Americans prefer independence (when traveling)

The United States is the largest leisure travel market in the world – by far. The closest point of reference is the entire European Union. We’re three times larger than our closest competitor, the United Kingdom. Yet, despite our size, we just don’t spend as much money on packaged travel. In fact, the folks in the UK spend 50 percent more on it than we do.

Over here, the travel business accounts for $271 billion a year, according to travel industry research firm PhoCusWright, and only 7 percent of that ($18 billion) is spent on travel packages. Meanwhile, the UK has an $84 billion-a-year travel industry – not even a third of ours – and they spend $30 billion a year on packages (35 percent of the local market).

What’s the deal?

There are plenty of reasons bandied about. Europeans tend to take longer vacations, with 10 to 14 days not unusual (especially for the residents of northern European countries), and they tend to take more time off than the workaholics in the United States. They go more and longer, which translates to increased spending.

But, this doesn’t explain the affinity for packages. What makes Americans different?

Well, independence is a major factor. Americans usually prefer to set their own agendas, deciding what they want to see and do, taking on the task of research (and coming to places like Gadling – thanks, by the way, we all appreciate it) and putting together the pieces on their own.

Maybe we’re getting lazier or trying to seem like sophisticated Europeans, but the packaged travel market is growing on this side of the Atlantic, even rapidly. Of course, you need to compare it to starting point to understand how this can happen. In 1999, the packaged travel market was effectively nonexistent. Some large, enterprising online travel agencies, however, created a market from nothing, and turned it into an $8 billion space by the end of last year. This “new” offer has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50 percent during this time, while tour operators have seen aggregate revenues decline at a compound annual rate of 5 percent.

So, we’re still not heavy package buyers in the United States, but taking the easy way out is becoming more and more attractive.

Americans expats feeling the squeeze in Europe

Iva recently wrote about Europeans coming to New York for the holidays because of the exchange rate, and earlier I pointed out that airlines are happy to help along their travel plans.

So it only makes sense that Americans in European are getting the rough end of the deal. I just came across this anecdote from an American who gave a little girl begging for change a dollar.

“I don’t want this. This is nothing,” said the child. Yikes!

It seems that American expatriates everywhere (although it’s particularly bad in Europe) are feeling the crunch as the dollars they’re holding are worth less and less. The decline in the last six months has bee especially bad. Case in point: the Canadian dollar is now worth more than the American version. Ouch.

Why give Africans IQ tests?

Call me crazy but I just don’t believe that Africans are less intelligent than Europeans or Americans. Yes, it seems like every once in a while a scientist tries to prove that Africans are somehow inferior to the rest of us. You would think there are more pressing issues out there that they could be focusing their studies on…but I guess this one gets a lot of press.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize-winner for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, is facing backlash in Britain after making this controversial statement: “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says, not really,” Watson told The Sunday Times. He recognized that the prevailing belief was that all human groups are equal, but that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” As a result of his comments, the British Science Museum has canceled the scientist’s scheduled speech, saying he has gone too far. He’s since retracted his statement and apologized, but he had to scrap his book tour.

That’s the funny thing about scientists, so brilliant in their fields and so narrow-minded in other areas. Has anyone ever told this poor fellow that giving Western-style IQ tests to people worldwide is not really a fair way to assess people’s true intelligence?