Poll: Which economic indicators will impact your travel plans most?

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Filling up at the pump

It was a big week for economic news, which culminated with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledging our collective impatience with high gas prices, high unemployment and high foreclosure rates (admittedly somewhat therapeutic even if it's unclear whether and when any of it will get better).

With the barrage of economic news — some good, some bad, depending on which barometer you're reading and which analyst you're listening to — does any of it affect the decisions you make about where you want to go this summer, how long you want to go for, or how you're going to get there?

Does the fact that new home sales are stagnating make you worried about your property's equity? Does stock market performance give you the confidence to getaway? What about how much you're paying at the pump?

While we've all gotten somewhat accustomed to the economic roller coaster ride that has become the "new normal," higher fuel costs likely have some travelers staying closer to home, and surely certain travelers aren't happy that a weaker dollar will make that cappuccino in Rome take a bigger chunk out of their wallet. Perhaps others are simply throwing their hands up and going wherever they want because we may very well be in this for the long-haul.

According to travel industry insiders, the economic indicator that's probably weighing on travelers most is the rising cost of fuel.

"Ultimately, the price of oil plays into everything," said John Lovell, president of Vacation.com. "I think that's the one I look at the most. It does have a direct effect on the price of airline tickets, where ships are deployed, tour product."

Richard Launder, president of travel conglomerate The Travel Corporation, which owns several travel companies including Insight Vacations, Trafalgar Tours and Contiki, said there are five major economic indicators that he keeps an eye on in terms of their impact on the travel industry and travelers: oil, the value of the U.S. dollar (or lack thereof, which hits travelers heading abroad), the stock market, the unemployment rate (or the "employment rate" as he prefers to call it), and inflation.

But Launder too said that travelers will most immediately feel and respond to rising fuel costs more than anything else.

"We all have to fill our cars with gas on a weekly basis, and certainly for those of us that fly, for pleasure or business, we all see the impact fuel surcharges have on airfares. That's tangible," said Launder. "It does have some impact on where people are prepared to travel."

When planning your summer and fall trips, what are you most concerned about? Have you actually adjusted your travel plans accordingly? Join the discussion by voting in our poll or commenting below.

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