Affluent interest in summer vacations has hit a new high, buoyed by the strengthening economy and a broader trend toward experiences, according to our April 2015 barometer. Sixty-three percent of Affluents (defined as the ~25% of adults with $100,000 or more in annual household income, or HHI) are planning a trip this summer, the highest figure in the four years we have been producing a summer travel outlook. Intentions are even higher among more elite consumers — 72% of Ultra Affluents ($250K+ HHI) are planning a vacation this summer.
As in previous years, Affluents are most likely to describe their summer trips as family vacations (47%), time with family and friends (42%), and beach vacations (37%). Beach trips have historically ranked #1 on this list, and have long been the quintessential summer vacation, but Affluent interest in beach trips has dropped modestly. At the same time, interest in summer trips to national parks and forests has doubled – from 14% to 28% – in just the past two years, perhaps reflecting a return to a more adventurous spirit, and a desire for more opportunities to disconnect.
The growth and evolution of travel interests in part reflect surging optimism. Half of Affluents are now optimistic about the U.S. economy, nearing a four-year high, and essentially doubling the 26% who describe themselves as pessimistic about the economy. But heightened travel interests are also fueled by the broader trend of a greater interest in experiences. This experiential focus is not a new trend, but it shows signs of continued momentum. Consider that …
Growing interest in travel obviously bodes well for brands endemic to travel, such as airlines and hotels, but it signals a wider range of growth opportunities across many additional categories as well. Travel is a conduit category — a gateway to consumer spending in dining, entertainment, apparel, jewelry, art and more. Moreover, travel brings an open-mindedness that encourages trial of new brands. For example, 51% of Affluents agree, “If I go shopping while on vacation, I try to buy different brands and styles than when I am at home,” a figure up significantly from a year ago.
Taken as a whole, the results paint an encouraging portrait of today’s Affluent marketplace. Strong interest in summer travel reflects a willingness to spend money in a highly discretionary manner. Rising optimism typically signals rising spending. An interest in experiences can be leveraged — in offerings and in communications —across many categories. Collectively, these trends suggest a bright summer, for travel brands, and many others as well.