Our analysis of results of the 2007 National
Leisure Travel Monitor, conducted by Ypartnership (formerly
YPB&R) and Yankelovich can be found in the Consumer Trends 2007
special pullout section in this issue. In those pages, weve focused
on what we believe are the major underlying trends uncovered by the
But buried among the 197 pages of charts and graphs in the monitor
were a few disparate data points that struck me as particularly
interesting because they contradict common wisdom.
In other words, they run contrary to my biases.
Most of the surprises have to do with generational preferences. The
breakdown of how echo boomers (age 27 or younger), Generation X (28
to 41), baby boomers (42 to 60) and matures (61 or older) enjoy
spending their vacations is a case in point.
For instance, respondents in all four age groups cited visiting
friends and family more than any other activity as a reason to
travel, but baby boomers less so than others. Only half of boomers
intend to travel for this purpose, whereas 62% of matures, 57% of
echo boomers and 56% of Gen Xers said they would.
Thats actually great news for anyone selling travel. Boomers are
the largest and wealthiest generational segment, and theyre saying
that theyre more likely to be interested in booking a trip that
might include more than air plus a possible hotel stay.
In fact, boomers were in first or second place when it came to
preferring the types of trips that generate commissionable travel
bookings: cruises, theme parks, gambling and all-inclusive resorts.
And theyre similarly positioned when it comes to categories
serviced by tour operators (general sightseeing, outdoors vacations
and city visits).
Now for the unexpected dark lining: Boomers are less likely to book
with a travel agent than any other group, with only 19% saying they
will (matures come in at 32%, echo boomers at 21% and Gen Xers at
20%). To add insult to injury, boomers and Gen Xers are more likely
to shop an agency but then book elsewhere than are matures or echo
boomers. (The last of these groups is most loyal; they book at the
same level that they shop).
It should be noted that despite their fickleness, there are so many
more boomers than any other group that what they lack in fidelity
they more than make up for in volume. Theyre still the largest
slice of the agent-booking pie.
The monitor has for years been reporting the rise of Internet-only
travel buyers. This year, 66% said thats the only channel they used
to buy travel, 5% said they bought exclusively from agents and 23%
used a combination of agents and the Web.
Travel Weekly, as the exclusive media sponsor of the monitor, is
allowed to add a few proprietary questions whose results are shared
only with our readers. We decided this year to explore whether the
booking channel numbers reflect distribution of dollars spent as
well as purchasing behavior, so we asked respondents who said they
used both travel agents and the Web where their money actually
It turns out that 36.7% of the money went to traditional and home
travel agents, 10% to online agencies like Expedia, Travelocity and
Orbitz and 24.3% to supplier Internet sites (the rest went to
That news is certainly mixed for traditional and online agencies.
Traditional agents can find solace that they take the lions share
among clients who hop among channels. Online agencies can point out
that theyre in a growing channel that most people choose to use
But its the suppliers, whose market share of the online channel
has risen vis-a-vis online travel agencies, who are providing the
new common wisdom: Focus on ways to build loyalty.
Theyve been doing it for years, and its paying off.
To view a presentation that includes more of my comments about the
monitor, go to www.travelweekly.com, click on the Webinars button
on the left and view the webinar sponsored by Choice Hotels.
E-mail Arnie Weissmann at [email protected].