Many U.S. Employees Working Instead of Vacationing this Year

Oma H. Barnett

“Vacation deprivation is at an all-time high,” says Sally McKenzie, vice president and general manager of the online vacation website Harris Interactive and Ipsos were hired by Expedia to study U.S. vacation trends. Ms. Mckenzie continues, “there are incredible health and wellness benefits associated with time off from work.” It looks like Americans will be missing out on all the fun this year.

What were the findings? U.S. employees this year will likely forfeit more than 574 million vacation days. That is an extra 150 million vacation days forfeited this year over 2005 levels or about 4 vacation days that go unused per employee.

Why don’t Americans learn from foreign employees and enjoy the vacation days they have earned?

There are many reasons. One of them is still our upbringing with the Puritan work ethic. Our country was founded on hard work and long hours. Taking days off is still looked upon by many employers as being slothful, lazy, and not being productive. With the downsizing that has been going on in corporate America, employees are nervously looking over their shoulders wanting to make sure they give no one any excuse to replace them. They all want to look like team players.

Gasoline prices are out of sight. With some working families having to pay an extra $1500 to $2000/year for gasoline, right there their summer vacation has gone up in gas fumes.

The Federal Reserve increasing interest rates is hurting vacationers. It is estimated that in 2005, almost 40{363bd2a98d15c88227082edbeda0d5f103110265c93869472e5f1256b705561e} of mortgages were the exotic kinds with adjustable rates, zero interest, etc. With the Federal Reserve having raised interest rates for almost 20 quarters in a row, many families are seeing their mortgage payments jumping from an extra few hundred a month, to in some case over an extra $1000 per month. For some families it is a choice of wanting to keep the roof over their heads. Vacation time has gone out the window.

A final reason Americans are not taking more vacation time is vacation resorts and destinations are not exciting people into wanting to take days off of work.

A lodging magazine survey showed that the typical resort, averages around a 15{363bd2a98d15c88227082edbeda0d5f103110265c93869472e5f1256b705561e} repeat guest rate. “That is a horrible number,” says Tom Mulhall, past president of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. “That means the typical resort and resort destination is doing something to turn off 85{363bd2a98d15c88227082edbeda0d5f103110265c93869472e5f1256b705561e} of its guests. We pride ourselves on averaging just over a 75{363bd2a98d15c88227082edbeda0d5f103110265c93869472e5f1256b705561e} repeat guest rate ourselves.”

Tom and his wife Mary Clare own The Terra Cotta Inn Clothing Optional Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, CA and Tom feels that today’s cookie cutter chain hotels are more interested in maximizing the revenue from a guest instead of a guest getting to maximize their fun. Chains need to understand that guests have to have a great experience at a resort and at a destination. When guests feel like they have to “watch their wallet” every time they walk into a lobby, they start to resent it. And charging hidden “resort fees, and outlandish parking rates” has probably cost more resorts lost repeat guest then anything else. Until chains understand that, repeat guest rates will still suffer.

Tom concludes by saying,”last week, one of my guests told me he had accumulated over 50 vacation days at work. I asked him why he did not take more travel time. He said, outside of the 2 week vacation he spends with us each year, no other vacation resorts excite him and his wife. ‘I don’t want to waste my vacation time at some mediocre place,’ said the guest. ‘We did that when we were younger. Now I would rather save vacation days to cash out at retirement instead of using them now.'” Chilling words for the travel industry.

This year it looks like travel destinations and resorts are going to have to work harder than ever to recapture the vacation time and hearts of the American traveler.

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