In an effort to dig deeper into the traveler experience and identify barriers and points of friction that keep travelers at home or traveling less frequently, we launched a new quarterly consumer survey with Ipsos at the start of the year. 

These new insights combined with our findings from the Quarterly Business Travel Tracker in collaboration with JD Power and Tourism Economics will help anticipate and identify consumer behaviors and risks—highlighting the greatest opportunities to grow travel.

Macroeconomic Conditions: Effects on Consumers 

Slowing, yet still elevated inflation has not stopped consumers from spending on nearly everything from retail to travel. The labor market has remained remarkably resilient despite monetary policy to slow the economy. 

Even with high inflation receding, moderating gasoline prices, an improved supply chain and a strong labor market, most economists and business leaders still anticipate a mild recession in the coming months. 

  • As of mid-January, half of Americans rated their current financial situation as average or below. 
    • And if given a lump sum of $2,500 (the equivalent of the average American tax return), nearly two-thirds (62%) would prioritize saving the additional income.
  •  Yet, travelers feel more confident in their financial situation—with 61% of leisure travelers and 69% of business travelers feeling good or excellent about their financial well-being in the next six months. 

Where We Are Now: Near-Term Expectations

While not the top budget priority for the majority of Americans, leisure travel is a highly valued activity and many continue to prioritize experiences, even if they have to make some tradeoffs. 

  • Just over half of all Americans (52%) and 79% of leisure travelers are planning to travel for leisure in the next six months. 
  • Nearly one in four Americans (23%) and one-third of leisure travelers plan to travel more in 2023 than they did in 2022. 

While business investment and spending will likely remain tight this year, both business travelers and corporate executives understand the irreplaceable value of meeting face-to-face and the negative impacts of reduced business travel.

  • While just two in 10 Americans overall expect to travel for business in the next six months, approximately eight in 10 business travelers plan to travel for business (both group and transient) in the next six months. 
  • Despite the fact that nearly seven in 10 (69%) corporate executives expect a possible recession to at least somewhat impact their business travel budgets in the coming year, three-quarters expect business travel spending to increase in 2023. 

Still, even though business travel spending is steadily increasing, more than two-thirds of corporate executives expect to spend less on all types of business travel in the next six months compared to 2019 levels. 

  • As a result of rescheduled events and the inability to effectively build relationships and acquire clients virtually, group business travel has the most momentum—35% expect to spend the same or greater than 2019 levels in the next six months, more than any other type of business travel.

Analyzing the Challenges: Key Pain Points Impacting Demand

While many view travel as more important than ever, personal financial reasons tops the list of reasons keeping Americans from traveling more. 

Yet, the travel experience is deterring Americans from traveling. 

  • Nearly four in 10 leisure travelers (36%) would travel more in the next six months if the travel experience was not so much of a hassle today. 
  • Nearly half of Americans (45%) rate the air travel experience as sub-par.
    • Flight delays or cancellations, crowds and congestion, airport security process and cumbersome travel logistics were the main contributors to a below average travel experience.
  • And, it’s not just leisure travelers who are feeling the pain. Air travel hassles are preventing business travelers from meeting in-person. 
    • The majority of business travelers (62%) reported at least one reason for avoiding or cancelling a business trip in the past year due to air travel inefficiencies. 
    • The overall time required to fly to a business meeting (37%) followed by the relative efficiency of virtual meetings (33%) are the top reasons why business travelers have avoided traveling by air this past year.

Additionally, company policies remain in place restricting business travel. While somewhat less restrictive, as of December, nearly half of companies still had policies in place.

  • Top policies remaining in place include fewer business trips overall and stricter evaluation of why/who travels for business.
  • And while not the top policy, more than one-third of companies (36%) have new sustainability requirements in place restricting business travel.

Leaning Into Opportunity: Growing Travel and Improving Experience 

With challenges also comes opportunity for the industry to motivate travelers to take a trip. 

  • For leisure travelers and business travelers: Increased flight availability and direct flight options, flexible cancelation policies and travel discounts or loyalty programs are some of the top factors that would encourage more air travel in the next six months.
  • For business travelers: A supportive company culture and clients wanting to meet more in person are key motivators.

As we look to identify policies and opportunities to advance seamless and secure travel, there is an opportunity to familiarize travelers with existing programs and expand and create new ones. 

  • Less than one-quarter (23%) of leisure travelers and 32% of business travelers are enrolled in TSA PreCheck.
  • Nearly half of Americans (49%) are familiar with expedited airport clearance programs but are not enrolled.

Americans are surprisingly comfortable with sharing biometric data if it is for a specific purpose. 

  • Approximately half of Americans and nearly two-thirds of business travelers are comfortable sharing biometric data with TSA to get through security, board an airplane or check in for a flight if it resulted in a more seamless, secure and efficient travel experience.

Flexible work arrangements and remote work have the potential to create new business travel opportunities. 

  • More than four in five (82%) business travelers work remotely at least some of the time, including 31% who work fully remote.
    • Nearly two-thirds of executives (64%) agree that having more remote employees will increase business travel spending for internal meetings. 
    • For business travelers working remotely, more than one-third are encouraged to travel to meet with their manager in person (39%) or engage with co-workers and team members (36%).
    • Additionally, just over one in 10 American and 27% of business travelers will be prioritizing blended work and leisure trips in the coming year.

What’s Ahead

The results of these quarterly surveys will be critical to identify specific pain points and opportunities we can leverage to justify investments in air travel infrastructure and develop essential and seamless policy solutions to improve the experience. 

Look for Q2 Quarterly Insights later this Spring. 

U.S. Travel

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