NEW YORK -- For the first time in 12 years, travel marketing
firm MMGY forecasts a decline in the number of vacations Americans will take.
MMGY's survey asked travelers about their intentions to
travel more, less, or the same in the year ahead compared to the previous 12
months. Twenty-one percent of travelers indicated an intention to take more
vacations, while 30% said they plan to take fewer, resulting in a 9-point
negative variance in vacation intentions.
This is the first time that variance
has been negative in the 12 years the question has been asked, and it raises a
concern about a softening of the leisure travel market in the months ahead.
The survey's results were presented by MMGY vice president
of travel insights Steve Cohen at the company's office here on Tuesday.
Cohen said travel intentions in 2016 were "up at
levels we'd never seen before, and as the year played out, that's what happened
-- we saw travel like we'd never seen it before."
Last year, MMGY forecasted continuing growth, but not at
"This year, we're starting to see a bit of a slowdown,"
As for the number of leisure trips people are taking, last
year people took an average of three, while the previous year they took 3.3. In
the next 12 months, travelers intend to take an average of 2.9 vacations. Cohen
said the difference between three and 2.9 vacations is not statistically
significant -- it is within the margin of error -- but it could indicate the
beginning of a decline of the number of vacations taken.
Household spending on vacations in the past 12 months
decreased to $4,281 from $4,600 in 2016. That shouldn't "raise the red
flags," Cohen said. Travelers spent 5% less on travel in 2017 than they
intended to. But he was "almost impressed" that travelers were only
5% off, he said, as it's difficult to estimate what one will spend when taking
a survey. And, in the year ahead, travelers reported spending just about as
much on vacations as they did in the past year at $4,278.
He also said travelers are spending more per vacation at
$1,475, up 4% from last year, indicating fewer but longer trips.
Generally, he said, "There's a slowing. The extent to
which that slowing will sustain remains to be seen. This is the first year we've
seen any kind of drop at all, and it's a very small drop."
As far as travel agent usage, MMGY's study found that 8% of
vacations were aided by traditional travel agents in 2018, down from 11% in
2017. Sixteen percent plan to use an agent for vacations during the next two
years, compared to 23% in 2017.