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MMGY Travel IntelligenceMMGY Global’s research and insights division, has released findings from the 2021 “Spring Edition” of its Portrait of American Travelers survey. The results indicate unprecedented optimism from leisure travelers in advance of the summer travel season. The Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI) rose to 119 (pre-pandemic levels), affirming that U.S. adults are thinking much more positively about travel than they were throughout this past year.

That said, according to the survey, concerns for safety continue to affect demand, although not slowing what is a considerable increase in travel intent. Along with positive signs such as increased vaccinations and decreasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, safety remains below its pre-pandemic levels. At the time of the survey, it lingered 12 points lower on the TSI than it did in February 2020.

Domestic Travel Set to Outpace International
The survey indicates that the top states of interest among U.S. travelers over the next two years are Hawaii (64 percent), Florida (62 percent), California (53 percent), Colorado (50 percent), Alaska (49 percent) and New York (49 percent). There is some interest in international destinations. However, it remains relatively low with only 19 percent of leisure travelers indicating that they are likely to take an international trip in the next six months—down from 24 percent in January 2020.

The Portrait of American Travelers survey shows the resilience of road trips, as this vacation style continues to be the most likely form of near-term vacation travel. Three in 5 U.S. adults (62 percent) expect to take at least one leisure vacation during the next six months with the preferred mode of transportation being personal car, while 2 in 5 (38 percent) say they will take a domestic flight. Looking further out to the next 12 months, 4 in 5 (81 percent) U.S. adults expect to take at least one trip.

Gen Zs & Millennials Are Ready to Pack Their Suitcases
The intent to take a vacation during the next six months decreases with age and increases with household income, according to the survey. Active leisure travelers—those who intend to travel within the next 12 months—expect to take 3.7 overnight leisure trips this year and spend an average of $2,415 on those trips. Gen Xers and Boomers intend to take fewer trips than Gen Zs and Millennials, but these seasoned travelers intend to spend more overall. This difference in spending expectations is likely because Boomers tend to have more available time for travel, more discretionary income, and they’re the generation that’s first in line for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Though travelers are ready to spend on vacations, they are also anticipating travel deals. Perceptions around the affordability of travel have far surpassed pre-pandemic levels (up 29 points), and this metric was the only TSI component that did not take a significant dip throughout the pandemic as travelers expected travel companies to slash prices given reduced demand.

Sustainable Travel — Even More Important Now
The survey also looked at sustainable travel. The data shows that the pandemic has had a profound impact on travel behaviors. Travelers are doing more driving than flying, showing preference to outdoor destinations rather than cities and, perhaps unexpectedly, expressing an increasing focus on the impact of their travel. Fifteen percent of active leisure travelers indicate a travel service provider’s focus on sustainability and environmental considerations greatly impacts their travel decision-making. This sentiment is more evident among younger travelers who showed greater willingness to pay more for travel brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility than their older counterparts. Though the intent to spend more with travel companies that demonstrate environmental responsibility declines the older the traveler segment, 83 percent of active leisure travelers overall indicate they are open to changing some aspect of their travel behavior to reduce their impact on the environment. For example, visiting destinations in the off-season to reduce overcrowding and using less single-use plastics while traveling appear to be changes most are willing to make.

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