Despite rising costs and changing world events, international travel is poised to increase among affluent Americans over the next year, according to new research by MMGY Travel Intelligence. The company released the findings of its Portrait of American International Travelers study, presented in collaboration with the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). Examining data from more than 2,000 respondents, the comprehensive national survey found that high-income, outbound U.S. travelers intend to take an average of 3.8 international vacations in the next 12 months, up 72% from 2.2 in 2019. Additionally, the average outbound traveler anticipates spending a total of $15,364 on international trips in the coming year—a 16% increase when compared to pre-pandemic spending predictions.
“It’s clear that there is a willingness and growing appetite to travel internationally, but the important thing for marketers to note is that the American traveler looks and acts quite differently than they did before COVID-19,” said MMGY Travel Intelligence Europe Managing Director Cees Bosselaar. “As international tourism ramps back up, destinations should continue to be mindful of the new concerns and challenges that today’s travelers face throughout the course of their journeys.”
Key findings from the third annual study:
Although overall interest in foreign travel is up, the number of destinations U.S. travelers want to visit is down compared to pre-pandemic, suggesting that travelers have become more selective in their purchase decisions. Europe, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and Canada were the top four destinations cited by U.S. travelers as places they want to visit.
Indicating a shift in travel patterns, the study also noted an overall increase in interest in visiting less-crowded destinations and those that offer an abundance of outdoor activities.
Examining generational differences, the study found that American Millennials plan to go on more international trips than Boomers (5.7 vs. 1.5 in the next 12 months) though Boomers anticipate spending twice as much on each trip ($7,725 vs. $3,564).
Travel disruptions such as flight cancellations or delays reign supreme as the top concern for Americans traveling internationally. Concerns surrounding travel disruptions were shared equally across all generations, whereas other concerns such as inflation and COVID-19 appear to have more of an impact on younger travelers. Personal safety, as it relates to violence and unrest, and sustainability practices round out the top areas of concern for travelers.
“This study confirms that the sustainability efforts of a travel service provider or a destination are impacting travel decisions, primarily for younger generations,” said Terry Dale, president/CEO, USTOA. “Sixty-three percent of Millennials indicate that a travel service provider’s focus on sustainability impacts their travel decision-making.”
Dale added that USTOA is using its milestone 50th anniversary in 2022 to look “50 years forward” to help its tour operator members initiate and grow sustainable and responsible practices to meet these evolving traveler expectations.