Introducing the New Nomad

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I thought the research team was joking. The results from our Hotel of the Week email were way off. People were checking in to hotels we had featured just 17 days after booking their stay.

Two weeks. Someone read an email and walked into a hotel lobby and talked to the front desk less than three weeks after clicking a buy button on the Internet or calling for accommodations.

Eric Gillin
Eric Gillin

Before working in this industry, I thought of travel as a semiannual event. Families took vacations once, maybe twice a year and spent months and months planning them. 

Sure, some people traveled all the time for work, but they had a corporate agency and an important meeting to attend. But a regular person going someplace to sleep in a hotel on a whim two weeks from now? Only if you were a billionaire.

Yet our Hotel of the Week email goes out to nearly a million people. What was happening? Were we seeing a wave of entirely new travel behavior here?

To understand more about this emerging consumer, we commissioned research with the consumer insight consultancy BVA BDRC to find out what was going on. The results of our survey of 1,500 respondents were just as astonishing as the booking data from our Hotel of the Week email.

We discovered that 18% of the U.S. population treat leisure travel like business travel insofar as they're that serious about it. They take 7.5 trips a year, more than twice the frequency of the average leisure traveler. And they go farther afield, all over the globe. These high-frequency leisure travelers fall into a new segment we're calling the New Nomad.

This segment crosses gender, age and household income lines. The New Nomad's average age is 40, roughly the same median age as a regular leisure traveler, though slightly more affluent and slightly more male.

But the biggest difference is their behavior. They spend 80% more on travel, extend their business trips three times as often and fly more often throughout the year. And while most leisure travelers visit OTAs, one additional tendency stood out: New Nomads are 50% more likely to visit hotel and airline sites directly -- or, especially in the case of millennials, use a travel advisor.

The core of New Nomads features a small, but growing, segment of travelers who are unlike anything we've seen before; we've dubbed them always-on travelers, and they comprise roughly 7% of the U.S. population.

Of that total, 74% of always-on travelers book spontaneously, and 81% are always in the market for travel, a figure exponentially higher than your standard-issue leisure traveler.

Targeting and servicing this New Nomad segment is core to our strategy at Conde Nast Traveler moving forward, and we'll be rolling out more data on this influential segment in the months to come. But these early insights underscore how golden this age of travel truly is.

According to IATA World Statistics, the average consumer flies twice as much today as he or she did in 2000. And no wonder: Twice as many cities -- more than 20,000 -- have been paired up since then.

At Conde Nast Traveler, we're using this data to forge a deeper connection with the New Nomads -- and so can you.

There are three major insights that have driven our success with this segment.

One, our editors know that travel is a conversation. Led by global editor-in-chief Melinda Stevens, the editorial team is always reminding me that they are the antithesis of the glut of "travel experts" culling insights from Google searches and Instagram to write a listicle to rank in search.

It's about asking questions, listening to what audiences are saying, and creating communities around that. It's why, as noted by ASTA, 55% of millennials today are using travel advisors instead of just clicking away on an OTA.

This is why a record 600,000-plus readers submitted to our annual Readers' Choice Awards. Travel is something these people love talking about. Just look at your Instagram feed.

Two, travel is empowerment. The #solotravel hashtag has been used more than 4.8 million times on Instagram, while searches for "female solo travel" have more than doubled in two years, according to Google, and a recent study by Resonance found that one in four millennials plans to solo travel within the next year or two.

It's why our Women Who Travel Facebook group is up to nearly 150,000 members in two years and why we launched a dozen sold-out trips to Colombia and Mexico City.

And third more than ever, travel is a global movement. In 2018, Conde Nast Traveler merged our U.S. and U.K. editorial and operations, realizing that a travel brand needed to be truly global to have any credibility.

A year later, with this research, we've discovered the reason why we have been so successful. There's a special beating heart at the center of the travel world -- these incredible, exciting, always-on, travel-obsessed New Nomads -- and we look forward to learning even more from them.

Eric Gillin is the chief business officer of The Lifestyle Division at Conde Nast, where he oversees revenue and brand development for Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit, Epicurious, AD and SELF, as well as the company's travel, CPG, home and health categories.

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