Smart travel marketers know that a major key to success is keeping up with changing consumer tastes. And it's no longer enough to know what's hot and what's not; it helps to know what's going to be hot.
So here's the trick question: What's next for American travelers? The surprising answer in the latest Leisure Travel Monitor is that "Next" is next.
Yes, you read it right: Next. According to the annual assessment of consumer attitudes by Ypartnership (formerly YPB&R) and Yankelovich Inc., the always-on, well-informed, up-to-speed, in-control American consumer is ready to take everything to the next level, and they mean everything.
As the Monitor puts it, "Consumers are all about getting to Next."
There are signs in the marketplace that travel suppliers have figured this out already, perhaps unconsciously, with an increasingly aggressive focus on the new and the next.
We are swimming in news about new technology for researching and booking travel, for providing connectivity and entertainment in hotels, airplanes, cruise ships. And suppliers are working overtime on product development to satisfy the consumer's insatiable appetite for the next level in new ships, new tour concepts, new thrills, new insights about destinations, new peeks backstage, new ways to save, new ways to indulge.
Whatever it is, if it's new, if it's next, they want it. And, of course, they want it now.
But as much as consumers are looking for "Next," they're not abandoning old habits and preferences. The latest Leisure Travel Monitor confirms that beautiful scenery still tops the list of desirable destination attributes for most travelers. Frequent, short vacations are still gaining ground on long trips. The recommendations of friends and relatives are still more trusted than guidebooks and brochures. And the Internet is increasingly the medium of choice for researching travel information.
Here's a random sampling of what else today's travelers told us about themselves:
Passports: Half are passport holders, 38% never had one, and 12% say their passport expired. Of the have-nots, two-thirds say they don't plan to apply or renew.
Registered traveler: Fewer than 10% say they're interested in a registered traveler program to expedite their treks through airport security. When asked to express their interest on a five-point scale, 86% of respondents gravitated to the bottom two points ("not interested" and "not at all interested").
Traveling less: Most travelers are planning to travel at least as much or more this year than last, but 26% say they will be traveling less. When asked why, one in four cited a lack of vacation time or an inability to get away from work. Only 16% mentioned the economy, and a mere 5% cited gasoline prices.
Finding Web sites: Three in 10 travelers have used a travel Web site that they saw advertised in offline media.
Dot-travel: They don't know from dot-travel. Only 9% are familiar with the new dot-travel Internet domain, and only a third of them have tried to use it. Of those who haven't heard about it, about half of them are interested.
Data in the 2007 Leisure Travel Monitor were gathered in January and February based on responses to interviews and questionnaires by a consumer panel of leisure travelers who took at least one trip of 75 miles or more requiring overnight accommodations during 2006.
Throughout this report, references to demographic groups are based on the following definitions:
- Echo boomers: 27 or younger in 2006; born between 1979 and 1988.
- Generation X: between 28 and 41 in 2006; born between 1965 and 1978.
- Baby boomers: between 42 and 60 in 2006; born between 1946 and 1964.
- Matures: 61 or older in 2006; born in or before 1945.
To view the survey in its entirety, click here.
Dear Travel Professional:
A successful business can outgrow a building, a computer system, a management structure, even a city, but it can never outgrow its need for research. No matter how good we think we are, there's always a bit of information, an insight or an idea that will open a door and create a new opportunity for growth.
Part of our mission at Travel Weekly is to help our readers gain those insights and find those opportunities. A commitment to research has always been a part of that mission, and we are proud to continue that tradition as sponsors of the 2007 National Leisure Travel Monitor, produced by Ypartnership -- formerly Yesawich Pepperdine Brown & Russell -- and Yankelovich Inc.
Part of what the researchers have to say this year will come as no surprise to travel marketers: Consumers are as restless as ever. As they travel, they are becoming collectors of experiences, and they are more eager than ever before to ride the next trend, to collect the next big trophy. Whether it's the "ideal" Las Vegas weekend, the "perfect" week in Hawaii or the "ultimate" African safari, they want to make it theirs.
Successful travel marketers must learn how to keep up and keep those trophies coming. In the pages that follow, we hope to provide data and analysis that will aid you in that effort, so that your business can achieve continued success.
Vice President & Publisher