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 research.

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 went.

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 other).

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 exclusively.
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].

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