Conflicting Surveys Weigh In on ‘03

One report reveals the urge to travel is high, while another maintains a long, slow recovery

Depending on which organization you believe, the travel industry next year will be up or down.

Maintaining that optimism is high, Arlington, Va.-based Flight Plan for America, a project of the ARC Escrow Fund Working Group and managed by ARC on behalf of 130 airlines, ASTA and ARTA, said Americans are upbeat about travel.

In a survey of 504 business and leisure travelers, 55% said they believe the travel industry has done a better job of encouraging travel since last Sept. 11, and two-thirds said they believe air security has improved since the government takeover of security functions.

The upcoming holiday travel season looks bright, with 60% of survey respondents planning trips and almost a quarter (23%) planning more holiday season trips than last year.

The general outlook for travel is also encouraging, Flight Plan said, with 46% of those surveyed saying that if prices stay the same, they will spend more on travel this year than last.

“In January, consumers told us they had two main concerns about travel security and money,” said Kathleen Argiropolous, chair of the Flight Plan for America committee and vice president of travel agency services at ARC. “Now, they are saying they are confident in security, and while money is still a concern, they are planning trips.”

Among the 55% of respondents who said they believe the industry has better encouraged travel since Sept. 11, the most commonly cited improvements include: reducing the risk of terrorist attacks (55%), offering better travel incentives (43%), offering better travel packages (42%), making travel more affordable (42%), and reducing the hassle of security checks (24%).

Meanwhile, the Travel Industry Association of America said that, after falling nearly 6% last year, domestic and international travel spending continues to be soft and isn’t expected to recover to record 2000 levels until sometime in 2004.

“We can expect a long, slow road to recovery for the travel and tourism industry, and even when it does come, this does not mean we will necessarily return to the way things were before Sept. 11,” said Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research at TIA.

“Travel demands, patterns and expectations may have been changed for the long-term. And, despite continued slow growth in the leisure travel market, this recovery is fragile and could be choked off by any number of new developments.”

TIA said domestic and international travel expenditures dropped nearly 6% in 2001 down $33.3 billion, to $537.2 billion. Expenditures are forecasted to decline another $1.9 billion this year to $535.3 billion. The TIA said it projects 5% gains in 2003 and 2004.

Already depressed, business travel will continue its downward spiral, the TIA said. After experiencing a 3% decline in 2001, business travel is forecasted to fall another 4.3% this year.

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