American travelers are ready to travel, they’re actively planning trips and more than half say they want to visit someplace they’ve never been before, especially if it’s outside the U.S.
These were just some of the insights that Erin Francis-Cummings, the president & CEO of consulting firm Destinations Analysts, shared with attendees of the Travel Trade Summit at the New York Travel & Adventure Show in New York City.
Since March 2020, the company has been tracking traveler sentiment with its Travel Sentiment Index, with 85 editions of the Index now on record. In this second of a two-piece series, we look at the where, why, and how of Americans’ 2022 travel plans. (In part 1, we examined the diminishing impact of COVID-19 on traveler sentiment, as well as how growing financial strains may take a toll.)
Ready to Travel
According to the Traveler Sentiment Index, the record levels of pent-up demand for travel that advisors have been reporting isn’t simple hearsay.
Setting a record for the Index, “84% of Americans describe themselves in a ready-to-travel state of mind,” said Francis-Cummings.
But they’re not simply ready to travel, they’re acting on their intentions as well. “Fully 70% of Americans did some trip dreaming and planning in just the last week alone, from researching travel ideas online to actually making reservations,” she added.
For June and July alone, 25% of Americans report already having plans. But, because the booking window remains short, Francis-Cummings said she expects to see these percentages go up.
Exploring New Places, Time with Family & Friends Dominate
“Spending time with loved ones and enjoying nature will continue to be high or essential priorities when traveling,” Francis-Cummings said, adding that family trips, romantic getaways, girlfriend trips, solo adventures and reunion travel are the type of travel Americans are most enthusiastic about.
Americans are also keen on exploring new places, with 51.9% saying they are going to highly prioritize visiting places they have not been to before. And, almost half (48.5%) said they travel because they want to open their mind to new cultures and experiences.
“With the propensity for seeking new travel experiences, more Americans look to be heading on international trips this coming year,” Francis-Cummings said.
Specifically, 29.7% said they are likely to travel internationally this year. And, 25.1% are more interested in traveling outside the U.S. than domestically. When speaking of Millennial and Gen Z travelers, more than 50% said they are passionate about international travel.
When it comes to where Americans want to travel this year, their domestic choices are fairly standard, while their international choices are a bit more varied.
Domestically, most American travelers said they plan to visit New York, Florida, Las Vegas, California or Hawaii this year.
Internationally, most Americans said they are likely to visit Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Asia or the Middle East this year. As for which international destinations Americans most want to visit, even if they’re not actually planning travel there? Those include Italy, Canada, France, Japan and Mexico.
The Index further segmented these answers by where Americans live. Americans living in the Western U.S. want to visit Canada, Mexico and Italy. In the Midwest, Americans want to go to London, Canada and Italy. Those living in the Northeast want to visit Canada, France and Italy. And in the Southern U.S., Americans want to go to Italy, France and Japan.
Planning Time & Tools
The window for travel planning and booking is still relatively short, with 40% planning a weeklong domestic trip in under eight weeks.
The Index also examined how Americans want to be marketed to, something of particular importance to travel advisors. Overall, Americans said they are most open to receiving information about new places to go via websites, Facebook, and email. About one in five also said they’re open to being marketed to via online content, streaming video, and official printed visitor guides.
While print resources, including travel and lifestyle magazines, are still useful, most Americans reported using digital resources for planning travel. These can include sources like blogs, visitor bureau websites, and online travel agencies. But video and social media continue to grab much of the planning market share.
Video content is especially important for younger travelers, as is Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Almost 30% turn to online video websites like YouTube and TikTok for travel planning and 60% of Millennial and Gen Z travelers said they use social media specifically for trip planning tasks.
Travel influencers continue to be a growing resource for travel planning with 15% of all Americans saying they used an influencer to help plan travel. Among Millennial and younger travelers, that number is even higher, at 30%.