Looking Ahead: Holiday Travel Expectations
November 02, 2022 By Jamie Mageau, Director of Research Products, U.S. Travel Association
After two years of smaller celebrations and canceled trips, Americans are looking forward to a more normal holiday season this year. Holiday travel demand is expected to exceed last year’s demand. Nearly six in 10 Americans (59%) plan to travel for the upcoming holiday season, with a third traveling more than last year.
- Similar to last year, the holiday season appears to be off to a strong start with more than one-quarter planning to travel over the Thanksgiving weekend and about half plan to travel in December.
Travel motivators: Reconnecting, relaxation and holiday traditions motivate travelers to hit the road and even with elevated financial concerns, time with loved ones and traditions take precedent during the holiday season.
- Similar to prior years, reconnecting with loved ones leads travel motivators and is more influential for those 55 and older.
- Younger travelers are more likely to be motivated by deals and remote working opportunities.
- Approximately one in four travelers intend to combine work and leisure during the holiday season. Overall, American travelers are adding an average of six days to holiday travel plans due to the ability to work from anywhere.
Concerns still exist: Despite demand being high, there is some trepidation. For the first time in two years, the primary concern for holiday travel is not health related.
- Close to half of U.S. adults are somewhat concerned about the impact of inflation on air travel and three quarters are concerned about auto travel costs.
- Compared to last year, a greater share plan to travel by car for the winter holiday season and 23% plan on taking a day trip without an overnight stay, up from 14% in 2021.
- More than four in 10 (44%) say rising costs will impact the distance they are willing to travel this holiday season.
A shift in travel behavior: Heightened concerns related to rising costs and inflation are not dissuading most travelers, but they are shifting their travel behaviors. This includes shortening distance traveled, trip duration and staying with friends and family instead of paid accommodations.
Airfare constraints: High inflation remains persistent and airfare is expected to increase during the peak holiday travel season.
- Air passenger traffic is predicted to meet or exceed 2019 levels during the holiday season. With surging holiday travel demand and ongoing supply constraints limiting capacity, fares are expected to substantially increase.
- Despite rising airfare, airlines and airports are bracing for a record holiday season.
- According to Hopper, airfares for Thanksgiving are already up 22% from 2019 and are up 30% for the winter holidays.
Adjusting for the holiday season: Airlines are now better prepared for increased demand and have trimmed schedules and hired more workers to help abate staffing shortages that caused many of the flight disruptions over the summer.
- Airlines sees the ability to work remotely and increased flexibility as a positive travel pattern development that will spread out demand and allow airlines to maintain more consistent capacity levels with similar staffing throughout the holiday season.
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