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Despite low consumer confidence, traveler sentiment shows slight improvement in first quarter of 2003

After dropping nearly 10 percent in the past two quarters, the Travel Industry Association of America`s (TIA) Traveler Sentiment Index rebounded slightly…

After dropping nearly 10 percent in the past two quarters, the Travel Industry Association of America`s (TIA) Traveler Sentiment Index rebounded slightly in the first quarter of 2003. The overall index now stands at 97.1, up nearly four percent from the fourth quarter of 2002, when the index stood at 93.7. Still, traveler sentiment is below the stronger levels seen in the first half of 2002.



The rise in the overall Traveler Sentiment Index is due primarily to consumers feeling that they had more time available to travel, with this index rising 17.5 percent to 100.0. Consumers also show slightly more interest in taking pleasure trips, with that index increasing 3.3 percent from last quarter to 97.8. General consumer interest in travel is still on a positive upward trend since dropping to an all-time low in the fourth quarter of 2001. Yet, consumers are still concerned about having the money available to take a trip. The index measuring consumers` ability to travel based on personal finances, at 80.8, is relatively flat over last quarter. This index has not recovered since reaching an all-time high in the second quarter of 2000.



Consumers perceptions about the affordability of pleasure travel continues to decline from an all-time high of 149.8 in the first quarter of 2002. However, this index-at 112.2-is still above the baseline of 100.0. The decline could be a result of travelers reacting to higher gas prices or getting very accustomed to seeing travel bargains since September 11, 2001.



Overall index chart will go here



Due to industry concerns about the effects of September 11, 2001, a question on travel safety was added to the TIA Travel Survey starting in the fourth quarter of 2001. This quarter, the Travel Safety Index-at 120.8-is more upbeat, showing a gain of 9.4 percent from fourth quarter 2002.



Generation X and Y (age 18 to 34) travelers show a strong increase in their perceptions about the affordability of travel, as well as in their interest and time available to travel. However, their ability to travel based on personal finances is at its lowest point-to-date. Baby Boomer (age 35 to 54) travelers show a significant increase in their time available to travel and were more confident about traveling based on their personal finances. Boomers continue to feel less confident about the affordability of travel.



When the overall Traveler Sentiment Index is examined on a regional basis, the South shows the only substantial gain, rising 12 percent to 100.9. Among those travelers living in the West, the overall sentiment index is up 3.7 percent to 98.1. The overall sentiment indices for the Midwest and the Northeast have declined to 94.6 and 91.3, respectively.

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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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