The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the leading organization representing travel agents in the U.S., today released a groundbreaking study that tracks perceptions of American travelers. This year’s wide-ranging study includes reaction to prominent issues like airline regulation and travel bans, collected to help ASTA better advocate for travelers as well as support travel agents as they advise their clients.
“We’ve approached this year’s study with greater focus on the changing landscape for travel and the issues shaping that change,” said Zane Kerby, President and CEO of ASTA. “This is part of our commitment to be an advocate for travelers, as well as for our travel agency members.”
The study comes at a time of turmoil for American travelers, a time of highly-publicized airline incidents, travel bans and tightened regulations and restrictions concerning carry-on items. ASTA collected the opinions of more than 1,500 travelers on a wide range of travel topics, including public policy issues such as travel bans and restrictions, airline regulation and a proposed Mexican border wall. Key findings include:
• Americans are evenly split on overall opinion of the Trump Administration’s “travel ban,” along political party lines
• Most Americans (55 percent) believe a travel ban will make U.S. tourists feel less welcome abroad
• More than one in six Millennials have cancelled or called off a foreign trip due to the travel ban
• A large majority (71 percent) say the travel ban has not influenced their likelihood to travel abroad
• Most Americans (54 percent) support travel to Cuba without U.S. government restriction
• Americans are seven times more likely to believe the government favors airlines over passengers
• Eight in 10 Americans support requiring airlines to disclose all fees upfront
• Most Americans (55 percent) say a wall on the Mexican border will make US tourists feel less welcome in Mexico
ASTA presented the study results to its members during the ASTA Capitol Summit event in June in Washington, D.C., which featured compelling educational content as well as the Society’s annual “Legislative Day” where over 100 travel agency executives took to Capitol Hill to speak to lawmakers about the critical issues that face the travel industry and the traveler. ASTA plans further explore the project’s results with its members during the ASTA Global Convention, August 27-29 in San Diego, CA.
“We are committed to protecting the interests of the traveling public on both domestic and international issues, including ease of booking, process transparency, and – above all else – safety while away from home,” said Kerby. “Our research shows Americans’ passion to travel is stronger than ever and we believe travelers deserve complete transparency from all vendors involved in the booking process, including from the government itself. America’s travel advisors are dedicated to serving the needs of the public, and ASTA plans to build on this data to amplify our voice in support of travelers and the travel agents who serve them.”
Kerby said the good news for the travel industry is that study respondents, despite concerns about bans and restrictions, remain zealous in their intention to travel. “The good news for travel agents is that Americans are an intrepid group and are always looking for new ways to discover the world and spend quality time with their families and friends,” he said.
Both the quantitative and qualitative parts of the study provided ASTA and its members with insight into travelers’ perceptions and expectations of travel advisors. They learned, for example, that many travelers are driven to find highly-authentic travel experiences, especially ones that will take them off the beaten path. These travelers want to know their agent has expertise and experience about a desired destination and can understand and adapt to the client’s own travel preferences. ASTA travel agencies are well-positioned to help in this regard, with the average member having been to over 56 countries.