Affluent Americans will be a key driver of the continued growth of the U.S. travel industry in the year ahead. They plan to take significantly more trips in the coming year than last year and are interested in visiting a wide range of destinations across the globe, according to the just-released 2014 Portrait of Affluent Travelers™, authored by travel and hospitality marketing communications firm, MMGY Global. The report is a national survey of the travel habits, preference and intentions of 1,250 active travelers with an annual household income of $125,000 or more. Twenty percent of affluent travelers plan to take more vacations in the year ahead. The Hawaiian Neighbor Islands, national parks and Honolulu are the top domestic destinations they would like to visit. In Europe, Italy, England and France are the preferred choices for the coming year. The Caribbean remains popular, too, especially the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. Other top choices among affluent travelers for the year ahead include South America and the emerging destinations of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Inspiration for travel comes from a variety of sources, with survey respondents citing friends and family as the source consulted most when considering destination and experience options. Affluent travelers also prefer visiting travel service providers’ websites to those of online travel agencies, with nearly 50 percent agreeing these sites offer greater convenience and the best prices of note. While travel service provider websites are popular, 20 percent of affluent travelers now rely on a travel professional to arrange their trips. In another noteworthy finding, 50 percent of respondents said they are willing to pay more for the very best quality hotel/resort accommodations, while approximately 30 percent would pay more for luxury cruise cabins or an upgraded class of service on a flight. “Affluent travelers are willing to spend more on enhanced travel experiences,” said Steve Cohen, vice president, Insights and Research, MMGY Global. “This translates into a wonderful opportunity for travel and hospitality brands to engage – both online and in real time – with this attractive market segment. And ‘better’ and ‘personalized’ are key words to keep in mind when marketing travel services to this group.” Below are additional highlights from MMGY’s 2014 Portrait of Affluent Travelers™. How Affluent Americans Travel - More Trips: Travelers who earn $250,000 or more annually took an average of 6.2 leisure trips in 2013, significantly more than the 4.7 vacations taken by those with an annual household income between $125,000 – $249,999. Both groups expect to take more trips in the year ahead: a net nine percent increase for those in households with an annual income in excess of $250,000, and four percent more for individuals in households with an income between $125,000 - $249,999 annually. - Relaxation and New Experiences Are a Priority: Affluent travelers cite relaxation and enrichment as the most desirable attributes when they travel:
  1. 75 percent cite the desire to have enough time to relax and unwind 64 percent want to explore new cities and attractions 59 percent wish to experience different cultures 54 percent want to enhance their relationships
- Top US. Destinations: During the next two years, half of affluent travelers are interested in visiting (in descending order of preference): the Hawaiian Neighbor Islands (63 percent), national parks throughout the country (61 percent), Honolulu (55 percent), New York City (52 percent), San Francisco (51 percent), Florida Keys (49 percent) and Napa Valley (47 percent). - Top European Destinations: Sixty percent of affluent travelers are interested in travel to Europe during the next two years. The countries that rise to the top of this list include Italy (41 percent), England (40 percent) and France (38 percent). - Top Caribbean Destinations: Fifty percent of affluent travelers are interested in visiting the Caribbean, specifically the U.S. Virgin Islands (27 percent); the Bahamas (25 percent); and the Cayman Islands, St. Maarten and Aruba (each at 23 percent). - Emerging Destinations: More than thirty percent of affluent travelers are interested in visiting Oceana, especially Australia (32 percent), New Zealand (29 percent) and Fiji (18 percent). Twenty five percent would like to visit South America and Mexico. Affluents are Plugged In: Use of Internet and Digital Devices - Travel Agents vs OTAs: In a noteworthy departure from the trend observed among all leisure travelers, affluent travelers prefer travel service providers’ websites to online travel agencies (OTAs). Fifty percent of this group believes that travel service providers’ websites offer the greatest convenience and the best prices. While 60 percent of affluent travelers visit OTAs on a regular basis to get prices and information, only 30 percent actually use these sites to book travel. Nearly 25 percent turn to travel service provider websites, while almost 20 percent books directly with a travel service provider over the phone. Twenty-five percent of affluent travelers plan to use the services of a traditional travel agent during the next two years, up from 20 percent last year. Among those who plan to work with travel agents, 80 percent will do so because of the agent’s ability to provide an extra level of service when things go wrong, their knowledge of destinations and travel service providers, or their ability to take the hassle out of booking travel. - Online Ratings/Reviews Matter: More than 30 percent of affluent travelers visited an online community, travel forum or blog during the past 12 months to seek or review information about a destination or travel service provider. Among them, 75 percent prefer to read individual reviews rather than rely on a rating alone butwill not consider hotels or restaurants with low online quality ratings. Nearly 60 percent generally believe the ratings they see online, while more than 50 percent are suspicious of overtly positive reviews. Twenty percent trust online reviews more than the opinions of their friends and family. Survey Methodology The information presented in The MMGY Global 2014 Portrait of Affluent Travelers™ was obtained from interviews conducted with 1,250 leisure travelers in February 2014. Respondents were adults living in the United States with an annual household income of $125,000 or more, including half with an annual household income in excess of $250,000. Each respondent also had taken at least one leisure trip of 75 miles or more from home requiring overnight accommodations during the previous 12 months. The sample was balanced by statistical weighting to ensure the data are representative of all active leisure travelers in America who meet the target profile. Related Link: MMGY Global Research