The Consumer Travel Survey from the Travel Leaders Group always offers some interesting results. A few of the 2015 highlights from the recent responses of 3,300-plus American travelers:
Australia tops the “ultimate dream international destination” list for the fourth consecutive survey. Other top choices are Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and a Mediterranean cruise
67% of vacationers will travel by land, 6% plan cruises and 27% are looking to do both
The top responses (multiple answers allowed) to how far people plan to travel are: Within the U.S. and farther than a bordering state, 71%; within home state, 43%; bordering state, 37%; Canada/Mexico/Caribbean, 31%; international, 24%
Interest in travel to Cuba: 39% say no way (down from 47.6% a year earlier), 35% will consider it and 23% are ready to go either now or when they believe Cuba is ready for Americans
You might have guessed that more Americans would be spending their tax refund money on paying down debts (like a mortgage or student loan) – one of the main pieces of financial advice during this year’s tax season.
But, it seems, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders, that many Americans aren’t heeding that financial guidance. Instead, over half (57%) of survey respondents who are receiving a tax refund are planning to use at least part of the money for vacations and leisure travel this year.
Additionally, a majority (83%) of those surveyed indicated that they would spend the same or more on leisure travel this year than they did in 2010. Only 17% of respondents indicated they would spend less this year than they did in 2010.
In terms of where those polled want to spend that leisure time, Australia was chosen as the No. 1 “ultimate dream international destination.” Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and Mediterranean cruising followed respectively. The most traveled to (or anticipated to travel to) states include Florida, followed by California and New York.
Other findings include:
89% of those polled noted that they have already or will take at least one leisure trip in 2011
Nearly 62% indicated they had already taken at least one trip in 2011; 22% have already taken multiple vacation trips
Almost 87% of respondents said they are planning to take the same amount, or more trips this year
Just over 75% of respondents plan to travel within the U.S. and further than a bordering state.
The group conducted the survey this year between March 10 and April 10 with responses from 953 U.S. consumers.
While we can’t make a prediction with 100% certainty, we can assign probabilities to the next trend for the U.S. stock markets. The major U.S. market indexes (Dow Jones 30, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite) all reached new highs for the rally on or about April 28. Additionally, technical indicators of the market’s underlying health were all strongly positive as well. The correction that has ensued since April 28 has erased between 9% and 11% of the averages’ value. In a less tumultuous time, this kind of performance would be seen as a normal correction and not the start of a new bear market.
There are two root causes for the stock markets’ performance since the end of April:
The U.S. market had not experienced a 10% correction since the start of the new uptrend in March of 2009. We saw two corrections (in June 2009 and January 2010) that declined less than 9% on both occasions. The selling was less intense than of late and the markets quickly rebounded from their lows. This correction probably marks the end of the first stage of the new bull market, where nearly all stocks — regardless of size or quality — go up. The second stage will see more selectivity among investors and moderating returns compared to the past 14 months.
The Greek debt crisis and fallout among other members of the Euro currency zone has reminded investors that risk still exists in the debt markets. The U.S. experienced a private debt crisis in 2007-2008 when the mortgage market imploded and caused several large financial institutions to fail or need significant government help to stay afloat. The Euro crisis is a government debt issue with Greece being unable to sell new debt without the explicit guarantee of the European Central Bank (akin to the Federal Reserve). This rescue package was announced two weeks ago but has yet to allay fears that more trouble may be brewing for Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. We think the rescue package has been effective by bringing down interest rates for all four countries though significant work remains to be done to reduce their budget deficits without causing major recessions in those countries. (This is something all governments need to do!)
A silver lining to the decline of the past few weeks is oil prices have declined from almost $90 to $70 per barrel. Look for lower gas prices as a result. Interest rates have also declined as investors have fled to Treasuries as a safe haven. Mortgage rates will likely decline as well. Finally, the U.S. economy may have finally entered a durable recovery and this momentum is hard to reverse in a short period of time.
Investors can expect that volatility could remain elevated over the next few weeks or months as more news coming out of Europe could influence opinions about the impact on U.S. economic growth.
The publication International Living just released its 30th annual Quality of Life Index, which attempts to answer the question, "Where is the best place to live?" Huffington Post writes:
Using what seems to be a semi-statistical reasoning (data is used, but so is personal experience), the countries have been ranked in 10 categories – Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate.
As usual, the rankings have provoked equal shock and happiness from different quarters – Brits seem exceptionally upset, although not surprised, that their ranking has dropped below that of the Czech Republic.
I’ll grant you, it does seem somewhat subjective based on the criteria. But the top 10 is as follows:
Travel Leaders recently released the results of a survey of over 600 folks, inquiring about their travel preferences. As we all like to fantasize about such things while at work, let us indulge you. Here are the results:
If you won a trip anywhere in the U.S., which would you choose? (614 responses)
1. Cruise – 33.1%
2. Island Destination – 23.1%
3. Beach Destination – 18.4%
4. Resort Destination – 7.8%
5. Major U.S. City – 6.2%
Top “ideal U.S. island destination” was Maui, HI, followed by the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii (The Big Island), HI, respectively.
Top “ideal U.S. beach destination” was Hawaii, followed by Florida and then California.
Top “ideal U.S. city to visit” was New York City.
Top “ideal national park to visit” was Yellowstone.
Top “ideal U.S. mountain destination” was Colorado.
Top “ideal U.S. golf destination” was a tie among Arizona, Hawaii and North Carolina.
What is your dream international destination? (609 responses)
3. (tie) Greece
3. (tie) Tahiti
6. (tie) Ireland
6. (tie) New Zealand
9. (tie) Egypt
9. (tie) France
I doubt I’m alone in thinking the fact that Branson isn’t mentioned once on this survey is a rather stark indictment of society.
If tax rates can in fact be said to influence where companies locate and invest, the U.S. has a problem. As our economy becomes increasingly global our combined (federal and provincial/state) income tax rate is higher than every other country in the world, except Japan. Both presidential candidates have recognized the need to do something. Sen. John McCain proposes a significant reduction of the current 35% federal rate to 25%. Although coupled with other proposals and not nearly as definite or assertive, Sen. Barack Obama also indicated he is open to lowering the rates.
The U.S. can’t afford to ignore what most other industrialized countries have already figured out: the corporate income tax rates affect investment. This year China dropped its rate from 33% to 25%; and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, which already had much lower rates than the U.S., dropped theirs even more. And it is not just in Asia. The adjustments swept Europe with Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Spain all making rate reductions. It is truly a global thing. Other countries that are part of the wave of cuts: Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, South Africa and Colombia.
So with so much talk of change in other contexts, it is important to point out that it is also time for a change to our corporate tax rate. A full listing of the corporate rates in nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, along with other revealing information on this subject is available from the Tax Foundation.