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Changing priorities are impacting how and why Americans travel


KANSAS CITY, MO – MMGY Travel Intelligence, MMGY Global‘s research and insights company, released the findings of its 2019 Portrait of American Travelers survey – the 29th annual edition of the acclaimed study. The results paint a picture of rapidly changing priorities amongst travelers, driven by growing concerns over safety, the quick adoption of the new sharing economy and a more conscientious approach to travel. The world is changing quickly and, as a result, how and why Americans travel is too.
While priorities are being reassessed, travelers intend to spend about the same on travel in 2019 ($5,025) as they report having spent in 2018 ($5,038). And while they plan to take slightly fewer vacations (3.2 in 2019 vs. 3.5 in 2018), travelers anticipate spending 17% more than they did at this same point in 2018. This is in part a reflection of a shift in the age of those who are most likely to travel in the coming year.
“While there may be some economic clouds on the horizon that could slow down travel spend, we see signs of cautious optimism among travelers in the near term – but not from the generations from whom we have seen historic growth in the past,” said Chris Davidson, EVP, MMGY Travel Intelligence. “Instead of a younger audience, it’s Gen X and Boomer travelers who are driving this optimism when it comes to anticipated spending in the next 12 months.”
The following are highlights from this year’s Portrait of American Travelers study.
Conscientious Consumerism Will Impact Travel for Years to Come
Today’s traveler is influenced in many different ways. There are more choices, more information and more complex motivations for how, why and where people choose to travel. Some of the more recent factors affecting these decisions are concerns about tourism overcrowding, climate change and its impact on destinations, and how travel service providers demonstrate responsibility in addressing these new challenges.
  • Overtourism: Sixty percent (60%) of American travelers believe tourism overcrowding will have a significant impact on destinations they choose to visit within the next 5–10 years.
  • Climate Change: Forty-eight percent (48%) of travelers agree that climate change will have a significant influence on what destinations they want to visit in the next 5–10 years.
  • Corporate Responsibility:
    – Thirteen percent (13%) of American travelers indicate they have selected a travel service provider based on perceptions of sustainability and environmental considerations during the past 12 months, up from 8% in 2018. Millennial families are driving this increase.
    – Corporate responsibility creates brand loyalty. Sixty-two percent (62%) of travelers indicate corporate responsibility as a reason for loyalty to airlines, with 60% believing the same for hotels.
Embracing the Sharing Economy
The sharing economy continues to disrupt the travel industry, and its growing appeal shows no signs of slowing down. The percentage of American travelers using sharing economy accommodations increased 45% in just the last year from 20% to 29%. It is expected to increase again in the year ahead, with 34% of respondents saying they are likely to use sharing accommodations during a future vacation. Factors such as cost and the allure of staying somewhere unique are motivating travelers.

Sharing Economy Accommodations Attitudinals*



I like vacationing in a home away from home



Arranging sharing economy accommodations was a good experience



I want to stay in an unusual place



Cost was the primary reason I used sharing economy accommodations



* Among those who have used sharing economy accommodations in the past 12 months.
The New Way to Road Trip: Wings & Wheels
Following a trend released in last year’s Portrait of American Travelers survey, the Great American Road Trip continues its surge in popularity. Since 2015, there has been a 64% increase in respondents reporting they have taken a road trip. This year, 63% of travelers told us they intend to take a road trip in the next 12 months.
It’s a common misperception that the primary appeal of a road trip is the potential it offers to save money on the vacation. In fact, those who have taken a road trip intend to take more vacations and spend more money on vacations in 2019 than those who have not taken a road trip. The primary reasons respondents mentioned for taking a road trip are the ability to make stops along the way and the ability to pack everything in the car. This stands to reason since significantly more Road Trippers than non-Road Trippers are motivated to travel by the prospect of exploration, the likelihood to enhance existing relationships, and the potential for self-discovery along the way. Seventy-seven percent (77%) indicate going on vacation brings their family closer together.
Most interestingly, we’ve identified a popular variation on the traditional road trip where travelers fly to a starting point and road trip from there. This is a new segment we’re calling Wings & Wheels travelers, which is being propelled by Millennial families who believe road trips evoke a sense of nostalgia and are a means of family bonding that stimulates the creation of valuable vacation memories. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Millennial families took road trips that began from another city, compared to just 41% of singles and 28% of couples. And, 71% of these Wings & Wheels travelers agree with the statement, “Giving my children the opportunity to see the world makes me feel like a better parent,” compared to just 57% of the Road Trippers who originate their travel from home.
Concerns for Safety Rise, With the Biggest Jump Among Millennials
Safety is becoming more important to travelers when choosing destinations to visit, as well as deciding whether or not to travel internationally. In fact, cost and safety are the two most significant barriers to international travel (both short-haul and long-haul international travel) for Americans. These are significantly more important obstacles than concerns about language and communication, travel time to and from the destination, and access to quality health care while traveling. In particular, Millennials’ desire for safety in a destination rose the most this year, up six points from 79% in 2018 to 85% in 2019.

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