Kurt Weinsheimer
Kurt Weinsheimer

It's still early in the new year, and in addition to losing weight and saving money, "doing more exciting things" tops the list of New Year's resolutions. What's more exciting than traveling to new places?

In order to understand how the wanderlust bug has struck travelers around the world, Sojern's latest Global Travel Insights report digs into spring travel planning patterns. We've pulled together the most interesting North American travel trends as well as ways to turn these insights into strategic marketing campaigns.

Holidays drove longer family travel

As with New Year's resolutions, our analysis starts with a look back and reflection on 2016. Family (three or more travelers) and couples travel rose in the fourth quarter, while solo travel dipped. Additionally, the share of travel for 12 days or more grew by 2%. It seems North American travelers took advantage of their time off and spent it traveling with their families.

It's clear that with so many holidays, Q4 certainly has a very distinct seasonality for travel. What's even more interesting is that, in general, the share of searching and booking across the quarter shows wider fluctuation than in others. We saw, for example, October had the highest rate of bookings, an entire 7% more than December. November, on the other hand, saw the largest shares of searches, while in December both searching and booking leveled off.

Looking back at the quarter and seeing the specific travel trends therein should remind all travel marketers to treat each quarter, each season and each market uniquely. A "set it and forget it" mentality misses the dynamic, ever-changing planning patterns of travelers.

Travel intent signals overseas spring breaks

Looking forward into spring travel planning, we get a real sense of how people are turning their resolutions into actions. The top destinations for North American travelers, both short and long haul, remained steady from Q4 2016 into Q1 2017. Cities like London, Paris, New York and Orlando continue to be the most searched locations, regardless of the season.

But where we do see some interesting divergence is in party size. There's a sizable jump in long-haul travel searches for groups of three or more, from 10% to 13%. With spring breaks coming up, North Americans seem to be searching for an overseas getaway with their families or a large group of friends.

The point is further made by the most popular trip duration for Q1 searches: 39% of long-haul trips are for four to seven days, up from only 30% the quarter before. Given that most schools have a week off for spring break in March or April, it seems many are looking to take full advantage of that time off to go abroad.

Marketing to early spring break travel planners

Seeing search behavior this far in advance offers travel marketers a number of places to create more strategic marketing campaigns in order to capture spring travelers, including:

• Understanding when travelers are shopping and what kind of decisions they are weighing, like trip duration or overseas destination, gives travel marketers the opportunity to make a big impact early on by tailoring your creatives to motivate them to purchase now for a specific travel window or destination.

• If you're trying to win new travelers, these early-bird searches are a great pool to dig into. We saw in January a lot of travel searches for departures at the end of April. When planning this far in advance, many travelers don't yet know where they want to go and are destination and even brand agnostic. Ensure your marketing strategy isn't only focused on last-minute travelers but also on travelers with a long planning window.

While we might not carry that diet into spring, it's clear from all these searches that travel is one of those resolutions that has staying power. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the entire report here.


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