REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The temperature isn’t the only thing rising as the United States’ unofficial start to summer approaches. The number of travelers expected to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend is up from last year, thanks in large part to signs of stability in the once volatile economy.
Almost one-third (31 percent) of respondents to a Deloitte survey plan to take a leisure trip during the upcoming holiday weekend, up from 24 percent who said they traveled a year ago during the same period.
AAA forecasts similar results, projecting a total of 32.1 million U.S. consumers taking a trip away from home, up 5.4 percent from the 30.5 million Americans who traveled during the same period in 2009.
“Consumer confidence is definitely coming back up. … The housing market is starting to stabilize. People are looking at their retirement savings, and it’s starting to come back now,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and leader of the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector for Deloitte. “When you put all those things together in general, people are starting to feel a little bit better about the economy and themselves.
“Now people are saying, ‘I’ll spend some money on travel. I’ll take a summer vacation,’” he said.
Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services, agreed with that assessment.
“While the economy continues to be rocked by waves of occasional uncertainty, improved economic performance from one year ago should cause more Americans to take vacations this Memorial Day holiday weekend,” MacDonell said.
Nearly half (49 percent) of those traveling plan to stay at a hotel, according to Deloitte. Almost one-third (30 percent) expect to spend their nights with friends or relatives.
Despite this expected uptick, Weissenberg was quick to point out the number of discounts and deals within the hotel industry.
“I don’t think anybody’s been able to raise rates much at this point,” he said.
The summer outlook
Memorial Day momentum will spread like spilled sunscreen into the broader summer season, as 59 percent of Deloitte survey respondents plan to take a trip between June 1 and Labor Day on 6 September.
While there was no change in that metric from a year ago, that doesn’t necessarily reflect stagnant growth, but rather the obstinate belief that summer travel is an American right, Weissenberg said.
“Americans like to take their vacations,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of vacation time. People are hesitant to give up their vacation plans for the summer.”
More than one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents expect to spend more money on their summer trips than they spent last year, while 49 percent plan to spend the same amount.
“That should be great for the restaurants and the add-on services for the hotels,” Weissenberg said.
AAA results paint a slight different picture, however. Median spending is estimated to be US$809 this Memorial Day. This is a sizeable reduction from one year ago, when Americans reported average spending plans of US$1,052. (NOTE: IHS Global Insight, whom AAA derives research for its projections, reported average spending last year rather than median spending. Average spending in 2009 was US$1,052.)