New research released by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) this week reveals that Americans are already spending far more on travel than other large discretionary purchases this year and that half are more likely to use a travel advisor than they were in the past.
According to the new report, 47 percent of survey respondents ranked a vacation as their top discretionary spend. That figure is significantly higher compared to home improvement or renovation (23 percent) and a new computer (10 percent), which ranked second and third, respectively.
Notably, the gap between vacations and the second choice is consistent across all generations.
Additionally, the number of Americans who intend to spend more on travel has increased by 17 percent since late 2022, with Millennials and Gen-Z leading the way. Those generations are 22 percent more likely than the average American to spend more on travel in 2023.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) have concrete travel plans between now and the end of the year and almost four in 10 (39 percent) have spent more on travel so far this year.
More good news is that business travel is booming, with the number of average actual business trips (among self-identified business travelers) skyrocketing by 54 percent in the last six months compared to a 14 percent increase in leisure trips.
Travel Advisors are Making a Difference
The research shows that the majority of Americans (68 percent) believe that “planning a trip is more complex now” but travel advisors can help make it easier.
According to the survey, 50 percent of people are more likely to use a travel advisor today than they were in the past, signaling an encouraging 14 percent increase year over year.
More than half of Americans (54 percent) specifically agree that “a travel advisor can cut through some of the issues regarding airline fees” while 49 percent—an 8 percent increase from last year—agree that “in today’s environment, the expertise of a travel advisor will put me more at ease about my travel plans” and that “utilizing a travel advisor to plan my dream vacation is a great way to find the best value for my travel investment.”
Cruises and Trips Abroad are In-Demand
ASTA’s data also shows a spike in interest in cruising and international travel this year. In fact, the number of Americans planning a cruise has jumped 40 percent since last year’s survey and 30 percent of Americans have some type of international travel plans in 2023. As for international travel plans in 2024, that figure climbs to 42 percent.
When it comes to the hottest destinations outside of the continental U.S., Hawaii (65 percent), Italy (53 percent), the Caribbean (52 percent), Alaska (51 percent) and Australia (51 percent) are generating the most buzz this spring.
Meanwhile, Western Europe is the region of the world that respondents are most likely to visit next (25 percent), with London, Paris and Rome leading the way. Domestically, Las Vegas, Orlando, Nashville and San Diego are the most sought-after vacation locales.
The Benefits of Travel are Immense
Other notable findings include that more than six in 10 Americans (62 percent) strongly agree that “there’s no social media substitute for going out and seeing the world” and a whopping 78 percent agree that “now, more than ever, a vacation would do wonders for my mental health.”
What’s more, a majority (64 percent) agree that “traveling is the best quality time I can spend with my family.”
“Our research clearly shows that Americans are increasingly excited to travel and are turning to travel advisors to ensure they are getting the experiences they deserve,” ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby, said in a statement.
“These numbers bear out what I hear anecdotally from our members and their clients almost every day. More and more, Americans realize there is no substitute on the computer screen for the experience of traveling. This is true for leisure travel as well as business travel. I’m especially excited to see the 40 percent increase in those planning a cruise vacation and the 54 percent increase in business travel.”
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