Europe is back! And so is Mexico, the Caribbean and lands north of the border. In fact, U.S. international travel jumped nearly 10 percent in 2014, and 2015 shows no signs of slowing, according to U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI).
In 2013, 61.9 million Americans traveled internationally, a 2% increase over 2012. They spent an estimated $86.2 billion abroad according to the UNWTO, an increase of 3.3% over 2012. American outbound travel has been on the rise since hitting a recession-induced nadir of 59.2 million in 2011. As the U.S. economy recovers and the Millennial generation begins to travel more internationally, new records in international travel are in store.
Favorite International Wandering Spots
Looking into the travel preferences of this crowd of wanderlusters, Resonance Consultancy conducted a survey of more than 1,200 recent international travelers 18 and older in November 2014 for find out just what was motivating this jump. Their findings tell the tale.
According to the survey, the Top 10 countries Americans plan to visit on vacation in the next 12-24 months are:
1. Canada (29%)
2. Mexico (28%)
3. Italy (27%)
4. England (24%)
5. France (23%)
6. Germany (19%)
7. Spain (15%)
8. Ireland (15%)
9. Bahamas (13%)
10. Greece (13%)
Although these figures align fairly closely with the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, their numbers are based on all outbound travelers – business as well as leisure. Resonance focused specifically on leisure travelers – the audience most influenced by Destination Marketing Organizations. Canada and Mexico have topped the list for U.S. outbound travel since the OTTI began keeping records in 1995. They’re nearby, potentially drivable and, until 2009, Canada didn’t require a passport.
Europe is the most popular region with 57% of respondents indicating an interest in visiting one or more countries in Europe in the next 12-24 months. By age, Millennials (age 18-34) are the most likely to name Europe as a desired destination (61%), compared to 56% of Middle Age (35-64 years-old) travelers and 54% of Senior (65+) travelers.
While it is not reflected fully in the top 10 countries, the Caribbean also ranked highly as a region collectively, with 46% of respondents identifying it as a destination they planned to visit in the next 12-24 months. Clear waters and pristine beaches appeal more to Millennials and Middle Age travelers (48% of each) than to Seniors (32%), though interest was constant among income levels and net worths.
Millennials Bitten by Travel Bug
Although Millennials account for only 22% of total U.S. leisure travelers (domestic and international) based on the research, they comprise 30% of international travelers. Having grown up in an interconnected world with global ‘friends’, tastes and interests, they are passionate about travel and take more vacations annually than any other age group. However, their trips are shorter in duration. Seniors, meanwhile, take fewer international trips – yet the trips they do take are longer in duration.
The most common trip length is 6 to 7 days – the typical one-week vacation – which 38% of international travelers enjoy. Significantly more working-age people (38% of Millennial respondents and 40% of Middle Age respondents) take vacations of this length, compared to only 28% of Seniors.
As age increases, however, so does the percentage of travelers who take longer journeys. Nearly a third of all international travelers (28%) take trips that extend longer than eight days – with 30% of Middle Age respondents and a full 52% of Seniors reporting extended trips – by far the most popular length for Senior international travelers.
Key Travel Decision Factors
Among all international travelers, safety is far and away the top consideration when deciding on a destination, with 56% of respondents citing it as either extremely or very important. Respondents across all age groups and net worths considered safety equally significant.
Second on the list of key factors was favorable climate and weather (43%). Again, this result held across all age groups and net worths. Scenery and nature was significant to all respondents, with 22% and 20% of respondents considering it extremely and very important, respectively.
Commercial flight access showed up as a priority among Millennials, and more so than any other age group. Somewhat surprisingly, only 1% of Seniors consider newspaper or magazine articles to be extremely important when deciding on a destination. Seniors, it seems, can’t really be bothered, especially with online reviews either (9% of those 65 and older cited these as very important, compared to 25% of all international travelers and – as one might expect – 36% of Millennials), fun attractions (3% compared to 21%) and printed guide book reviews (4% compared to 16% overall).