Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Big Picture on Travel

Travel is one of the world's largest industries. Many people make their living from it. Many others live for it. Yet for some reason it is very difficult to get big-picture demographics on travel, such as the percentage of Americans who travel outside the United States by age.

The Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey asks people about their travel only every five years or so, and the data are so arcane, i.e. Annual Person Great Circle Distance Miles of Travel (I'm not making this up), as to be almost useless for all but the most devoted number crunchers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey makes you work up a sweat before you can determine just how much the average American household spends on travel (we did and the answers are here).

The frustrating dearth of travel demographics is what makes the occasional survey on travel that much more welcome. Gallup, for example, offers a glimpse of where Americans have been in its 2005 Lifestyle poll (subscription only). The results show 19 percent of Americans traveled outside the country in the past 12 months, about the same percentage as in 2001. Those most likely to travel abroad: Americans aged 18 to 29.

The AARP's 2005 Travel & Adventure Report, which can be downloaded for free, provides a more detailed look at the travel experiences of boomers (people aged 41 to 59), comparing their travel in 2005 with the travel of 21-to-39-year-olds in 1985. The AARP study finds boomers more likely to have a passport in middle-age (28 percent had one in 2005, up from 10 percent in 1985) and more likely to travel outside the U.S. In 1985, only 17 percent of 21-to-39-year-olds had traveled outside the U.S. in the past three years. In 2005, a larger 24 percent of 41-to-59-year-olds had traveled abroad in the past three years.

The 55 percent majority of boomers consider themselves adventurous, according to the AARP travel report. But they must be talking about adventures with their wallet because their top adventure travel destination is Las Vegas.

No comments: