Vacation Budgets Are Tight: Can You Compete?

vacation budgets are tight

A recent report in the Associated Press offered some bad news for retailers and hospitality industry businesses who make a living off tourist dollars. After a brief spike in travel in recent years, the “staycation” is back. According to a new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about half of Americans say they are foregoing a vacation this summer in order to save money or…more likely…to pay bills.

The poll indicates something many tourism-dependent retailers could already see coming: people just don’t have the cash to travel like they once did. People just can’t see spending so much on a vacation when they have relatively cheap entertainment near home. Even many of those who say they could afford to travel say they won’t because they don’t want to take time off work.

But it gets worse. When the poll looked at families with household incomes under $50,000, about half said they don’t plan to take any kind of summer vacation at all. No theme parks, no extended beach trips, no weekend getaways to nearby attractions. Even the staycation is getting short shrift.

One of the most popular reasons cited is the loss of income being away from work. More than 40 percent of those surveyed said they don’t get any paid vacation time. If they leave work, they lose money…and they just can’t afford to give up that week’s pay, much less pay to go somewhere while also losing cash. This is a double-whammy for younger, lower-income workers, who are more likely to fall into this category.

Another group that often meets these criteria: the new “gig” service economy where mostly younger people are tying together multiple part-time service jobs that come without benefits. These jobs are different from their parents’ and grandparents’ part-time jobs in that they also come without any kind of sure hours or income. Workload changes week-to-week, so budgeting is difficult. That, survey respondents indicated, makes saving for luxuries like vacations untenable.

So, what does that have to do with public relations? Well, if you’re out there depending on tourist dollars when there are fewer tourist dollars to go around, you may be asking yourself the wrong question. Many businesses and brands often want to know: “Will I get enough business this year?” That’s an important question, but it should not be the only question you ask.

The more important question is: “What do I offer that would cause someone to spend their limited funds on me rather than my completion?” In other words, what is your unique value proposition, and (this is vital too) how are you communicating that proposition to your potential customers? The right answer to this question will go a long way toward determining who gets the money that is spent … no matter who stays home this summer.

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