Building on its summer prediction that the travel industry’s recovery will continue far into 2022, MMGY Travel Intelligence has revealed the key findings from its 2021 Portrait of American Travelers “Winter Edition” survey, conducted in October.
Examining data from 4,500 respondents, the report conveys that U.S. travelers have maintained their positive outlook on travel. Despite a short-term drop in the perception of safety from a Dec. 6 MMGY Global survey, the incidence of U.S. adults planning to travel over the next six months dipped only slightly from the previous quarter, with 71% indicating they intend to take a vacation (compared to 73% last fall).
“As 2022 approaches and travelers begin to embrace a new year of possibilities, it seems that the Delta variant has had only a nominal impact on the willingness to travel,” said Chris Davidson, EVP, MMGY Travel Intelligence. “We believe we are past serious virus-related barriers in travel, although the emergence of Omicron will have a small short-term effect. Holiday travel is already back to pre-pandemic levels, and we expect Americans to hit the roads and skies with continued passion and positivity in the new year.”
MMGY Travel Intelligence’s Dec. 6 study also showed that the Omicron variant is more likely to affect the travel decisions of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.
Other key findings from the Portrait of American Travelers “Winter Edition” survey:
- Boomers and Millennials, especially in affluent households, are the traveler segments expected to drive continued growth in domestic leisure travel in 2022.
- 87% of Boomers share that they are vaccinated, by far the largest percentage of any generation surveyed. They also lead all generations in travel spending intentions, indicating that they plan to spend at least $4,000 on travel in the next 12 months. This is the highest amount reported all year and more than any other generation.
- Boomers’ travel intentions have risen each of the last three quarters in spite of Delta variant cases on the rise. In fact, Boomers who make more than $150,000 are particularly bullish on travel, with this segment increasing their trip intentions significantly in this edition compared to fall, even amid the Delta variant news.
- Millennial households lead all generations in the number of trips planned, expressing intentions to take an average of 4.4 trips during the next 12 months, edging out Gen Zs (4.1), Gen Xers (3.3) and Boomers (3.8).
- As a whole, vaccinated travelers express a higher level of concern than non-vaccinated travelers about contracting or spreading COVID-19, yet it does not generally keep them from traveling. In fact, vaccinated respondents are more likely than non-vaccinated travelers to stay in a hotel and to take a flight during the next six months.
In addition to overall traveler preferences and future intent, the “Winter Edition” report also explored three special topics—online travel agencies (OTAs), loyalty programs and cruises. The study found that:
- Nearly three-quarters of active leisure travelers (73%) visit an OTA website or app such as Expedia, Tripadvisor or Travelocity on a regular basis when researching or booking travel. Unanimous by all generations, the most popular reason for using an OTA is to compare prices and availability (66%) across providers.
- Half of active leisure travelers indicate that they are currently members of a hotel loyalty program (52%) or at least one airline program (48%). Not surprisingly, Boomers, who have typically traveled more, are most likely to belong to either type of loyalty program, while Gen Zs are the least likely to be members.
- Finally, more than half of active leisure travelers are at least somewhat interested in taking a cruise during the next 12 months. Among all age groups, Millennials express the highest interest (69%) while the Caribbean is the most popular cruise itinerary (81%), followed by the Mediterranean at 71%.
Overall, the study communicates continued strength and optimism in the leisure travel segment. As travelers increasingly accept health risks as manageable due in part to rising vaccination rates, MMGY Travel Intelligence predicts that the next year will be characterized by growth in vacation length-of-stay (LOS) metrics, travel farther from home and a higher proportion of “major vacations” in lieu of more frequent local getaways. At the same time, overall segment growth may be somewhat tempered by rising consumer travel prices, limited availability in high-demand destinations and operational challenges caused by a tight hospitality labor market.