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RISMEDIA, May 20, 2010—(MCT)—The “staycation” is so last year. Americans who plan to vacation this summer will spend more money and stay away longer than last year, when staying home was more the norm, according to a new survey commissioned by American Express Co.

Although the percentage of Americans who will travel this summer has remained about the same (51%), of those who will hit the road, 67% will spend more money than they did a year earlier and 74% will take the same length of vacation or longer, according to a survey of 2,000 Americans.

The survey findings, along with improving hotel occupancy rates and rising demand for airline seats, suggest Americans are loosening their purse strings somewhat on vacation spending, in contrast to the penny-pinching habits of travelers during the economic slump of the past year and a half.

“The summer vacation, and particularly the family vacation, is alive and well this year,” said Audrey Hendley, vice president of American Express Travel, a division of the credit card company.

Jason Womack, a consultant from Ojai, Calif., who coaches business executives on efficiency, said he tells clients to take time off work to get a better perspective on business. “What the recession taught me is that even when it looks like the best thing to do is to hunker down with my nose to the grindstone, it’s equally important to lift up, get away and get perspective,” he said.

After declining for the last two summers, demand for airline travel is expected to rise by about 1% this summer, an increase of 202 million passengers compared with last summer, according to a forecast issued this month by the Air Transport Association of America, the trade group that represents most U.S. airlines.

Until recently, occupancy rates and average daily room rates had been dropping monthly since October 2008. The hotel industry now expects to see occupancy rates increase 2.2% this summer to 63% compared with last summer, with the average daily room rate rising 1.9% to $95, according to a forecast by Smith Travel Research Inc., a major hospitality industry consultant.

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.