NEW YORK—The data trackers continue to be optimistic about steady gains in U.S. travel, including Deloitte & Touche LLP, which pointed to rising consumer confidence and increased business spending as evidence.
Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman of and global leader of U.S. tourism, hospitality and leisure for Deloitte, said consumer confidence regarding summer travel has been positive since Memorial Day. Respondents to a Deloitte survey indicated in May they were more eager to take a vacation than they were in May of 2011, he said.
“It was up from last year where I think 31% of respondents compared to 24% said they were going to take a Memorial Day vacation trip,” Weissenberg said. “Summer travel was kind of flat but still a slight increase—54% compared to 52% said they were going to take a trip.”
Weissenberg said a number of factors could have led to decreases in Americans taking trips in years past—namely rises in flight costs, gas prices and hotel rates—but still more travelers reported they’d take a vacation this year than last.
“I think that’s a pretty good sign on consumer confidence,” he said. “Obviously you would think those things would impact it and take it down, but it didn’t.”
Weissenberg pointed to stabilizing macro trends in the U.S. that are leading to additional consumer confidence, such as strengthening housing prices, decreases in unemployment and retirements funds returning.
“All those things go with the point that people feel much better about themselves and are willing to take a trip this summer,” he said.
Corporate travel is expected to increase as well. Weissenberg said companies continue to realize the importance of face-to-face meetings.
“The truth is you have to have face-to-face meetings, and I think the good news is American companies’ profits are heading up again,” he said. “Most American companies have more cash than they did a few years back, and so with that they are sending people on the road.”
The way U.S. travelers are shopping for travel is rapidly evolving, Weissenberg said. While there is still a niche market for travel agents, the majority of travelers today are researching and booking online. Metasearches have latched on to that trend and are compiling hotel and flight availability in one easy-to-find location.
“Now it has become more of a question of the consolidators that are out there that go and find sites and grab information from other online sites; it has kind of gone to the next level,” he said.
However, Weissenberg said travel agents have survived.
“I think there’s still a niche there particularly for the older or luxury traveler who wants that personalized experience,” he said. “I do think there’s still a need for travel agents, so that’s not going away.
“However,” he continued, “clearly (for) the majority of travelers, in particular the business travelers … everything is done online.”