Spring Travelers Postponing Trips

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) is expecting a slight decline in travel during Spring 2003, with war emerging as the primary reason Americans are staying close to home.

“In the short-term, leisure travel will continue to be depressed as U.S. travelers are more reluctant to commit,” remarked Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America. “They are postponing trip planning and waiting until the last minute to book their trips. The concern is how long this trend will last, as now is the time most Americans begin to make their summer vacation travel plans.”

March, April, May 2003 Travel
(number of person-trips in millions)
Year Business Leisure Other Total
1999 61.0 162.6 9.7 233.3
2000 58.6 166.6 10.1 235.3
2001 59.7 174.0 10.7 244.4
2002 53.9 173.5 10.8 238.2
2003 52.6 171.2 10.6 234.4
Note: A person-trip is one person on one trip traveling 50 miles or more
from home, one way.
Source: TIA

TIA estimates that Americans will take 234.4 million person-trips during March, April and May 2003 – a decrease of 1.6 percent over last spring – and business travel volume will decline 2.5 percent from Spring 2002, and 13 percent from Spring 2001. TIA found that despite the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the weakened economy, leisure travel has grown steadily, but Spring 2003 will post a 1.6 percent decrease over the year prior.

“Although TIA surveys show that consumers’ interest in travel continues to grow, it’s clear that the build-up to war, and now the war itself, has greatly impacted spring travel plans,” commented Dr. Cook. “The impact is made more significant considering that 2003 spring travel is predicted to be more than 4 percent below the peak travel volume seen just two years ago.”

Information that comes as a double-edged sword for the travel industry are findings from The Customer Respect Group, revealing that airlines scored better than travel companies in online response times and actions.

Of the sites that were surveyed for the 2003 report, 35 percent of travel firms didn’t respond to inquiries sent via Web sites, while all the airline sites did. Among travel firms, 55 percent responded within 48 hours, 5 percent responded within 72 hours, and 5 percent responded in 4 days or more. Among airlines, 88 percent responded within 48 hours, and 12 percent responded in four days or more.

“Given the recent decline in travel activity, one would think that the companies in these two sectors would do everything they can to attract and keep customers. It surprised us that only 65 percent of Travel companies replied to online inquiries, when they should be fighting for each and every customer. Now, more than ever, companies should focus on building trusted relationships with their customers,” said Donal Daly, The Customer Respect Group CEO.

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