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Americans appear to be Warming Up to Summer Travel in 2012: Deloitte Survey

Summer leisure travel on the rise but consumers remain value conscious

NEW YORK, May 15, 2012 — Compared to 2011, more Americans are planning to kick-off the summer with a Memorial Day weekend excursion this year; however, they are conscientious about travel expenses, according to a new Deloitte survey.

The survey shows a notable increase in anticipated Memorial Day travel, as nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents plan on taking a leisure trip, compared to the 24 percent who say they traveled over the Memorial Day weekend last year. For the remainder of the summer travel season, the majority (54 percent) expect to take a trip between June 1 and Labor Day, which is slightly more than those who say they ventured out during the same time period in 2011 (52 percent). Furthermore, of those respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day, one in four (24 percent) plan to spend more money on this year’s summer trips than they did last year, while over half (56 percent) anticipate spending the same amount.

“As consumers appear to feel more confident about the economy and the job market, we could see a steady uptick year-over-year in leisure travel during the summer months,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and global leader of Deloitte’s travel, hospitality and leisure sector. “This highlights the continued growth and vitality of the travel industry as a whole. However, travelers also understand the value of the dollar in this economy and may expect more from travel and hospitality companies.”

Travelers seek value in hotels and air travel

While the cost of air travel remains a top concern, it will not cause most consumers to cancel their plans altogether. Among the two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents who have noticed an increase in airfare, only 16 percent changed their summer travel destination or decided not to book a trip that involved flying. However, measures by airlines to increase revenue with additional fees appear to influence the behavior of leisure travelers.

Survey respondents cite crowded/cramped conditions in economy class and increases in airline fees among their top leisure travel grievances. To circumvent the latter, almost half (43 percent) use carry-on luggage more often and 40 percent make more of an effort to book flights with airlines that do not charge checked-baggage fees.

“With airfares up, the tipping point for leisure travelers in choosing an airline may be related to what extra value they offer, whether that’s in waiving baggage fees, offering additional legroom or free Wi-Fi,” continues Weissenberg.

Air travel is not the only area where consumers are seeking value, as leisure travelers admit they are looking to cut costs throughout their trips. About a third (31 percent) of respondents admit to not tipping hotel staff on a frequent basis because they are no longer using services such as a bellman, a direct result of fliers using carry-on sized bags. However, hotel businesses overall can likely expect an increase in business revenues this summer, with only about one in four (21 percent) of respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day willing to spend less on lodging to cut overall travel costs, down from 35 percent  last year. Instead, value-conscious consumers will likely be looking for more in services and added amenities, including complimentary breakfast, free wireless internet access and free parking. Additionally, only one-sixth (16 percent) of respondents feel they are receiving more personal attention and/or individual tailored services during hotel stays.

Gas prices no longer a top concern

Fuel costs will likely be less of a roadblock for consumers hitting the roads over Memorial Day weekend, with more than half of respondents (54 percent) saying rising gas prices will not affect their travel plans, compared to the 41 percent who indicated the same in 2011. However, rising fuel costs may significantly influence travel plans for lower income households. For those respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day and with a total annual income of $99,000 or below, one quarter (25 percent) indicate they would cancel a summer trip if gas prices were to increase one dollar, whereas only 11 percent of those earning more than $100,000 per year say the same.

About the survey

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between April 15 and April 16, 2012. The survey polled a national sample of 1,000 consumers and has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.  Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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