Consumer Travel Plans for 2022

Family on beach travel vacation

Once the holiday season has passed, the month of January can feel like an eternity. The days are long, dark, cold, and for many, still at home due to the lingering uncertainty of the pandemic. If you’re a baseball fan like me, we can’t even rely on the promise of pitchers and catchers reporting in just a few weeks since the lockout has yet to be resolved.

 

National Plan for Vacation Day and Who Is Really Traveling

There are some bright spots though, such as the epic weekend of the NFL playoffs that just passed. All four games coming down to the wire is hard to beat and can fuel that energy you need to gut through another winter week. If you need another distraction, what better time to think about brighter times ahead and plan a vacation? National Plan for Vacation Day was just this week, and it is a time to think about taking time off, identify some destinations, put aside stress and recharge. The question is, are American consumers actually doing that?

According to ENGINE Insights’ most recent Pulse of the American Consumer survey, about half the adult population (53%) is likely to take a vacation during the first half of 2022 (between now and June 30, 2022). This anticipated time off is driven more heavily by younger adults (Gen Z: 58%, Millennials: 67%, Gen X: 53%, Boomers: 42%) and includes a wide variety of exciting destinations, such as the following:

  • 33% — A beach/shore or lake
  • 17% — Domestic resorts (mountain resorts, indoor water parks, spas, etc.)
  • 16% — A campground
  • 16% — A U.S. national park
  • 16% — Las Vegas
  • 14% — An international destination, via airplane, car, or train (not a cruise)
  • 12% — Disneyworld/Disneyland
  • 11% — New York City
  • 10% — A trip to attend a sporting event
  • 8% — An international destination, via cruise ship
  • 8% — New Orleans
  • 7% — Nashville
  • 7% — A skiing/snowboarding trip

 

Why Americans Are Unlikely to Travel in the Next 6 Months

Of course, you may now be left wondering, why is nearly half (47%) the population unlikely to take a vacation during the next 6 months? Who wouldn’t want to get away for a little while? Did they miss the memo that National Plan for Vacation Day was this past Tuesday? Is the pandemic still going to be the great interrupter, keeping the masses in a state of pause for over 2 years now?

According to our Pulse survey, there is still a lot of concern about the pandemic. Three-quarters (75%) of those not planning to travel say the pandemic generally has some impact on their current decisions, 47% of them claiming it has a lot of impact.

Specifically, 70% have concerns over contracting the coronavirus by traveling on an airplane (43% of them claiming it has “a lot” of impact), while 62% have concerns about
contracting the virus while staying at a hotel (37% attributing “a lot” of impact).

Additionally, our research shows that, in fact, it is those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine that carry much greater concerns on these matters, which should be a flashing red light to businesses that are dependent on vacation travel. Even if recent reports suggest this latest wave of the virus is peaking, a sizable chunk of the population still needs to see more before being comfortable going away for an extended trip. The time to let our collective guard down has not yet fully arrived, and there is little doubt that businesses will need to account for this in 2022.

However, if we could snap our fingers and make the virus itself vanish today, there are other warning signs out there that simply can’t be ignored. While not directly related to the health risks of the virus, chances are they are at least a by-product of all the disruption everyone has endured over such an extended amount of time.

 

How Inflation and Basic Civility Are Affecting Travel

Chiefly, the other major roadblock that everyone needs to see go away as soon as possible is inflation. As with the pandemic, three-quarters of American consumers (77%) say the higher cost of living for everyday items and services has had at least some impact on leaving less funds available for vacation and leisure activities. A discouraging amount (49%) of those who are not planning to go on vacation in the next 6 months say inflation has a lot of impact on their decision. Also, of notable impact to many (40%) is an unstable job situation for their household – 21% of which say this has a lot of impact. This factor should not be overlooked despite the low unemployment rate currently in the U.S.

Away from the economy, but again a likely by-product of the challenges everyone has faced for the last two years, are breakdowns of basic civility in the outside world. Who among us has unfortunately turned on the news and seen footage of an irate airplane passenger causing a flight to divert, or an extreme situation of being duct-taped to their seat? Probably not exactly what someone would want to be exposed to first-hand while hoping to get away for a relaxing trip. Indeed, 59% of those not planning to travel say instances like these of belligerent passengers have some impact (and 37% say a lot of impact) on why they are currently avoiding airline travel.

 

The Beach Is Out There

Being an eternal optimist, I do think brighter days are ahead of us, very soon, on multiple fronts. The MLB lockout will be resolved in the next few weeks, the pandemic will soon fade as an everyday concern, inflation will eventually resolve itself, and perhaps once all of that is behind us, people will be calmer and no longer need to be duct taped to their airplane seat. In the meantime, let’s collectively enjoy what is left of the NFL season, cheer on the U.S. Olympic Team, laugh at some Super Bowl commercials, welcome more and more daylight each day, and eventually book more vacations. Let’s get to work — We Can Do It!

Continue to follow us for insights such as these and more throughout 2022!

 

Written by Rich Tomasco, Vice President at ENGINE Insights CARAVAN®.

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