Summer Travel Trends

When the sun is out and the temperatures soar people take to the sky, road, rails and waters for a summer getaway!  Which means it’s time to cash in on that accrued vacation and hit the beach, desert, a happening city, or maybe even a new country.  But, before you deploy your passport search party, perhaps a quick review of global summer travel trends will help guide your next summer vacation destination.

We all know summer is a high travel season, but where are people going?  What is driving demand? And how is commercial aviation evolving to meet that demand?  All good questions, so let’s hit pause on the sandcastle for a moment and dig into some summer travel research.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 64% of leisure travelers (nearly 100 million people) in the United States will travel for vacation during the summer months when school is out.  And, according to the Association’s 2019 summer travel trends report, the top locations for 2019 won’t vary greatly from years past.  AAA notes that for American’s, theme parks are holding strong as the top summer vacation destination.  Orlando, Florida, home to Disney World and Universal Studios sits atop the list for the second year in a row, followed by European destinations London and Rome in the two and three spots, while Dublin and Paris round out the top ten.  Cruise boat vacations to Alaska have been picking up steam in the U.S., but destinations primarily reached by airplane such as Honolulu, Hawaii, Punta Cana, and the Dominican Republic are holding strong in the top ten.    

Travel Pulse, a site that tracks global travel inclinations notes that, while Americans will be getting out and about in large numbers this summer, they will be doing so on a slightly smaller budget.  According to the site, the average 2019 summer travel budget for Americans is down 10%.  So, perhaps fewer souvenirs will end up in the luggage of American travelers?  Meanwhile, Europeans are enjoying a slightly inflated summer travel budget this year with a 3% increase over 2018…souvenirs for everyone!

Forbes projects that summer travel in the U.S. will be up 4.25% this year compared to 2018.  The publication notes that one of the drivers for increased summer air travel in 2019 is the expanded capacity (up to 400% increase) of low cost and ultra-low cost carriers (LCC/ULCC) such as Allegiant, Frontier, and JetBlue among others.  The precipitous effect of LCC/ULCC capacity growth is conventional carriers decreasing fares on select seats in an effort to remain competitive.  Thereby making air travel accessible to larger populations on a larger scale.  Forbes notes, “Indeed, the average, inflation-adjusted domestic air fare last year fell for the fourth straight year, largely because of the LCC/ULCC carrier’s combined impact on the industry. That average fare last year was $350, including fees and taxes. That was down 15.9% from the average price in 2014. And it was the lowest average inflation-adjusted domestic fare since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began tracking that figure in 1995.”

Airlines for America (A4A), a trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, also expects a strong summer passenger surge for 2019 over the previous year.  A4A’s 2019 Air Travel Forecast estimates that air travel on U.S. airlines will rise for the 10th consecutive year with a 3.4% jump during the summer of 2019.  A4A’s estimate has air travel reaching an all-time high of 2.8M passengers per day and an estimated 257.4M passengers total over the 2019 summer months. The forecast also projects that U.S. airlines will add 111K seats per day to accommodate the daily summer increase of travelers.  And according to Zacks Investment Research, A4A’s forecast is good news for both airlines and investors alike. The increased demand coupled with the decreased ticket prices and a strong economy has heightened the appeal of certain air carriers for perspective investors.  All in all, it seems like this year’s summer trends in the U.S. are a well-rounded win!

So what’s happening abroad?  We mentioned that Europeans on average are enjoying a slightly larger travel budget this summer, but where are they going?  And where are the movers and shakers of China heading this summer?  After all, they are shaping the future of global travel.

Trends demonstrate that most Europeans typically spend their summer holiday months in Europe, with Rome being one of the top vacation destinations for travel within the continent.  For international travel, many Europeans select New York as their summer destination of choice.  According to the 2019 European Union Tourism Trends Report, “…five of the top ten destinations in the world are located in the European Union. France is the world’s number one tourist destination in terms of international arrivals (83 million in 2016) and the fifth in international tourism receipts (euro 38 billion). Spain is third in arrivals (75 million) and second in receipts (euro 55 billion). Italy is fifth in arrivals (52 million) and seventh in receipts (euro 36 billion).”  So, with the world’s top destinations tucked nicely into their own continent, why wouldn’t Europeans spend summer vacation exploring their own surroundings?  In 2016, 84% of travel from Europe was to destinations within Europe (intraregional tourism).  The most popular destinations in Europe for Europeans were in the Southern and Mediterranean parts of the continent (yes and YES!), with destinations in Western Europe coming in second for sub-regional travel. 

This brings us to China, and the summer travel trends of the country’s burgeoning jetsetter population.  The 2019 European Union Tourism Trends Report notes China’s strength as a global travel leader. “China continues to lead global outbound travel, following ten years of double-digit growth in spending and after rising to the top of the ranking in 2012.  In 2016, expenditure by Chinese travelers increased 12% (in local currency) to euro 236 billion (11 billion more than in 2015).”

As the Chinese middle class continues to grow, more and more Chinese citizens are planning trips that include air travel.  Further, FowardKeys, a big data, IT and business intelligence company focused on travel, explains that changes to leave polices by the Chinese government have provided additional time for holidays.  The increased leave time enables eager travelers to reach international destinations during their holidays.  According to ForwardKeys, due to the high demand from Chinese travelers, airlines have increased both seat capacity and routes to certain European destinations: “…between 1st January 2018 and 30th June 2019, seat capacity from China to London increased by 24.8%, compared to the equivalent period a year before, thanks to the addition of nine new routes. Capacity to Paris increased 8.1%, thanks to five new routes and capacity to Rome increased 31.7% from one new route.”

While popular tourist countries such as the U.S., Italy, France and England are very regular summer vacation choices for the Chinese traveler, many have already experienced these high-profile destinations, and are looking to explore new and unique vacation locations.  According to Dragon Trail Interactive, a travel site targeting the Chinese consumer, Chinese travelers are increasingly visiting less common international destinations.  The site reports that Chinese citizens born after 1990 prioritized unique destinations such as Panama, Iceland, Belarus, Algeria, and the Bahamas over the current most highly trafficked destinations.  Dragon Trail further reports that Chinese travelers are pursing interest based trips over long weekends within China.  And, as luck would have it Genghis Khan Airlines began operating routes with its newly minted all ARJ21 fleet on July 26, 2018…just in time for summer travel.  This is in addition to the 20 regional routes currently being flown by the ARJ21 with Chengdu Airlines, giving Chinese jetsetters homegrown options for their flights in-country! 

So, now that you’re up to speed on summer travel trends around the world, you can map out a plan that joins you with the masses having a blast at the most popular tourist destinations, or that surrounds you with the tranquility of a path less traveled.  Either way, don’t forget the sunscreen!