Today's American travel consumers are a lucky bunch. They live in a time and place where the marketplace gives them a dizzying array of choices -- and the power to choose what they want, when they want it.
For leisure travelers, there is, literally, a vacation out there for every budget, every demographic, every lifestyle. Business travelers, particularly those who can be flexible, have a similarly wide array of choices for transportation and lodging.
Not only do travelers have more choices than ever before in terms of how and where they travel, they have more choices in how they research and book travel.
They even have more alternatives to travel, things to choose instead of travel. Would-be leisure travelers can pamper themselves and "get away from it all" at home. And for many business travelers, an increasingly available alternative to "being there" is to be there in bits and bytes.
Not only do consumers have more choices than ever before, they know they have the power. They are growing accustomed to having it "my way."
It is said that art imitates life. So does business. It's no surprise that one of the most wildly successful operations today is Starbucks, a business that is built around the proposition that there are 2,000 ways to make coffee and tea.
Even with such a menu, consumers feel entitled to ask for something that's not on the menu -- one of these, with a dash of that, and hold the whatever.
Is that the future challenge for travel marketing? To figure out 2,000 ways to sell the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, China?
It could come to that.
According to the 2006 Leisure Travel Monitor and Business Travel Monitor, published by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell and Yankelovich, Inc., the smart way for marketers to reach today's consumer is to allow the consumer to feel unique, empowered and fulfilled.
The clues are all around us.
American consumers have grown accustomed to finding fresh strawberries in supermarkets in March -- something unheard of for our parents and something our children take for granted. Small wonder that, when asked if they were willing to take their kids out of school for a family vacation, 61% of consumers said "Yes."
"My way" means my calendar, not yours.
Data from the 2006 Leisure Travel Monitor and Business Travel Monitor are based on interviews with 1,353 leisure travelers and 1,200 business travelers who took at least one trip of 75 miles or more requiring overnight accommodations in 2005.
The additional analysis of travel agent users reported on Page 16 was commissioned by Travel Weekly and was based on the responses of travelers who used a travel agent for at least one trip in 2005.
Throughout this report, references to demographic groups are based on the following definitions:
- Echo boomers: 26 or younger in 2005; born between 1979 and 1988.
- Generation Xers: between 27 and 40 in 2005; born between 1965 and 1978.
- Baby boomers: between 41 and 59 in 2005; born between 1946 and 1964.
- Matures: 60 or older in 2005; born in or before 1945.