Study: Travelers Want Meaningful Vacations, Not More of Them

NEW YORK—MMGY Global released key findings from the 2018-2019 Portrait of American Travelers study suggesting that travelers are seeking more meaning behind each vacation, rather than more vacations.

The study reveals 30% of travelers plan to take fewer vacations next year, meaning travelers could take up to six million fewer vacations this year compared to 2017. This is the first time there has been a negative variance in intent to travel (nine point decrease) in the 12 years this question has been asked. However, although people are traveling less, travel spending will hold steady into 2019, showing that travelers will actively invest more money and planning behind each vacation, valuing each trip more this year than in the past.

“A key takeaway of this year’s Portrait of American Travelers survey, is that travelers report taking fewer vacations but intend to spend the same as they did overall in 2017,” said Steve Cohen, SVP of travel insights at MMGY Global. “By spending more on average per trip in the coming year, we believe travelers will place even more significance on where they choose to go and what activities they participate in while there.”

The Generational Gaps in Travel

All four generational categories intend to take fewer vacations this year than they did in 2017.

Millennials vs. Matures: While all other generations indicate that their spending will be flat or less over the coming years, millennials indicate an increase. Millennials also report the slightest drop in vacation intentions (3%) and matures the largest (13%). Although matures are still the biggest spenders, millennials are the only generation to report an increase in future travel spending this year.

Millennial Families: As we saw last year, millennial families intend to spend more on vacations in the coming year than they did in the previous year. Not only are families the largest segment of the millennial generation, each of these households spent and intends to spend significantly more on leisure travel than their single or couple counterparts. Because of this, millennial families are an encouraging growth segment in an otherwise flat travel market.

“In past years, millennial families have been more dominant in travel spending, remaining the highest performing segment of this generation due to both their numbers and intent to increase travel spending,” stated Cohen. “These nearly 10 million households have sufficient size and purchasing power to make a positive impact on both destination visitation counts and travel service provider bottom lines. If this segment works with your travel offerings and market position, MMGY Global recommends actively marketing through strategic, targeted campaigns.”

The following are topline results from three research publications that will be released this year as part of the study. Although travel is flat for the year ahead, these are the segments to focus on with important spending power:

Traveling for Food

In general, travelers are almost twice as interested in local, hard-to-find dishes (61%) on vacation than they are eating at Michelin-starred restaurants (34%).

Culinary explorers (14% of Americans) are defined as travelers extremely motivated to vacation for the chance of exploration and to experience new cuisines. They are spending more than $5,000 a year per household on travel, 16% higher than the overall travel intended spending average.

Wellness Is in Focus

During the next 12 months, wellness travelers intend that 49% of their vacations will be international (compared to only 23% of all other travelers). Thirty four percent of wellness travelers packed their workout clothes and shoes fully intending to exercise on vacation and didn’t. This provides an opening for travel service providers to help these travelers meet their goals.

Sharing-Economy Travelers 

Despite popular belief, 41% of home-sharing and 47% of ride-sharing travelers are not millennials. Median age is 40 years old for home-sharing travelers, and 41 years old for ride-sharing travelers.

There may be concerns in ride-sharing quality and experience as only 69% say they’re likely to use ride-sharing again on vacation during the next 12 months (last year it was 88%, in 2016 it was 94%). Similarly, 75% of current home-sharing travelers intend to use home-sharing again on vacation, during the next 12 months while last year the likelihood to use a similar service was 86%, and in 2016 it was 90%).