Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

As personal security concerns surrounding terrorism, military conflicts and disease are increasingly shaping consumers decisions about where they want to vacation, the Hawaiian Islands remain a popular travel option not only because of the Aloha State’s perceived safety but also its impressive diversity, according to a recent Chief Marketing Organization (CMO) Council study.

Liz Miller, the study’s author and CMO’s senior vice president of marketing, said that despite their growing safety anxieties, “consumers are telling us loud and clear there is still a desire to travel.”

Headlines about terrorism attacks, weather-related disasters and illness outbreaks are having a major impact on consumers’ vacation decisions, Miller reported, but they have not “dissuaded people from that aspiration of getting out there and finding new adventures.”

The CMO Council surveyed more than 2,300 North American and European leisure travelers, most of whom were over the age of 45, during the third quarter of 2015 via online survey in conjunction with Travelzoo.

Titled “How Global Voices Shape Travel Choices: The Impact of Consumer Apprehension on Travel Intention,” the report asked respondents a range of questions, including why they might avoid travel, what sources of travel information they find most trustworthy, what parts of the world they might avoid and which destinations they deemed safest. The CMO Council released the study’s results in December.

“We asked two questions where Hawaii really stood out,” Miller said. “The first question was ‘What area of the globe would you be most interested in traveling to?’ and the second was ‘What do you perceive as the safest destination to travel to?’ And Hawaii actually ranked very highly in both of those questions. In fact, when we asked what region of the world you want to travel in, Hawaii was the No. 1 write-in answer.”

Asked about why the Aloha State was seen as both a desirable and safe destination among the surveyed consumers, Miller said part of it is that Hawaii is simply “not in the headlines.”

“And it meets all the positive markers people want in a destination,” she continued. “It’s got the sun, it’s got the sand, it’s got the adventure, it’s got everything for everyone not only for the family, but also to quell both wanderlust and relaxation.”

Miller added that Hawaii has done a good job of communicating the diversity and range of activity options available across the Islands, and the Aloha State’s vacation variety fits in nicely with the increasing number of travelers today who are searching for destinations allowing them a chance to check off many boxes.

“People are really looking to quell multiple desires,” she said. “They want to relax, they want to have adventure, they want to have culture, and they want to have nightlife. They want to be able to satisfy numerous things on their bucket list.”

Not surprisingly, consumers are using the Internet to research potential vacation destinations, but Miller said they may not be visiting sites you’d expect.

“The No. 1 place people are going for security and personal safety information is government agencies and law enforcement agencies,” she said. “They want to find that trusted, no-B.S. answer to what’s going to happen at the destination.”

According to Miller, other popular searches for consumers researching travel destinations include “travel deal sites, peer review travel sites, and they’re going to journalists. They’re going back to those trusted resources that they know give a realistic and unfettered view.”

Travel agents are also becoming increasingly utilized in research because of their expertise and trustworthiness.

“Travel agents trumped tourism sites when it came to access to trusted safety and security information,” Miller said.

As a result, travel pros who are truly trusted experts in specific destinations have been presented with “a huge opportunity,” Miller insisted.

“I know that a lot of people would love to think that travel agents are a thing of the past, because online search has dominated everything,” she explained. “But the reality is, especially as tourist anxieties are heightening, they are looking for trusted resources. Who better to trust than true experts in the field? [And the study data suggests] someone would much rather turn to an industry source, whether it is a travel agent or whether it’s a trusted journalist, rather than turning to social media where the crowd is building up the noise.”
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