Travel Trends

Despite Economy, Holiday Travel Still Strong Among Upper-Earners

Middle and lower income Americans staying home and spending much less this year

Travel Industry Wire With bad news continuing on nearly every economic front, holiday travel remains a tradition -- at least among those that can afford it. According to a recent Maritz(R) Poll, wealthier Americans plan to spend, on average, nearly $1000 more this year on holiday travel, compared to last. However, lower middle income earners plan to spend half as much on holiday travel compared to last year.

"Holiday travel has been consistently one of the most resilient practices of Americans. It has withstood economic ups-and-downs since Maritz started tracking it in 2001," said Rick Garlick, Ph.D., director of consulting and strategic implementation, Maritz Research. "However, these are unprecedented times. The data from this study show that the incidence of holiday travel is expected to decline, particularly among lower wage earners."

The exception to this year's bad news is wealthier Americans. Although a few more upper-earners may have stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, this group plans to hit the airways and highways for the winter holidays at the same pace as last year and plan to spend even more money than in the previous year.

The Maritz study looked at four different categories of household earners: those earning between $35,000 and $74,999 (lower middle income), those earning between $75,000 and $99,999 (middle income), those earning between $100,000 and $249,999, and those earning $250,000 or more (upper income.) Those in the study were asked about their recent Thanksgiving travel compared to 2007, as well as their plans for the upcoming winter holidays (Christmas, New Year's and Hanukkah).


Holiday travelers were asked to estimate their total spend for holiday travel this year. Those in the lower income category plan to spend less than half of what they spent in 2007. Middle and upper-middle income earners were planning to spend approximately the same amount. However, the wealthiest Americans planned to increase the average spent on holiday travel by nearly $1000.

               Total Planned Spend for 2008 Holiday Travel

Average Spend Lower Middle Middle Upper Middle Upper
on Holiday Income Income Income Income
Travel (35K-74K) (75K-99K) (100K-249K) (250K+)
2007 $1126 $973 $1336 $2817
2008 $523 $933 $1398 $3809

The data showed some decline in the incidence of Thanksgiving travel, although the declines were not dramatic. For example, the percentage of those that stayed home for Thanksgiving increased slightly among every category except for those in the middle income category. Similarly, there was a slight decline in the percentage of those that traveled outside their local area for Thanksgiving in all but the middle income category.

                       Thanksgiving Holiday Travel

Thanksgiving Lower Middle Middle Upper Middle Upper
Travel Income Income Income Income
(35K-74K) (75K-99K) (100K-249K) (250K+)
Year 2007 2008 2007 2008 2007 2008 2007 2008
Stayed at home 52% 58% 52% 51% 51% 56% 55% 58%
Went somewhere
locally 27% 25% 29% 31% 23% 22% 19% 18%
outside of the
local area 21% 17% 19% 19% 25% 21% 27% 24%

Plans for the winter holidays, however, are a slightly different story. While there are similar decreases for planned winter holiday travel in the lower and middle income categories, those in the upper middle and upper income earner categories show no signs of slowing their holiday travel. The incidence of holiday travel among this group is expected to remain steady.

                          Winter Holiday Travel

Winter Lower Middle Middle Upper Middle Upper
Holiday Income Income Income Income
Travel (35K-74K) (75K-99K) (100K-249K) (250K+)
Year 2007 2008 2007 2008 2007 2008 2007 2008
Stayed at home 58% 62% 50% 53% 54% 48% 50% 48%
Went somewhere
locally 23% 23% 22% 22% 18% 19% 13% 16%
outside of the
local area 19% 15% 29% 24% 28% 33% 36% 36%

About Maritz(R) Poll

Maritz(R) Poll is a copyrighted poll conducted since 1988 by Maritz Research. Maritz Poll comprises regular surveys on topics related to the automotive, financial services, hospitality, retail, technology, and telecommunications sectors as well as workplace issues. This poll was conducted December 9 and 10, 2008. The 1,150 respondents were split evenly between males and females and randomly drawn from a national e-mail panel. Sampling error for the overall poll is +/-3 percent. Results of the poll may be used in print or broadcast media, provided credit is given to the Maritz Poll and/or Maritz Research.

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