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TIA: Consumers’ financial ability to travel at lowest point in 3 years

The Travel Industry Association of America’s (TIA) Traveler Sentiment Index continues to decline, falling 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 to all-time low of 93.7. While all five components of the index declined from last quarter,…

The Travel Industry Association of America’s (TIA) Traveler Sentiment Index continues to decline, falling 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 to all-time low of 93.7. While all five components of the index declined from last quarter, consumer concerns about not having enough time to travel and about their financial ability to travel fell to their lowest points to date. The drop in the overall Traveler Sentiment Index reflects declining consumer confidence as measured in the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, now at its lowest level since November 1993.



Among the five Traveler Sentiment Index components, consumers’ ability to take pleasure trips considering demands on their time declined the most, down 8.7 percent and it is at its lowest point to date. Consumers are also more negative about being able to travel based on their personal finances, with this component falling 4.2 percent. This index component now stands at 79.4, its lowest point to date.





Despite dropping 7.4 percent this quarter, the affordability index remains above the levels seen in the last three quarters of 2000 and the first three quarters of 2001. This suggests that consumers still perceive that more travel discounts and promotions are available now than before the terrorist attacks of September 11. General consumer interest in pleasure travel is down 3.1 percent over third quarter with an index of 94.7. The index measuring consumer perceptions of travel service quality-at 99.7-remains relatively stable.





Baby boomer (age 35 to 54) and Generation X and Y (age 18 to 34) travelers are significantly more negative this quarter compared to last, with overall sentiment indices of 95.4 (down 4.7%) and 94.8 (down 5.5%), respectively. This is mainly due to dramatic declines in Boomers’ perceived ability to travel based on time and money available, while Generation X and Y travelers feel travel is significantly less affordable. Mature travelers are only slightly more negative this quarter.





When the overall Traveler Sentiment Index is examined on a regional basis, the South and Northeast show the only declines. The overall sentiment index among travelers living in the South has decreased to 90.1 (down 11%). Of those travelers living in the Northeast, the overall sentiment index has declined 9.9 percent this quarter to 92. The overall sentiment indices for the Midwest and the West rose to 99.2 and 94.6, respectively (up 1.8% and 5%).



Due to industry concerns about the effects of September 11, 2001, a question on travel safety was added starting with the fourth quarter 2001 TIA Travel Survey. While this component is not yet calculated in the Traveler Sentiment Index, it gives an indication of consumer perceptions of the safety of travel in general. This quarter, consumer perceptions of travel safety are less favorable than last quarter. Four in ten (41%) adult travelers now say that travel safety is better than it was a year ago, down from 50 percent last quarter. And 25 percent say that travel safety is worse than it was a year ago, versus 17 percent last quarter.



TIA’s quarterly Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI) is conducted four times per year and is a running gauge of consumers’ interest in leisure travel and their perceived ability to travel. The study consists of five criteria: interest, time, finances, affordability, and service quality. The TSI is based on quarterly interviews with approximately 1,000 U.S. adults who have taken at least one trip in the past year. Each criterion is measured individually and then combined to create an overall index score. The baseline year for the Index is the year 2000.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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