Study: Alternative lodging leads travel spend growth

Overall consumer spend is now the closest it has been to pre-COVID levels. Photo credit: Chermen Otaraev / Shutterstock (Stack of gold and platinum credit cards)

According to Cardlytics’ ninth "State of Spend" update, which analyzed half of all U.S. card swipes, spending on travel has improved significantly since the start of the downturn.

Overall consumer spend is now the closest it has been to pre-COVID levels, down just over 2 percent year over year, according to the company. Categories have seen varying levels of recovery, ranging from general retail to 8.8 percent year over year and restaurant rebounding to -9 percent year over year. 

Travel continues to suffer as the pandemic sees new surges and restrictions remain, down 49 percent year over year. But the industry, while hard-hit, has recovered significantly after dipping to its worst levels at -85 percent year over year in April. Four straight weeks of growth were led by alternative lodging, which was up by a quarter year over year in September. 

While drive-to travel has increased significantly, fuel spend is down 25 percent year over year since early June.