More Americans planning to take a summer vacation, but duration and budgets decline

After a dip in 2016, more travelers from the U.S. and Europe will be packing their bags and heading on a vacation this summer, according to an annual consumer survey conducted by travel insurance provider Generali Global Assistance.

The “Summer Holiday Plans” survey, in its 17th year, found that 66 percent of Americans plan to travel this summer, up from 61 percent in 2016. Among Europeans, 63 percent plan to travel this summer, up from 54 percent last year.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Europ Assistance and Generali Global Assistance between March 28 and April 21, 2017. The survey was conducted online for 10,000 consumers in 10 countries, with 1,000 consumers taking the survey per country.

Although more people plan to travel, trips will be shorter in duration. Americans will go on vacation this summer for an average of 1.4 weeks, down from 1.7 weeks in 2016. Europeans saw an even more precipitous drop, from an average of 2.4 weeks in 2016 to 1.9 weeks this year. Brazilians checked in with vacations of the longest average duration in 201
7: 2.2 weeks.

The shorter travel durations are explained by sizable decreases in traveler’s budgets this year, according to company officials.

“U.S. travelers are dropping their budgets by 20 percent to an average $2,679, while Europeans budgets are decreasing by 14 percent to €1,989,” Chris Carnicelli, CEO, Generali Global Assistance North America, said. “This is significant because budget once again ranked as the number one factor for travelers when deciding on a summer vacation location.”

Leave the passport at home

Perhaps to help offset budgetary constraints, many travelers are electing to vacation within their own countries this summer. This was especially true in France, Italy and Spain. In those countries, 63, 56 and 52 percent, respectively, planned to stay within their own borders. By comparison, 41 percent of Americans said they would stay in the U.S. when it came to travel this summer.

The most likely to venture beyond their borders are Belgians, at 16 percent, and Swiss travelers, at 20 percent. In fact, these are the only two countries where more travelers are planning to head to a foreign country than to stay within their own this summer.

Favored destinations

Tour Eiffel, Paris
While the seaside is the favorite destination of European travelers at 63 percent, U.S. travelers expressed the greatest preference for urban destinations, at 46 percent. For Americans, the beach ranked number two on the list of favorite destinations at 43 percent. Spain ranked as the highest in terms of European countries where travelers showed a penchant for urban travel at 43 percent, an increase of 16 percentage points over 2016.

For Americans, Paris ranked as the top city that travelers wished to visit at least once in their life, with New York City and London tying for second. For Europeans, the top choice was New York City with Paris and Rome rounding out the top three.

Stay connected or unplug

Unsurprisingly, Americans are the most connected to their work while on vacation, with just 56 percent will completely unplug from their job. That compares to Europeans, who are significantly better, at 68 percent saying they will unplug, though that is down five percentage points from last year. Travelers from the U.K are the best at setting work-life boundaries. A full 70 percent will completely disconnect while on vacation.

Where to spend the night

Hotel stays are still the most popular form of lodging among Americans and Europeans, at 57 percent and 47 percent, respectively. However, other types of accommodations are gaining in popularity with travelers.

Magnolia Hotel, Victoria, BC
While peer-to-peer accommodations have been steadily gaining in popularity, Americans are still less likely than others to use person-to-person rentals or exchanges, at just 18 percent.

Among Europeans, that form of accommodation is just behind hotels, at 35 percent and is actually the most preferred lodging for the French at 42 percent - the only group for which hotels are not the number one option.

Within the rental/exchange segment, there are some differences by country. The French are the most interested in rentals of a private house or apartment from an individual, but are significantly less interested in renting a room in a private home or being part of a home exchange. Brazilians are the most likely to rent a single room in a house at 34 percent and Americans and the Swiss are tied in terms of utilizing home exchanges, at 19 percent.

Overall among Brazilians, the practice of staying in a local’s home while traveling is widely accepted as 41 percent have done so compared to 30 percent of Americans and 24 percent of Europeans. The same hierarchy holds true for hosting travelers in their own homes, with 18 percent of Brazilians, 14 percent of Americans and just seven percent of Europeans having hosted other tourists.

Further, Americans seemed stingier than others and more likely to seek out options that are nearly or completely free, like staying with friends or family. Some 32 percent expressed that proclivity, compared to 22 percent of Europeans.

I review; do you?

Social media continues to play a growing role in the making of travel plans. Online peer reviews are now the third most-important factor for Americans and Europeans alike, at 31 percent. The Most Important Factor When Selecting Lodging? For Americans, it’s the location, while Europeans prize value and price. Amenities and photographs of the property rank fourth and fifth, respectively, for both demographic segments.

Finally, the company noted that most Americans who plan to travel this summer indicated that they are covered by some form of insurance policy protecting against risks like lost or stolen baggage, medical coverage, vehicle breakdown, or transportation accident. However, only about a third have policies that cover a transportation strike or natural disaster.

The most popular way travelers purchase coverage is through their credit card companies, but there are persistent misconceptions about the level of coverage provided.

“I would encourage all travelers to take a close look at their policies wherever they purchase them and make sure that they are inclusive of everything they may need on their trip,” Carnicelli concluded.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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