Bad Economy Means No Vacation for Many Americans
May 26, 2009 Alex Woodie
Yesterday was Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off for the summer season. But that doesn’t mean everybody will be “going on holiday” this year, as the Europeans like to put it. In the United States, the poor economy is putting the kibosh on many American families’ vacation plans. Some simply can’t afford vacations, some are worried their jobs won’t be there when they return, while still others could go but go but are electing not to because of a newly discovered malady called Guilty Vacation Syndrome (GVS), according to surveys.
Every year, Internet job site CareerBuilder conducts a public opinion survey about American’s vacation plans. This year, they asked more than 4,400 full-time workers about their vacation plans back in February and March. The company partnered with the professional polling firm Harris Interactive to get a scientific sample, and the result is an error rate of about 1.5 percent.
CareerBuilder’s survey found that 35 percent of Americans don’t expect to take a vacation this year. That was up from 2007, when 20 percent of survey respondents said they didn’t plan to take a vacation. The company didn’t report how many people were forgoing vacations for the 2008 survey.
Of the 35 percent who aren’t taking vacations this year, 71 percent say they can’t afford it, while about 20 percent say they are either afraid of losing their jobs if they go on vacation, or they feel guilty being away from the office. And when people finally do commit to a vacation, they tend to check in with the office more often than in the past.
That guilty American feeling was on full display in another survey, conducted by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) on its Web site, www.vacationbetter.org. According to the ARDA’s unscientific survey, a full 90 percent of Americans suffer from Guilty Vacation Syndrome, or GVS.
OK, while GVS is not a real medical malady, it’s an apt description of that Puritanical streak that runs through Americans. ARDA says GVS sufferers feel guilt and stress about their vacations. They may want to take a vacation, but they feel that they don’t deserve one. GVS sufferers who manage to overcome the initial stress and guilt, and actually plan a vacation, may second guess their decision.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Howard Nusbaum, ARDA president and CEO. “People with GVS must put their health first,” Nusbaum says in a press release. “There has been substantial research affirming the physical and mental benefits for taking time to get away and recharge. And in stressful times like these, it’s even more important.”
While the ARDA undoubtedly has the financial wellness of its mega-resort clients in mind when it tells people to cast off their GVS chains and pamper themselves in some far-off locale, Nusbaum’s advice isn’t far off from the real-world pointers offered by CareerBuilder. Simply put, vacations are better thought of as a necessity rather than a luxury.
“While the current economy may be causing workers anxiety about taking a vacation this year, a break from work is essential for maintaining healthy productivity levels in the office,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release.