Poll: Travel Industry to Lose $4.05 Billion This Holiday Season

For the first time in a decade, holiday travel is projected to be down, according to a new poll from corporate travel company Maritz, which predicts a $4.05 billion loss for the travel industry as a result of the economy and the H1N1 flu virus.

Released yesterday, the Martiz poll found that only 23 percent of Americans plan to travel during the holidays this year. That's down 3 percent from the average over the past seven years, which amount to 1,599,328 fewer people traveling, according to Maritz.

"Consumers are not only traveling less, but their budgets are leaner when they do decide to travel," said Rick Garlick, Ph.D., director of consulting and strategic implementation for Maritz Research's Hospitality Research Group. "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."

Nearly one-third of poll respondents (31 percent0 told Maritz they're not traveling because of concerns about finances. Another 14 percent, meanwhile, said they're staying home because of concerns about swine flu. Because of both those concerns, 78 percent of travelers plan to travel by car—not air—during the Thanksgiving holiday and 69 percent during the winter holidays.

"Airlines surcharges hammer another nail into the industry's coffin as airlines continue to slam customers with fees by exploiting peak travel days around the holidays," Garlick continued. "The travel and hospitality industries need to recognize that we are operating in a different business climate than we were two years ago. The post-recession, post-financial crisis consumer requires a different marketing strategy to stay loyal to brands. Not only are consumers more frugal, but they are tired of feeling taken advantage of by corporate America. The travel and hospitality industries need to think about the customer experience in this new landscape to remain profitable."