PRINCETON, NJ -- A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that only half of Americans plan to travel this summer, and of those with plans, 52% (or 25% of all Americans) say they are altering those plans in response to the current economic recession.
The poll was conducted May 18-19 in advance of the summer travel season, which is traditionally kicked off by the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
It is possible that the impact of the recession may be even greater than the poll results discussed above suggest. The 50% of Americans who indicated they do not have travel plans this summer is significantly higher than what Gallup found in both 2006 (38%) and 2008 (41%), when it sought to assess the impact of high gas prices on summer travel plans. Thus, it's possible that the recession is causing a significant proportion of Americans who traveled in previous summers to rule out taking a vacation this year.
As might be expected, the poor economy is having its greatest impact on lower-income Americans. There seems to be a tipping point at $60,000 annual household income, with those at or above that limit more likely to say they will go ahead with their plans unaltered than change them, and the reverse true for those below that income level.
Those who are changing their summer recreation plans to meet the challenges of the economic recession are relying on a variety of techniques to do so. When those in this group are asked to say whether each of five different actions is a way in which they have changed their plans, the most commonly cited change is cutting back on the total cost of a vacation by spending less on food, lodging, and entertainment. Eighty-nine percent say they have changed their plans in this manner. Seventy-three percent say they will vacation somewhere closer to home than they originally planned to.
Additionally, 63% of those who are revising their plans are taking the most drastic step of canceling outright one or more trips they planned to take. That translates to 32% of those who had summer travel plans, and 16% of all Americans.
The seriousness of the economic situation is underscored by the finding that most of those who have had to change their plans this year do not expect these remedies to be temporary. The poll finds fully 75% of those who are changing their plans this year saying they expect the economy to force them to do so again next year (42%) or even beyond the next two years (33%).
Gas prices have been rising in recent weeks, but remain well below where they were last year at this time. That may not matter as much to Americans as the effects of the broader economic recession, which is causing about half of Americans who planned to travel this summer (about one-fourth of the total population) to revise those plans. But the effects of the recession may go beyond those figures, given the apparent increase this year in the percentage of Americans who do not have travel plans, and the fact that many who were forced to adjust this year expect to have to do so again next year and possibly beyond.
That certainly is not welcome news for the travel industry. And with Americans cutting back on spending in general, the summer of 2009 may end up producing a lot fewer vacation memories than prior summers.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 984 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 18-19, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.