by Robin Amster
Last updated: 1:30 PM ET, Wed February 24, 2016
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
U.S. travelers continue to have strong intentions to travel despite their concerns over safety in light of a slew of recent incidents in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., according to MMGY Global's latest Travelhorizons survey.
The consulting firm's quarterly survey of Americans' travel intentions, viewed through the lens of emerging economic, social and political developments, was based on responses from 2,323 active U.S. travelers. It was conducted from Jan. 22 through Feb. 1.
MMGY Global's overall Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI)-which measures U.S. adults' interest in travel, time for travel, personal finances available for travel, affordability of travel, quality of service, and safety of travel-now stands at 120, according to the survey.
That's the highest level recorded since the survey's inception in 2007, the company said. However, the perceived safety of travel-one of the TSI's five components-was the lowest, scoring at 97, down two points from a year ago. The other factors that determine the TSI increased between two and six points over last year.
The media's reporting of terrorist and other incidents had a big impact on traveler sentiment, according to the survey.
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Four in ten active leisure travelers (42 percent) agreed that what they see in the news affects their interest in traveling, while more than half (53 percent) said the news affects their interest in traveling to specific destinations.
Steve Cohen, vice president of insights at MMGY Global, said the disconnect between strong travel intentions versus strong concerns over safety is because, "Safety is primarily an issue as it pertains to international travel, but domestic travel has been affected minimally."
"Intentions are strong based on the affordability of travel, the index of which is at its highest since the survey's inception in 2007," he said.
In terms of the travelers' profiles, millennials continue to have the strongest travel intentions while the mature generation has the weakest, Cohen added.
In other findings, half of those surveyed (52 percent) do not currently feel safe traveling to international destinations. One quarter (26 percent) made a change in some aspect of their travel plans in response to the recent terror attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
Ten percent switched their plans in favor of a destination they considered safer, while essentially the same percentage (nine percent) postponed a planned trip, purchased travel insurance or canceled a trip entirely as a result of recent press reports.
Additionally, one quarter (23 percent) of active leisure travelers do not currently feel safe traveling domestically.
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The same percentage made some type of change to their existing travel plans as a result of the recent San Bernardino terrorist incident. One in ten (nine percent) postponed a trip, switched plans in order to visit a destination they considered safer or purchased travel insurance. However, fewer than one in ten (seven percent) cancelled a trip entirely because of the San Bernardino attack.
The survey also found that both leisure and business travelers plan to spend more.
More than six in ten (63 percent) U.S. adults plan to take at least one overnight leisure trip during the next six months, down slightly from 68 percent with the same intentions in October 2015.
And when asked if they plan to spend more, less, or about the same amount on leisure travel during the next six months-compared to the same six months last year-30 percent said they expect to spend more and 14 percent expect to spend less.
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