Holiday travel – an economic bellweather for the airline and hospitality industry – is projected to increase to near pre-recession levels, according to findings from the annual Maritz® Poll, released today. This year, 28 percent of Americans plan to travel for the holidays, compared to 23 percent in 2009. Further, holiday travelers plan to spend on average $349.00 more than they did last year ($1,203.00 in 2010 compared to $854.00 in 2009) – a 41 percent increase. For the travel industry, this translates to expected revenue growth of $3.85 billion.
“So there is a good chance that Southwest Airline’s customer service practices will help Airtran improve the overall experience for customers”
Holiday Travel Trends Since 2003
Please note this poll was not conducted in 2007 and 2008
“Finally we see a silver lining for the travel industry, which is rebounding from a $4.05 billion loss during 2009’s holiday season,” said Rick Garlick, Ph.D., director of consulting and strategic implementation, Hospitality Group, Maritz Research.
Although holiday travel in general is experiencing an uptick, the findings indicate that there are still challenging times ahead for airline passengers. This year, 19 percent of travelers plan to fly for Thanksgiving, an increase from the 14 percent who traveled by air in 2009. However, it is nowhere near the peak of the 2004 holiday season, when nearly one-third (32 percent) of travelers reached their destination by air. Higher fees are partially to blame for this overall reduction in air travel -- over half (51 percent) of regular air travelers (individuals that have traveled by air in past six months) described all of the new fees as a ‘major annoyance’, and nearly 40 percent of those travelers said the new fees have caused them to fly less frequently. Poor service is also playing a role. Only 7 percent of recent air travelers in the study described their most recent experience as ‘excellent’, while four times as many (30 percent) described their most recent air experience as ‘fair’ or ‘poor.’
“In response to the economic downturn, airlines have become much more strategic about delivering on profit targets,” said Garlick. “However – in the long term – customer experience will again be front and center, especially as merger activity continues to heat up and the major carriers fight for market share on attractive route segments.”
Interestingly, findings from the poll indicate that airline consolidation is seen as generally positive. When asked, 23 percent of respondents said they saw airline consolidation as generally positive, more than double the nine percent who see mergers as having a negative impact on passengers. The remaining 68 percent of those polled see mergers as neutral or having no impact on the customer experience.
“So there is a good chance that Southwest Airline’s customer service practices will help Airtran improve the overall experience for customers,” said Garlick.
Other findings from the study include:
The majority of travelers intend to drive to Grandma’s house this holiday season: Seventy-four percent and sixty-two percent of American travelers intend to hit the road for Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays respectively this year.
Fewer state money worries as reason to stay home: In 2009, nearly one-third (31 percent) said concerns about finances played a role in their decision to stay home during holiday season, compared to 25 percent this year.
About Maritz® Poll
Maritz® Poll is a national consumer opinion survey conducted periodically by Maritz Research. Maritz conducted a national telephone poll of 1005 participants from October 18-24, 2010 to learn about Americans’ travel plans for the upcoming holiday season, which includes both Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s. Some questions were also included that asked about recent hotel experiences and perceptions. The data was collected through random digit dial methodology and later weighted to U.S. census data to better reflect the U.S. population. The poll had a maximum margin of sampling error of +/- 3%.
About Maritz Research
As one of the world’s largest marketing research firms, Maritz Research, a unit of Maritz, helps many of today’s most successful companies improve performance through an actionable understanding of their customers, employees, and channel partners. Founded in 1973, Maritz Research offers a range of strategic and tactical solutions concentrating primarily in the automotive, financial services, hospitality, telecommunications and technology and retail industries. The company has achieved ISO:20252 registration, the international symbol of quality. Maritz Research is a member of CASRO and official sponsor of the American Marketing Association.
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