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People traveling less often, spending less

Forty-five percent of U.S. consumers will take a vacation or leisure trip between Thanksgiving and March that involves paying for overnight accommodations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Forty-five percent of U.S. consumers will take a vacation or leisure trip between Thanksgiving and March that involves paying for overnight accommodations, according to a new survey released Monday by Deloitte LLP.

Eighteen percent of those surveyed said they would take a trip during Thanksgiving week and weekend. Twenty-two percent said they would travel at some point during December through New Year's Day, and 32 percent said they would travel overnight and stay at a lodging facility after New Year's Day through March, the Deloitte survey found.

But larger numbers said they would travel less and spend less compared to a year ago than those reporting increases in travel and spending. Thirty-five percent say they will spend less this year on leisure travel, while 37 percent expect to spend the same amount and 27 percent plan to spend more. Those spending less tend to be younger, with lower incomes and children in the household, than those spending the same or more than last year, according to Deloitte.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed also said they would take fewer trips this year than last during the Thanksgiving-March period, while 25 percent said they would take more trips and 45 percent said they would take the same number.

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted via telephone interviews by Opinion Research Corporation between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2. The survey polled a sample of 2,000 consumers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The survey also found large numbers of travelers accessing information digitally. Forty-one percent of those with travel plans said they use mobile devices for tasks like making reservations or getting travel information. Twenty-six percent say they have visited a travel-related company's social media fan page. And 57 percent of those with travel plans say they often read consumer-written reviews or comments online related to travel.

Among those planning to travel during the holiday and winter season, 74 percent will visit relatives or friends, 16 percent will visit a foreign country, 38 percent will spend at least one vacation doing warm-weather activities like swimming or golf, and 18 percent will take a ski vacation or do other cold-weather activities, according to the Deloitte survey.

Thirty-four percent of those with travel plans are heading for historic sites or national parks, while 22 percent plan to visit entertainment parks or facilities, and 8 percent plan to make volunteer activities part of their vacation plans, the survey showed.

Only 40 percent of travelers say they currently belong to at least one rewards or customer loyalty program from a hotel or other lodging facility. Adam Weissenberg, U.S. Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure leader at Deloitte LLP, said the 6 in 10 travelers who have not signed up for loyalty programs represent an opportunity for hotel companies to "build new relationships with these travelers through programs that create long-term brand loyalty and drive repeat business."

Weissenberg said he believes the survey results suggest that "conditions appear to be stabilizing in the travel industry as signs of an economic recovery take hold."

Arch Woodside, professor of marketing at Boston College who specializes in tourism, pointed out that the U.S. lodging industry has been able to generate a "positive cash flow with lower profits" despite the recession by "reducing prices in response to soft demand." But he said the weak economy is disproportionately affecting the travel habits of average-income households, with those travelers making fewer trips than higher-income Americans. The economy is also changing when and how often average-income Americans travel.