Traditionally high priced destinations, such as Italy, the U.K., and Japan, are the top choices for those going abroad, said Cohen, citing another MMGY study, the annual Portrait of American Travelers, due to be released this month.
Factors like affordability may have less influence over business travel decisions, however.
Three in ten adults said they plan to take one or more business trips in the next six months— about the same as a year ago—but the average number of business trips they expect to take fell to 3 from 3.7 trips reported in April 2014.
Source: The Travel Market Report