MMGY: Inflation creating travel divide

New research by MMGY Travel Intelligence shows that inflation and the rising cost of travel are convincing some Americans to stay put, while Boomers and higher-income households plan to keep traveling and will likely increase their spending on travel over the next year.

This traveler dichotomy is just one of the key findings released this week as part of the research firm’s 2022 Portrait of American Travelers “Fall Edition” survey, which examines the intentions and behaviors of more than 4,500 adult survey respondents.

Overall, 63% of U.S. travelers intend to take a vacation in the next six months—holding steady with figures captured earlier this summer, but a 10-point decrease compared to the same time last year. Among those not planning to vacation in the next six months, nearly 40% cited concerns about their financial situation or the rising cost of travel as a reason. The offsetting good news for the travel industry is that those who do plan to travel for leisure in the next 12 months plan to spend significantly more on their vacations than those surveyed last year at this same time ($3,785, up from $2,758 in 2021).

According to Chris Davidson, EVP, MMGY Travel Intelligence, Boomers and higher-income households plan to spend more on travel, while lower-income households indicate they expect to spend considerably less on travel in the year ahead.

“With these factors in mind, we’re predicting that overall leisure travel volume may decrease somewhat in 2023 while prices will likely increase,” said Davidson. “From a hospitality perspective, we expect leisure occupancy to decrease while average daily rate (ADR) increases modestly. As a result, we’re anticipating a slight increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR) on a year-over-year basis in 2023.”

Other key findings from the Portrait of American Travelers “Fall Edition”:

  • With the winter holidays approaching, fewer U.S. adults are planning to travel this season compared to last year, down from 42% in 2021 to 36% this year. Though a statistically significant decline, researchers anticipate that this will still be a very healthy holiday travel season for the industry, but potentially down slightly from a volume perspective compared to 2021/2022.
  • Culinary experiences are a high priority and disproportionately so for younger travelers. In fact, six in 10 Gen Zs (56%) and Millennials (61%) are influenced by the quality of the culinary scene when choosing where to stay in a destination. Regardless of how affluent travelers are, respondents in these age groups were found to generally value authentic local food and beverage experiences much more so than traditional fine-dining experiences, such as those designated as Michelin-starred restaurants.
  • Social media continues to play an important role in travel planning, especially among younger generations. Four in 10 Millennials indicate celebrities and digital content creators have a great deal of influence on their travel decisions (38%). In addition, nearly six in 10 Millennials have made a travel purchase based at least partially on a post by a celebrity or influencer (57%). These findings confirm that the reach and effectiveness of social media influencers remain powerful tools in today’s travel marketing landscape.