The American Express Travel Index found that people will be spending 55.5 percent more this season on holiday travel compared with last year.
“With travel more affordable today, and consumers putting more and more of their disposable income, towards investments and leisure activities, it is not surprising to see such a dramatic increase in travel budgets, particularly during the holiday season when consumers want to see friends and family they haven’t seen all year, or simply want to reward themselves with a trip,” said Emelie Smith, vice president, Retail and Travel Industries Marketing, American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. (TRS).
Holiday travel budgets varied dramatically among survey respondents. For example, as with gift budgets, men will outspend women by almost 100 percent ($183 vs. $98). In addition, travelers with incomes over $50,000 expect to spend $313 on holiday travel, while those with incomes over $100,000 will spend an average of $718. Overall, consumers responding to the American Express study in 1996 reported spending approximately $90 on travel related expenses. This year, holiday travelers expect to spend $140. Compared with other items in the holiday budget, travel and entertaining showed the most growth, while spending on gifts and decorations remained flat.
The national survey of 800 consumers revealed that one in five (18 percent) Americans will be going out of town this holiday season. In all, travelers expect to be away for an average of six days. According to the American Express Travel Index, 76 percent of travelers are planning to spend the holiday season with family, while 8 percent will visit friends. Twenty-seven percent say they will travel by plane, while most will take the car (68 percent). Another 5 percent said they would travel by bus or train.
Who Is Doing the Most Traveling
According to the American Express Travel Index, most will spend the holidays at either mom’s or grandma’s. People between the ages of 18 to 44 will travel more than those 45 and over (20 percent vs. 15 percent). In addition, households earning $49,000 or less, are likely to stay at home compared with those earning $50,000 or more (32 percent will travel during the holidays vs. 57 percent). Compared with the rest of the nation, those living in the north central region of the U.S. will travel the most during the holidays (21 percent), followed by West Coast residents (18 percent), Southerners (16 percent) and Northeasterners (15 percent).
Paying for Holiday Travel
Flexibility continues to be important to consumers who will use a variety of payment methods for purchases this season, including holiday travel expenses. Once again, credit cards surpass checks as the second most popular form of payment cited by 48 percent of respondents to 40 percent for checks. Cash remains the preferred method of payment overall, cited by 84 percent of those surveyed.
“The popularity of credit cards this year can be attributed to the attractive rewards and consumer protection programs that help make credit cards more than just a payment vehicle,” said Emelie Smith. “In addition, fiscally responsible consumers are beginning to understand that the ability to consolidate travel, dining and shopping expenses, especially at a time of year when personal spending activity is at its highest, provides a great cash management value.”
American Express is welcome at stores, restaurants, hotels and service providers where Cardmembers spend on everything from health and beauty aids, to computers, to a weekend away. Current American Express research shows that based on the way Cardmembers use their American Express cards, Cardmembers can put 92 percent of their plastic spending on American Express. Presently, a fast-growing number of merchants worldwide welcome American Express with a new establishment accepting the Card every two minutes. Expanded merchant coverage, a greater number of cards and higher spending per Cardmember helped American Express Company post a third quarter net income which was 14 percent higher than the same period a year ago.
American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Express Company — a diversified worldwide travel and financial services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.Details