Business | Tourism

‘Staycations’ on the decline in US

Average amount spent on vacations over the last 12 months grows to $4,461, compared with $3,874 during the same period two years ago

  • Los Angeles Times
  • Published: 13:30 September 4, 2012
  • Gulf News

Los Angeles Times
  • Image Credit: Los Angeles Times
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park, near Escondido features tours up close with many animals.

Los Angeles: The “staycation” is not yet dead, but its popularity may be waning. The tendency to stay close to home for vacation — a trend that became popular during the Great Recession — is losing its appeal as more Americans become more interested in having a good time when they travel than in saving money.

The findings are from a survey of 2,527 US households by marketing and research firms MMGY Global and Harrison Group. The survey found that the average amount spent on vacations over the last 12 months has grown to $4,461 (Dh16372), compared with $3,874 during the same period two years ago.

“It’s not like everyone’s financial situation has improved, but people went through a series of three or four years of paring back on expenses,” said Peter Yesawich, vice-chairman of MMGY Global. “We are now seeing for the first time that mentality abate.”

The study found that the number of travellers who are concerned with cost cutting has declined and that 34 per cent of vacationers first choose the destination of their trip, while 18 per cent first set a budget. Also, 26 per cent of vacationers said they prefer luxury hotels and resorts this year, compared with 15 per cent in 2011, according to the survey.

As for the staycation trend, Yesawich said a survey taken three years ago found that 30 per cent of travellers stayed close to home to save money on vacations. That rate has dropped to about 25 per cent of travellers. “It’s a reflection that even though times are not rosy,” Yesawich said, “they are better.”

Checked bags

Southwest makes top 10 list for extra revenue Southwest Airlines Co, the nation’s largest carrier of domestic travellers, has long promoted its policy against charging passengers for the first two checked bags.

But the Dallas discount airline generates extra revenue in other ways. Southwest recently moved into the top 10 airlines around the world that generate the most revenue from extra passenger charges, according to a study by IdeaWorksCompany, an airline consulting firm. In 2011, the study said, Southwest generated $1.18 billion in extra revenue — money made outside of ticket sales — compared with about $490 million in 2010.

A big chunk of that money came from the sale of frequent flier points to credit card companies, said Jay Sorenson, president of the Shorewood, Wisconsin, company and author of the study.

But the airline also collected sizable revenue by charging passengers $10 to board early under its EarlyBird programme, among other special offers that give passengers priority boarding and access to faster check-in lines, according to the study. And, of course, the airline generates bag fees for passengers who check more than two suitcases or have bags that exceed the 23-kilogram weight limit.

In the first three months of this year, Southwest pocketed nearly $8 million from checked-bag fees, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

“Everything they have has been doing better,” Sorenson said of Southwest’s extra revenue. “I think we will see another jump in revenue next year.”

10-flight deal

When JetBlue Airways Corp offered a three-month pass for unlimited flying last year, it sold out quickly.

The New York airline has yet to introduce the deal again this year. Instead, JetBlue last week announced a new deal called the Go Pack that lets passengers make 10 flights in three months. The deal ranges from $700 to $2,500, depending on the city where the trips start.

For example, a Go Pack from Long Beach costs $999 plus taxes and fees. Under the deal, passengers can take 10 flights between Long Beach and Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

But the deal will be offered only until Thursday for travel from Sept. 13 through December 19, with blackout dates of Nov. 20 to 26. The airline would not rule out bringing back the all-you-can-fly deal.

“We are happy with the popularity of all the packages,” airline spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said.

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