Affluent Americans are ready to spend on family, luxury travel again, Amex finds — and they’re often paying with vouchers


The South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

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Summer travel is back, big time. That’s according to a survey released Tuesday by American Express Travel, where consumer travel bookings have reached 95% of May 2019 levels.

But while affluent Americans are itching to get away, it’s home they want to leave — not one another. And they’re often paying for trips with vouchers and credit-card points.

The online Amex Trendex survey of 2,000 regular travelers earning at least $70,000 a year, conducted in late June, found that both workers and families want to squeeze in as much vacation time as possible before likely returning to offices and school campuses this fall. 

“Our customers are ready to spend on travel again,” said Audrey Hendley, president of American Express Travel. Sixty percent of respondents will take another trip this summer, and for 47% that will represent taking more travel than is usual right before the school year starts.

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Many parents and their kids may have been cooped up together at home for more than a year, but the majority of adults with children (52%) will still travel as a family, according to Hendley. About a third, at 33%, will take a couples trip sans kids, while only 5% and 3% will travel solo or with friends, respectively.

Among reasons for travel, family reunions were No. 1 at 22%, while birthday and anniversary trips came in third and fourth at 8% each. Seeing friends was second, at 18%. Types of travel? “Parents are craving a wide variety of activities,” said Hendley, pointing to beach or tropical destinations (45%), cities (28%), outdoor adventure trips (24%), and “family” destinations such as Disney resorts (22%).  

“We’re seeing that parents want to make the most of the summer,” she added, noting that two-thirds of parents, or 66%, want to take a trip in the next month.

“This is something I can certainly relate to, as well,” Hendley said. “My daughter is in university and my son’s schedule will pick up with school and extracurricular activities in the fall, so we’re hoping to take one last family vacation before our lives get even busier.”

It’s not just quantity of time together travelers are interested in, either — it’s quality, too. 

“After spending more time at home than ever before last year, there is a strong desire from people to make up for lost time and explore the world through travel again,” Hendley said.

More than half, or 57%, of travelers told Amex in another survey conducted in June that they are willing to spend more on a “once-in-a-lifetime” vacation that they were before the pandemic. In addition, nearly half are more likely now to book a hotel or resort offering luxury experiences and amenities.

Survey participants estimated they’ll spend an average $4,790 on luxury travel between now and 2022, and 30% think they’ll shell out more than $10,000, according to Hendley.

How do aspiring travelers plan to pay for all this? It’s not just cash and credit anymore. Welcome to the post-pandemic world of trip vouchers and travel credits, as well as saved-up credit card points.

During the pandemic, many consumers were saving up their credit card points for future travel,” Hendley said. “Additionally, with the majority of trips canceled or postponed last year, we’re seeing a new form of currency emerge in travel — the use of e-credits and travel vouchers.

“People are looking to use these credits and vouchers as they start to plan and book their next trip,” she added. In response, Amex Travel has debuted new functionality at its website that helps cardmembers track the credits they have, along with expiration date information.

This article was originally published on CNBC