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Study finds travelers care more about who they travel with than where they go

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Travelers now care more about who they travel with than where they go, according to a social listening study of 21.3m online uses of key travel terms by University of Florida’s Agency at UF in partnership with Carnival Cruise Line.

This is indicated by the finding that one in five mentions of summer vacation include a reference to doing everything together and spending quality time with loved ones — family, a significant other or friends.

Desire to go ... anywhere

'What we perceived anecdotally has been confirmed by a dive into the language that Americans are using around travel,' said Dr. Rachel Fu, director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute and chair of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida. 'Americans’ ideal destination for summer travel can now best be summed up as “anywhere and everywhere,” with few expressing enthusiasm for specific locations, and instead committing to bringing besties, significant others and family along to … wherever.'

About one in 10 mentions of summer vacation hint at a tropical, sunny or beach locale, but otherwise, destination specifics are sparse. The study found travel chatter indicates a desire for trips jam-packed with multiple stops, attractions and activities.

The study also found Americans are now longing for an 'awaycation' anywhere outside of their home, as opposed to a 'staycation,' a term that had been wildly used for the past two years but has dropped significantly since 2020 and 41% year over year.

In contrast ...

This contrasts with a New York Times report over the weekend that cited inflation, rising COVID-19 numbers and uncertainty/instability as reasons the staycation isn't going away.

The Times pointed to April research by Bankrate which found 69% of American adults who say they will vacation this summer anticipate changing plans because of inflation, with 25% traveling shorter distances and 23% planning less-expensive activities. Among those planning to take time off, a staycation was the second most popular option, after going to the beach.

The Times also cited a TripAdvisor report released in May which found 74% of American travelers were 'extremely concerned' about inflation, 32% were planning to take shorter trips this summer and 31% were planning to travel close to home.

Travel confidence climbs

The UF study, though, indicated pent-up demand for travel is at an all-time high. It found confidence in travel has increased 58% since January, and about 63% of mentions expressed optimism about the changing travel landscape for 2022.

'Many indicators point to a 2022 summer travel season that will meet and exceed pre-pandemic levels as vacationers feel more eager than ever to reclaim the opportunities for memory-making that only travel provides,' Fu added.

Demand trumps higher prices?

Despite their concerns about inflation, people are still likely to travel, according to Bankrate. 

'While a lot of people are indicating they may cut back on their summer vacation plans, I suspect pent-up demand will win out over higher prices,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. 'Americans have been spending aggressively despite high inflation and downbeat consumer sentiment statistics.'

'Bringing loved ones together is what we do'

Carnival welcomed the UF findings.

'Bringing loved ones together for a fun-filled, stress-free vacation is what we do, so we are happy to find that today’s traveler is craving just that,' Carnival President Christine Duffy said.  'On a Carnival cruise, we take care of all of the details — transportation, dining, entertainment and much more — so that our guests can focus on what’s really important: quality time with those they love.'

Duffy added: 'From bucket list vacations and long weekend getaways to milestone celebrations and multigenerational reunions, our cruises are about creating memorable vacations together. We are as eager to continue welcoming our guests back on board throughout the summer as they are to sail.'

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