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Travel Industry Projected to Lose $4.05 Billion…

…This Holiday Season, According to Maritz Survey

Concerns about Finances and Swine Flu Combine to be This Year’s Holiday Travel Scrooge

ST. LOUIS (Nov. 16, 2009) – The holidays – historically the peak of the travel season – are just around the corner, but this year the travel industry stands to lose $4.05 billion as holiday travel is projected to be down for the first year in a decade, according to findings from a Maritz® Poll released today. Nearly one-third (31 percent) said concerns about finances played a role in their decision to stay home with another 14 percent indicating concerns about the H1N1, or ‘swine flu’ virus as a reason not to travel for the holidays. Fourteen percent (14 percent) of those not traveling said that they, or someone in their immediate household, lost a job within the past twelve months.

Only 23 percent of Americans plan to travel this year, a three percent drop from the average over the past seven years – which amounts to 1,599,328 fewer people traveling according to the Maritz Poll. Not only are people traveling less, but their travel budget is down 14 percent. Consumers’ estimated spend this year is $853.96, a significant drop from previous years.

Holiday Travel Trends Since 2003

Year     Consumers Planning     Estimated Spend
…….         Holiday Travel             Per Consumer

2009              23%                                     $853.96
2006              25%                                     $995.00
2005              27%                                  $1,251.41
2004              25%                                  $1,143.60
2003              26%                                     $824.90

***Please note this poll has not been conducted for the past two years

“Consumers are not only traveling less, but their budgets are leaner when they do decide to travel,” says Rick Garlick, Ph.D., director of consulting and strategic implementation, Hospitality Research Group, Maritz Research. “Historically, holiday travel is one of the most lucrative times of the year for the travel industry, but with a projected $4.05 billion loss, many companies will need to figure out a way to compensate for this lost revenue without further compromising customer satisfaction through the addition of yet more fees.”

Off To Grandma’s House We Go – But How?

As financial and health concerns remain top of mind for many consumers, the majority of travelers plan to get to their destination by their own car this holiday season – 78 percent during the Thanksgiving holiday and 69 percent during the winter holidays. This also represents a shift from patterns shown in earlier polls, which showed much higher percentages flying, rather than driving, for the holidays.

As several of the largest U.S. airlines have increased a surcharge of up to $20 each way for travel on more than a dozen peak days around the holidays, it’s not surprising that there is a notable shift toward driving rather than flying this year, particularly considering the overall financial pressure people experience in today’s economy. Usually, about one in four Thanksgiving travelers fly for the holidays; only 16 percent plan to do so this year. Similarly, one-third of winter holiday travelers typically fly; this year, only 25 percent plan to travel by plane.

“Airlines surcharges hammer another nail into the industry’s coffin as airlines continue to slam customers with fees by exploiting peak travel days around the holidays. They expect customers to pay in order to accommodate their travel plans. But the travel and hospitality industries need to recognize that we are operating in a different business climate than we were two years ago. The post-recession, post-financial crisis consumer requires a different marketing strategy to stay loyal to brands,” says Garlick. “Not only are consumers more frugal, but they are tired of feeling taken advantage of by corporate America. The travel and hospitality industries need to think about the customer experience in this new landscape to remain profitable.”

About Maritz® Poll
Maritz® Poll is a national consumer opinion survey conducted periodically by Maritz Research. Maritz conducted a national telephone poll of 1005 participants from October 15-21, 2009 to learn about Americans’ travel plans for the upcoming holiday season, which includes both Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s. Some questions were also included that asked about recent hotel experiences and perceptions. The data was collected through random digit dial methodology and later weighted to U.S. census data to better reflect the U.S. population. The poll had a maximum margin of sampling error of +/- 3%.

About Maritz Research
As one of the world’s largest marketing research firms, Maritz Research, a unit of Maritz, helps many of today’s most successful companies improve performance through an actionable understanding of their customers, employees, and channel partners. Founded in 1973, Maritz Research offers a range of strategic and tactical solutions concentrating primarily in the automotive, financial services, hospitality, telecommunications and technology and retail industries. The company has achieved ISO 9001 registration, the international symbol of quality. Maritz Research is a member of CASRO and official sponsor of the American Marketing Association.

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