This Summer Travel Season Could be a Nightmare: Expect Wallet-Busting Prices on Airfare and Hotels

President Donald J. Trump may be popular with his base for his "America First" initiative and attempts at imposing bans on travel and electronic devices on visitors from some countries. But how are those actions, along with the state of the economy, affecting the U.S. travel industry?

In a report from Adobe Digital Insights coined US Travel Trends 2017 released on Thursday, it evaluates emerging travel trends using anonymous data aggregated from more than 16 billion visits to major travel, airline, hotel, car rental and cruise sites. Judging by the report's findings, the news is grim for both travel companies, travelers in the U.S. and those people coming into the country. That could translate into a slower summer travel season and higher fees for domestic airfares and hotels.

As a salve, the report also offers the optimal times for consumers to secure the best prices.

Here's the report's top findings. 

Summer travel growth is slowing.
Summer travel growth is slowing.

Expect spending on summer travel by U.S. consumers to be 66% lower than last year. But, it will still total $98.02 billion, Adobe reports. Sluggish growth is mainly coming from nearly flat air and hotel bookings, likely the result of big price hikes. Growth has slowed for airlines and hotels, mainly due to the nearly unchanged number of airline reservations and decreased hotel bookings. 

Companies that could be affected include: Hotel operators such as Marriott (MAR) , Hilton (HLT) , and Choice Hotels (CHH)  (owner of Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge and others); major airlines like American Airlines (AAL) , United (UAL) , Delta (DAL) and Southwest (LUV)   and fast food places like McDonald's (MCD) , Yum! Brands' (YUM)   (owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut) and Wendy's (WEN)  that are often found in airports. 

The "Big 3" summer holidays are still seen as blockbusters for spending.
The "Big 3" summer holidays are still seen as blockbusters for spending.

The "Big 3" three summer holidays and their weekends are still seen bringing in oodles of cash, with July 4th being the big kahuna. Spending is expected to reach $3.68 billion over the four-day July 4th weekend, while Memorial Day may add up to $2.93 billion and Labor Day, $2.83 billion.

Nonetheless, those spending numbers remain unchanged from the previous years', says Adobe.

Barbecues, with lots of grilled meat, chips, beer and soft drinks are big sellers on holiday weekends. Expect these companies to see an uptick in sales: meat purveyors Tyson Foods (TSN)  JBS (JBSAY) , Cargill and Smithfield Foods; snack and beverage makers Pepsico (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO) ; and beer companies Molson Coors (TAP) , Craft Brew (BREW) , Constellation Brands (STZ)  and Anheuser-Busch (BUD) .

Jim Cramer and the AAP team hold a position in PepsiCo for their Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells PEP? Learn more now.

Tourists from abroad may not come in the same numbers that they have.
Tourists from abroad may not come in the same numbers that they have.

Fewer foreign travelers are seen visiting the U.S. this summer.

International travelers flying to the U.S. have decreased by 6% in the first quarter of this year, as the U.S. dollar has strengthened (up 6.79% from April 2016 to March 2017), according to the report, and prices have increased (by 10% in March of 2017 year over year).

Confusion over travel restrictions may also play a role. President Trump's proposed travel bans on Muslim-majority countries have been met with widespread confusion, consternation and headaches and been blocked by federal judges, rendering them ineffective. In addition, the administration has put forth an electronics ban from passengers coming from some countries, which may expand to include customers from Europe.

The Trump administration's actions have convinced some travelers to skip the U.S. altogether in favor of more hospitable vacation spots.

However, the strong U.S. dollar may free up more Americans to travel abroad, says Ted Reed, the airline industry reporter for TheStreet.

Online car rental bookings are seen dipping, too.
Online car rental bookings are seen dipping, too.

With fewer foreign tourists showing up in the USA, online bookings for car rentals are currently down 14% year over year. Other reasons, noted the report, are a decrease in one-stop vacations and more cruises being taken, and possibly, more ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft (online car reservations fall by 2% for every 10% increase in Uber social media mentions, says Adobe). 

Hertz (HRI) and Avis (CAR) may suffer.

Taking to the high seas still in fashion.
Taking to the high seas still in fashion.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) , Royal Caribbean (RCL)  , Carnival Cruise Line  (CCL) (Holland America is a subsidiary) and Princess are expected to be going full steam ahead as the cruise industry is booming.

Visits to cruise websites have nearly doubled in the past three years, by 32% year over year in 2017's first quarter, points out Adobe.

For the best deal, it's still best to book ahead.
For the best deal, it's still best to book ahead.

According to Adobe's study, the optimal times to buy airfare in the United States are between 76 and 112 days in advance for domestic flights and 125 days in advance for international ones. Also, if you fly on a Saturday, you generally pay 11% less, but 11% more if you travel on a Monday.

For lodging, book 33 days in advance for the best price, the report maintains.

To stay connected, solo travelers, and others, can fall back on social media.
To stay connected, solo travelers, and others, can fall back on social media.

According to the report, July and August register 15% more travel mentions on social media than any other months, and global travel mention peaks in July and August. Outside of peak summer travel months, on average 14 million mentions of travel occur, noted Adobe, 1.7 times more that pop stars Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift combined.

As for solo travelers, 2 of 3 travel mentions in social media are related to traveling alone vs. going with others.

And, naturally, millennials are the biggest posters: 81% of them post an update to social media at least monthly, compared to those between the ages of 35 and 66. And, cited the ADI Millennial Survey 2017, millennials are more likely to say they post several times a week.

Social media companies Facebook (FB) , Twitter (TWTR) , Instagram and Pinterest should be buzzing during the busy vacation months of June through August.

Editor's Pick: Originally published April 27.

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