Who is spending the most on US leisure travel?

Millennials are expected to spend incrementally more on travel services than any other age cohort during the next 12 months, according to the 2014 Portrait of American Travelers, an annual survey of the travel habits, preferences and intentions of Americans by travel marketing services firm MMGY Global.

Fully, 24% of Millennial travelers (between the ages of 18-35 in 2014) are planning to take more overnight trips for leisure purposes in the year ahead, versus 14% who are planning fewer trips, yielding a net positive difference of 10% in travel intentions. This compares with a negative net difference of 1% for Boomers and negative net differences of 3% and 6% for Matures and Xers, respectively.

Millennials also plan to spend significantly more on leisure travel services in the year ahead than any of the other generational cohorts — an average of US$887 on a previous-year base of US$4,499. Xers intend to spend the second highest increment: US$666 on a previous-year base of US$4,341.

Both trends are consistent with the manner in which Millennials view the sanctity of their vacation time, having taken an average of 4.6 overnight trips for leisure purposes last year versus an average of 4.2 trips for all U.S. households with an annual income more than US$50,000.

“Six in 10 Millennials would rather spend their money on experiences than material things,” said Steve Cohen, vice president of insights for MMGY Global. “This is presumably one of the reasons we’ve observed the spike in their intentions with respect to leisure travel in the year ahead. The implications for destination and travel-service marketers are quite profound, as Millennials’ planning, booking and sharing habits are significantly different from those of older leisure travelers.”

Millennials’ sense of wanderlust doesn’t always extend to more distant destinations, as they are also more likely to have taken a “staycation” during the last 12 months than all other travelers. Fully, 33% took at least one vacation within 50 miles of their home versus 27% among all other leisure travelers. One-third indicated their choice was fueled by the desire to save money to take a more substantial vacation during the year ahead.

The survey also revealed approximately 57 million American households spent an average of US$4,429 on leisure travel in the last year. Collectively, they represent nearly US$240 billion in U.S. travel spending.