Holiday travel forecasts: “Cautious optimism” — or billion-dollar bloodbath?

snowyThere are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Maybe Mark Twain, or Benjamin Disraeli, or whoever first said that, worked in the travel industry. Because this week, as we look ahead to the busy holiday season, we are presented with two conflicting views of the future. One of them is probably wrong.

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(And don’t even get me started on yesterday’s AAA Thanksgiving forecast, which basically said nothing was going to happen.)

Maritz Travel says the travel industry stands to lose $4.05 billion as holiday travel is projected to be down for the first year in a decade. Only 23 percent of Americans plan to travel during the holidays, a three percent drop from the average over the past seven years. That amounts to 1,599,328 fewer people traveling according to the poll.

Not only are people traveling less, but their travel budget is down 14 percent. Consumers’ estimated spend this year is $853.96, a significant drop from previous years.

A survey of 2,000 consumers in the United States by Deloitte, however, found reason for “cautious optimism” when it comes to the holiday and winter travel season.

Almost half will take a vacation or leisure trip that involves staying overnight in a lodging facility, such as a hotel, motel or a timeshare, from the beginning of Thanksgiving week through March of next year. Anywhere from a quarter to a third of travelers will travel overnight and stay at a lodging facility between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it predicted.

Deloitte analyst Adam Weissenberg sums up the findings:

This season, spending likely won’t return to levels that the industry enjoyed prior to the recession, but some segments of the population are showing more confidence in the economy. This could lead to some improvement over the near-term for hospitality companies and restaurants and should translate to improved long-term conditions as the economy strengthens further.

Let’s compare that with the conclusions of Maritz’ Rick Garlick:

Consumers are not only traveling less, but their budgets are leaner when they do decide to travel. Historically, holiday travel is one of the most lucrative times of the year for the travel industry, but with a projected $4.05 billion loss, many companies will need to figure out a way to compensate for this lost revenue without further compromising customer satisfaction through the addition of yet more fees.

Oh, did he just say the “F” word?

Who’s right? I don’t know.

What do you think?

(Photo: Ryd4/Flickr Creative Commons)