Survey: Americans Aren’t Staying Home for the Holidays

KANSAS CITY, MO—The pandemic has snarled leisure and business travel this year, but the latest Travelhorizons survey, conducted by MMGY Travel Intelligence, found that the travel industry is likely to get a significant boost over the holidays.

The survey, which queried people planning to travel in the next six months, found that half of respondents intend to take trips between November and early January, with 25% traveling for Thanksgiving, 31% traveling for the December holidays and 15% for New Year’s celebrations.

The holiday season is being met with optimism, as 67% of those who will travel indicated that they are enthusiastic about their upcoming trips. Much of that fervor is from Millennial travelers—a generation that outpaced its older counterparts. Thirty-five percent of Millennials will travel for Thanksgiving, compared to only 23% of Gen X, 18% of young Boomers and 8% of older Boomers. For the December holidays, millennials also led other generations with 43% planning to travel, while only 26% of Gen X, 19% of younger Boomers and 8% of older Boomers will travel.

Holidays are notably a time when families get together, so it is unsurprising that 45% of holiday travelers plan to visit with family and friends. For accommodations, 42% of travelers expect to stay with the family and friends they’re visiting. Nonetheless, there is some good news for the lodging industry as 36% of travelers intend to stay at a hotel, 20% at a resort and 17% at a bed and breakfast or in a short-term rental.

A significant number of travelers intend to take trips beyond visits to the homes of friends and family. Other types of planned travel include couples’ vacations (23%), solo vacations (20%), family leisure vacations (25%) and multigenerational trips (15%). Though these trip types vary, the overwhelming majority will be domestic U.S. trips (88%), while only 20% say they will visit an international destination. Regarding domestic trips, 52% replied they will travel between 100 and 499 miles from home and 27% will travel between 500 and 999 miles for their vacations.

Private vehicles remain the preferred mode of transportation (45% personal vehicle, 16% rental vehicle and 11% RV/camper). There is, however, growing confidence in the safety of public transportation, with 38% opting to book a flight, 14% choosing a train and 13% riding a bus for their holiday travels.

While there is a clear interest in travel, 50% of respondents who expect to stay put for the holidays cite concerns over their own health (38%), the health of family and friends with whom they would typically travel (33%) and the health of family and friends they expect to visit (28%) as their top reasons for not traveling. The socioeconomic impact of the pandemic was of lesser concern, with just 5% of would-be travelers expressing concerns about job security and 14% saying they’re concerned about household finances. Notably, 11% of respondents believed that there would be a diminished visitor experience in destinations they normally visit.

Conducted every 90 days since March 2007, the survey captures traveler habits and measures future travel intentions while looking through the lens of emerging economic, social and political developments. The latest wave of the survey was conducted October 12–25, 2020, among 1,073 American respondents who plan to take at least one leisure trip during the next six months.

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