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Key insights within travel: Three current themes for exploration

With summer fast approaching – yes, it officially started on June 21st – Americans once again will be vacationing in record numbers. Recent forecasts estimate that over 246 million passengers will fly domestically between June and August (which averages to over 2.5 million per day).

Flying of course is not the only travel option – with road trips being a normal part of the American genre. In fact, according to recent research from GfK Consumer Life, 67% of US leisure travelers have done so in a vehicle (vs. 54% traveling by plane).

As more consumers look to travel, services such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing have become more popular – allowing many travelers to specifically land on what type of vacation they truly want. Here are three current travel trends that brands can leverage to further attract the traveler target.

Surprise destinations

Six in ten Americans now feel “the places where you spend your vacations” is an expression of themselves. This is now ahead of “the home you live in”, which has historically been on top when comparing both attributes (though consumers, led by Millennials are moving away from placing importance on the home).

According to Airbnb’s own travel data, top destinations within the US are still considered mainstays (i.e. ‘tourist-y’) – places like New York City, Orlando, etc. However when looking at top trending destinations – those that have increased the most on searches and bookings from 2017 to 2018 – a different picture emerges. Middle American cities such as Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Columbus, OH move towards the top of the list – one can assume that travelers are undoubtedly looking for a different experience in these places. The psyche of ‘been there, done that’ and/or ‘taking it slow’ could definitely be emerging among consumers. In addition, the ‘value for dollars’ equation probably gets solved easier when visiting places that are undoubtedly more affordable.

‘Last Chance’ Tourism

Americans are also acknowledging that the world is rapidly changing today: 21% cite ‘global climate change’ as a top-three concern (from a list of 21), and +6 pts from just 2015. In turn, another travel trend that has gained popularity is the notion of ‘last chance’ tourism – visiting a place before the relevant experiences, or the destination itself, is gone forever. Many tourists have visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to see it “before it’s gone”, which may or may not happen anytime soon. Cuba has experienced increased tourism recently – with the idea that the native culture within the country might change if and when more Americans start traveling there. Authenticity (i.e. a feeling of ‘realness’) always seems to have a place within consumer sentiments – nearly seven in ten American feel authenticity as a ‘personal value’ is extremely/very important (consistently ranking it in the top-five among a list 50 personal values in recent years).

The novelty factor will continue to be a hook for travels, as 69% of Americans agree, “I am always eager to see new places and do different things”. On the domestic side, a few US national parks are playing into this trend.

Food and travel always mix

Think of the last time you shared your travel experience with someone (or vice versa) – questions like “how was the food?” and “where did you eat?” were probably a part of the conversation. Well then, it’s probably not a surprise that 70% of Americans travelers agree, “I always like to experience local culture and foods when I travel”. And now, newer experiences such as food tours and cooking classes are increasingly sought after by travelers (Tripadvisor says both experiences rose ~50% in 2017 among US travelers). Coinciding again with the ‘sharing economy’ or ‘access economy’, offerings such as Meal Sharing and EatWith also allow for more local & authentic food experiences.

As most of us all like to travel one way or the other, expect more and more consumers to curate the travel experience they truly desire. Companies can leverage these three areas of opportunity and offer solutions that will continue to appeal to the traveler mindset.

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