According to the February travelhorizons survey, the U.S. Traveler Sentiment Index rose to 90.2 in February 2009 from 78.2 in October 2008 due to an increase in the perceived “affordability of travel.” The Index is a derivative of six separate statistical measures that have been tracked since March 2007, at which time the Index was pegged at 100.
The spike in the perceived affordability of travel appears to be a direct result of many travel suppliers' recent efforts to stimulate short-term demand through the aggressive promotion of discounted fares and rates. Promotional pricing and related incentives are now offered by suppliers representing practically every segment of the travel industry from airlines to cruise lines, hotel companies, attractions and rental car companies, some of which are featuring rates and fares that are up to 50 percent off the prices being quoted just six months ago.
“We are very encouraged that more people are signaling a willingness to travel for leisure purposes,” said Peter C. Yesawich, chairman of Ypartnership. “This is the first increase we have observed in the Index since January 2008, which indicates that the discounts travel providers and destinations are offering are working to attract more travelers, even in this down economy. As it turns out, this is actually a terrific time to travel because some of these great deals are sure to disappear once the industry begins to recover.”
The outlook for business travel remains one of concern to the industry, however. According to the U.S. Travel Association, business travel is now projected to decline by as much as 5.6 percent in 2009 (the original forecast at the end of 2008 was a 3.5 percent decline). The sagging economy, coupled with political demonization of business meetings, events, and incentive travel, has resulted in a significant decline in demand for business travel services.
“While this increase in short-term leisure travel intentions is positive, the overall decline in meetings, events, and incentive travel threatens to erode any net gains for the total travel economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "One of every eight jobs in the United States is linked to travel and tourism, and business travel alone accounts for 2.4 million American jobs. With the federal government projecting that the travel industry will lose nearly 450,000 jobs in 2008-2009, it is critical that policymakers work with us to encourage businesses to engage in legitimate meetings and events. We need businesses and consumers back on the road and in the air to help turn this economy around."