The great American vacation is vanishing, according to USA Today.
Every year, the average length of a leisure trip shrinks by a few more hours,
the newspaper reports. For evidence, it notes that more than half of all vacationers
in a recent Gallup Poll admitted to coming home feeling tired. That suggests
that a majority of leisure trips aren't having their intended effect.
The Travel Industry Association (TIA) reports that four days is about average
for a vacation nowadays - almost a day shorter than an average leisure trip
15 years ago. At the same time, Americans are taking more trips now (767 million
projected trips last year, compared with 680.3 million in 1994). In other words,
Americans are traveling more, but getting less of a vacation experience.
USA Today points to the state of the economy as one obvious reason for the
change; it doesn't make sense to leave the office for a protracted getaway if
there's a possibility your job won't be there when you return. Indeed, the length
of the average leisure trip plummeted to just four days in 1992, during the
last economic downturn.
In addition, recent war worries, terrorism concerns, and health threats like
SARS could explain the current shrinkage.
But those are just short-term causes; they don't account for the fact that
vacation times have been contracting over a much longer period (in 1985, the
average pleasure trip lasted 5.4 nights; 25 years ago, it lasted more than a
week) or that the numbers remained low even in the boom times of the late 1990s.
In fact, the big culprit behind the shrinking vacation is the travel industry,
according to USA Today. By using seductive marketing and shrewd discounting
to push people to consume vacations as if they were fast-food meals, the travel
business has managed to raise its revenues by roughly $53 billion during the
past nine years, according to TIA. That industry strategy is deliberate: Quick
trips are more expensive than extended ones in the long run, because travelers
must book additional plane tickets and aren't able to qualify for price breaks
on other extras, such as weekly rates on rental cars.
But the main reason mini-vacations are more profitable, according to the newspaper,
is that they don't feel like vacations, so travelers end up booking another