Financial woes surpass work concerns
By Michelle Baran
Americans may finally be coming around to realizing the value of vacation time, just as the economy is mak- ing it more difficult to take time off. The U.S. is often stereotyped as a country where vacation time isn’t valued as much as it is in Europe or Australia, for
example. But new survey results show that the reason Americans are not taking vacation is shifting
from a general feeling of being unable to get away
to specific concerns about the economy.
In recent years, the authors of the National Leisure Travel Monitor have not only been surveying
travelers, they’ve been asking nontravelers why
they’re not planning a trip. In 2005, 30% of respondents cited not being able to get away from
work as the reason they weren’t planning to travel.
That answer outscored all others that year, including security concerns and economic issues. Over
time, however, there has been a trend away from
In 2007, 24% of the people who were planning
fewer near-term trips said the reason was that they
couldn’t get away from their job or didn’t have enough
vacation time. In 2008, that number fell to 12%.
In the 2009 Monitor, only 4% of respondents
said the reason for taking fewer leisure trips was
that they could not get time off from work. The
top three reasons were concerns about the economy (19%), household budget concerns (16%) and
cutting back on spending (15%). That suggests
they’d go if they could afford it.
“There is a shift going on,” said Joe Robinson,
author of “Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a
Life.” “People are starting to reappraise their priorities. It’s not just about performance and money.
“But at the same time, they have the constraints
of the economy,” he said. “We’ve been trained to tie
our identities into performance and how much we
get done. It’s difficult for people to step away from
that, particularly if there are fears. And there are a
lot of fears about losing your job or not being seen
as a committed worker if you take your time.”
That fear of either not advancing in one’s career
or getting laid off, said Robinson, is precisely why
the recently introduced minimum-paid-leave law
is particularly needed right now.
REASONS FOR TAKING FEWER
Concerned about economy
Household budget concerns
Cutting back on spending
Need/want to do some projects I have been
putting off at home
Travel in general is too expensive
Concerned about job security
Cannot get time off from work
Airfares are too expensive
Do not ever travel
Children too young
Family obligations/new baby/children
Plan to take fewer trips
Gasoline prices are too high
There are other things I'd rather do with my
Have not planned yet
Planning for a big trip/expensive trip
Don't know/declined to answer
On May 21, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, which, if
passed, will require at least one week of paid vacation for employees at companies with at least 100
employees. Full- and part-time workers would be
eligible after one year of service.
Three years after enactment, companies with at
least 50 employees would be required to offer at
least one week of paid vacation, and companies
with at least 100 employees would be required to
offer at least two weeks.
“Why are paid vacations good enough for the
Chinese, French, Japanese and German employees but not good enough for us?” Grayson asked
in a statement about his bill. “There are certain
basic elements that people need to have enjoyable lives. They need health care. They need a
decent-paying job. And for a good life, they need
In defense of the bill, Grayson stated that the
U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a
minimum-annual-leave statute and that at least
147 countries has a paid-vacation law, including
all developed countries.
“It’s an important first step, but the backlash
has been phenomenal,” said John de Graaf, national coordinator of Take Back Your Time, a vacation and leisure time lobbying organization. “I
was totally unprepared. Every conservative blog
and newspaper have been all over this … as if
this little bill constitutes, if not the end of Western civilization as we know it, a step toward the
implementation of socialism.” But, he added, “I
don’t believe this is a majority view.”
An estimated 38 million U.S. adults have not
decided whether they will take a leisure trip
this summer or fall and are waiting to see if the
economy and their personal finances improve
in the coming months, according to the annual
summer travel forecast by the U.S. Travel Association, released in May.
“This is an economic stimulus for the country,”
said Robinson. “If you look at the tourism industry in England compared to the U.S., it dwarfs us,
because they have so much more vacation time.”
But while Americans may still lag behind the
rest of the Western world, vacation is increasingly being viewed as a necessity, not a luxury.
In a 2008 survey for Take Back Your Time,
92% of working Americans polled said they need
at least some vacation time to prevent burnout;
52% agreed with the statement that at least three
weeks was “best” to avoid burnout.
The poll of 1,002 people was conducted by the
Opinion Research Corp.
There has also been a change in the way people
travel. Travelers might be holding off on weekend
getaways but still value their longer trips.
In the 2009 Travel Monitor, respondents said
they took an average of 3. 1 leisure trips over the
previous 12 months, down from 3. 4 in the 2008
Travel Monitor survey. Weekend trips dropped
from 53% of the total to 48%, while the proportion of extended trips (four or more days) grew