Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • May 16, 2024

Get Ready for a Summer Travel Boom


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Michelle Weaver, Morgan Stanley’s US Thematic Strategist. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I’ll talk about the summer travel trends we’re expecting to see this year. 

It’s Thursday, May 16th at 10am in New York. 

With Memorial Day just around the corner, most of us are getting really excited about our summer vacation plans. We recently ran a survey, and our work shows that nearly 60 percent of US consumers are planning to travel this summer. This figure though skews significantly higher for upper income consumers. 75 percent of consumers making $75,000 to $150,000 are planning to travel and this figure rises to 78 percent for those who make more than $150,000. 

And travel remains a key spending priority for higher-income consumers. They place travel as one of their top priorities when compared to other discretionary purchases. This picture reverses though when you look at lower-income consumers making less than $50,000 a year. Travel tends to be among their lowest priorities when they are thinking about their discretionary purchases.

What really matters for companies though is if consumers are going to spend more this year than they did last year. And consumers who are planning a vacation are inclined to spend more this year, with 49 percent expecting to spend more and 16 percent intending to spend less. So that yields a net plus-32 percent increase in spending intentions for summer travel.

And what does this mean for key players in the travel industry? For starters, let’s look at airlines, where demand no longer seems to be a market debate within the space. It’s remained very resilient so far in 2024, contrary to what many had feared when we were going into this year. Our Transportation Analyst also has a positive view of US Airlines, especially Premium carriers. And the reason: This category caters to high-end consumers who are more likely to fly regardless of the state of the economy. Since the pandemic, Premium air travel has been one of the fastest growing and likely most resilient parts of the US Airlines industry, with premium cabin outperforming the main cabin consistently. 

And then what’s in store for cruise companies this summer? The outlook seems to be broadly positive, according to our analysts. The largest cruise operators source the majority of their guests from the US. And these companies provide leisure travel – as opposed to business travel – almost exclusively, so their revenues are closely tied to the health of the US consumer. Of the 60 percent of consumers who are planning to travel this summer, 6 percent are planning a cruise. That’s a little bit lower than pre-COVID, but cruise passengers tend to skew older and more affluent. So, they take more than one vacation frequently. This keeps the outlook broadly supportive for cruise companies. 

Finally, let’s think about Gaming and Lodging. These are your hotels and casinos. Investor sentiment is generally cautious for this space, but our analyst believes the data is encouraging. Yes, there’s been a slowdown in demand, compounded by continued – but moderating – labor inflation. This has created margin pressure for companies with higher operating leverage but the data suggests that upscale and luxury operators are outpacing midscale and economy ones. In addition, the Las Vegas strip, which tends to skew higher end, has outpaced regional casinos. And even when you look within the Las Vegas strip, baccarat is outpacing slot demand and luxury properties are outpacing more affordable options.

So, all in all, the summer looks bright for travel operators, especially those who have more exposure to the high-end consumer. 

Thank you for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.


Our research shows travelers are willing to spend more this summer than last. U.S. Thematic Strategist Michelle Weaver explains how this will impact the airline, cruise and lodging industries.