Editorial Policy

Amex Survey: Many Holiday Travelers Plan to Spend More

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By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
November 8, 2010

According to a recent American Express survey, many consumers plan on loosening their grip on their purse strings for the upcoming Holiday season. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed had plans to travel this year, and nearly a third of these said they would spend more this year on holiday travel than they did in 2009.

The survey was part of the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker monthly surveys. The research was based on a sample of 2,005 adults from the general U.S. population. In addition to reporting on general trends, the survey looked at the travel and spending plans of two subgroups: the affluent and young professionals.

On average, travelers expect to spend $460 per person on travel-related costs over the next two months. The affluent and young professionals segments of consumers not surprisingly planned to spend more, with young professional estimating expenditures of $500 a head and affluent consumers (those with a household income of at least $100,000) reporting estimates averaging $560.

Of those surveyed, 19 percent were planning to travel for Thanksgiving, another 19 percent for Christmas, 6 percent for New Years, and 10 percent simply said they would be taking an off-peak trip before the end of the year. Young professionals were the most on the go: A full 72 percent of planned to travel over the Holidays vs. 39 percent of the general population and 55 percent of affluent Americans.

An upswing in consumer spending over the holidays would be good news for industries that depend on travelers, like hotels, restaurants and airlines. Out of those who predicted they would spend more, 23 percent reported they would do so by taking a longer trip. Twenty percent said they would spend more on dining out, and another 20 percent predicted they would spend more on activities and entertainment. In addition, 17 percent said their planned to stay in better accommodations and 15 percent were heading to a more expensive destination.

The American Express survey didn’t exactly herald a broad rebound in consumer confidence, however. Of the 61 percent of Americans who had no plans to travel over the holidays, 30 percent reported it was because they couldn’t afford to. Half of consumers travelling for the holidays planned to save money by staying with family and friends and 28 percent were making arrangements to travel by car instead of flying. An additional 10 percent had plans to travel in the off-season in order to save money on the trip.

Even the affluent were not immune to economic woes: 10 percent of those in the affluent segment said money troubles would keep them from traveling, and 17 percent of consumers in the affluent segment planned on taking an off-peak trip before the end of the year, versus 10 percent for the general population and 9 percent of young professionals.

It doesn’t help that airfares are on the rise with some airlines charging as much as 17 percent more for round-trip flights in and out of major American cities. And, according to a business travel forecast from American Express Expert Insights, airfare will rise again next year, with a predicted increase between 2 and 7 percent for all U.S. domestic flights.