Do Passports Make People Happier?

Are passport holders happier people? Hilton believes they are.

Accordingly, Hilton wants you (and you, and you) to get a passport. Why? Because it’s good for you, the company says. And of course, because it’s good for Hilton. More overseas trips mean more stays at Hilton hotels.

But back to Hilton’s contention that passport ownership is a good thing. That’s the key finding of the company’s study of 1,000 travelers and their attitudes toward their passports, or lack thereof.

Here’s the takeaway:

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the flagship brand of Hilton, has uncovered that Americans with passports are more likely to be content with their lives than those who do not have passports.

Specifically, 53 percent of respondents with passports are content with their lives, versus 34 percent of those without passports. Hilton goes beyond noting the correlation between passport holders and happiness to suggest that the passports, and the international travel they facilitate, are the cause of people’s contentment. If that’s true, then increasing the number of U.S. passport holders from the current 41 percent would seem to be a fairly straightforward way to enhance the country’s overall satisfaction with life. At which point, Hilton’s marketers can legitimately claim that what’s good for Hilton is good for America.

But wait. Does passport ownership cause happiness? Or are happy people simply more likely to be passport holders? And of the 59 percent of Americans who currently don’t have passports, how many are realistic prospects for international travel?

The fact that there’s a correlation among passports and international travel and happiness is intriguing. But I find Hilton’s interpretation of the survey results to border on wishful thinking.

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Jason Brandt Lewis says

    >>> “I find Hilton’s interpretation of the survey results to border on wishful thinking.” <<>> “More overseas trips mean more stays at Hilton hotels.” <<<

    And marketing has EVERYTHING to do with it . . . ;^)

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