What is changing travel today?
That’s the title of a study released by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and AIG Travel, which reveals how our beliefs, values and interests play a significant part in our choices about where we will travel.
The desire to travel has never been stronger. Airlines and airports are breaking records every year for passenger numbers as travel demand soars.
Demand for lodging is leading to new hotels being built — along with ever-increasing rates, which seem to have no effect on slowing the growth.
Travel is becoming more than a simple destination-based decision motivated by where others have been. While technology has clearly made travel planning easier, it also has had the effect of improving the travel experience across all modes of travel.
Before finalizing travel decisions, travellers know more than ever before about the culture, the safety and security of a country, and whether they are likely to encounter a welcoming or somewhat hostile population.
If travellers were deal-conscious in the past, the internet has made them even more so. In the CMO study, deals and discounts, at 51 per cent, are seen as the top influencer for choosing destinations and transportation.
What’s different today is that the deals are not defined in the same way we might have viewed them in the past.
Even among people for whom money is no object, many are looking for a deal. But as Liz Miller, senior vice-president of marketing for the CMO Council, explained, "the deal may be just as much as something in the offer that adds to the excitement, adds to the value. What is drastically different is the marketing vehicles that deliver these deals. It is not a coupon code or a simple discount offer."
"The consumer today is able to discern value and price, and easily compare with what is available to them on the internet, tips from friends or by working with travel agents," she added.
The biggest change in travel influence is illustrated by a line in the report that states, "When planning their next journey, it’s all about ‘me,’ as travellers are less likely to be influenced by the social crowd and are more moved by safety, security and their own special interest."
The report highlighted the top five travel choice influencers.
At the top of the list, at 43 per cent, is special interests and hobbies, followed by the broad category of security, stability and friendliness of the destination.
It is only after these two key components are satisfied that specific interests such as adventure, recreation and sports; local culture and history; and destination geography and diversity follow.
While deals and discounts are a prime factor in moving travellers to finalize bookings, perhaps somewhat related to this is the degree to which loyalty programs and perks are important. For 34 per cent of those surveyed, the ability to use these programs for leisure travel is a motivating factor. Family and friends still are important when deciding where to go, both in determining whether a destination is suitable for a family vacation and from the influencing side, if they’ve been to a destination before.
With grandparents living longer, healthier lives and often still having significant wealth in their later years, multi-generational travel has become an important travel segment.
Where do you fit in among the types of traveller identified in the CMO report?
At the top of the list are the smart planners. They are the ones who need to be well-informed before making that final decision on where they will go. Representing about 41 per cent of travellers, they tend to be up-to-date with the latest travel-related technology and expect to live life to its fullest. They like to see coverage of a destination and, while like most travellers in wanting the best deal, they still want to travel during the best times of the year.
In contrast, the second biggest category of traveller, at 25 per cent, are the relaxed nomads. They just want to get away from it all. They’re flexible, easily adapt to change and are willing to try new modes of travel, preferring to go places where there are no crowds.
The true deal seeker has a budget, stays on it and, as the study states, it’s all about price.
One of the toughest groups to motivate is the nervous stressors. They would love to travel. They, too, want to escape and get away from it all. But too often they can’t. They are anxious about travel, and get stressed during the planning process. All too often they walk down the path of planning then change their minds at the last minute before booking.
The adventurous thrill-seekers, while small in numbers at five per cent, are an important segment of the travel market. With a wide-ranging choice of activities, they often have discretionary income available to spend — and are willing to do so to satisfy their search for adrenalin highs. Whether it’s deepsea diving or climbing mountains, they know where they can find these activities and are willing to pursue them regardless of destination.
Both representing only about one per cent of the population, the luxury budget-buster and business road warriors punch above their weight when it comes to total travel expenditures. And on another day, the road warrior may have all the loyalty points they need to book their vacations to the most exotic and faraway places.
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Ron is a dedicated traveller, having explored 65 countries around the world as well as all but one province in Canada (Newfoundland).