For the travel industry, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the
holiday shopping season have evolved from a vexing consumer distraction into
one of the most important travel booking periods of the year, and the industry
has expanded promotional strategies accordingly.
"Cyber Monday is the most popular booking day of the
year across our company," said Eric Gavin, chief sales and marketing
officer for Salamander Hotels & Resorts. The company has been offering
post-Thanksgiving promotions for several years, but Gavin said bookings started
to increase substantially at its properties about three years ago.
Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales at Norwegian
Cruise Line, said bookings made in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday
promotions are "right up there in the top-performing days that we see
throughout the year."
And upscale operator Abercrombie & Kent said it
typically sells out of the trips it features during its Cyber Monday holiday
sale, which according to Stefanie Schmudde, director of product development and
operations, "has proven to be a very successful way of encouraging
aspirational travelers to trade up to Abercrombie & Kent."
Those kinds of results say a lot about holiday sales
considering that prior to 2010-2011, most travel companies weren't offering
Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals at all. Black Friday, the day after
Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, three days later, have traditionally kicked off
the period reserved for purchases related to holiday season gift-giving. But it
wasn't until recently that travel companies decided to throw their hats into
"The time between Thanksgiving and New Year was
typically slow for the travel industry," said Steve Cox, executive
director of International Expeditions. "You wouldn't typically send
brochures or sales emails because of the time people spend out of the office,
the influx of retail promotions and the general distraction of the holiday
But since coming out of the Great Recession, Cox said, "Black
Friday and Cyber Week sales were a way to get the phones ringing."
Expedia gave away 2 million Expedia+ Rewards points ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, said John Morrey, Expedia's vice president and general manager.
This year, International Expeditions is offering savings
ranging from free air to $2,000 off per person on its 2018 Peruvian Amazon,
Galapagos and Cuba programs for bookings made between Nov. 27 and Dec. 8.
Travel companies across the spectrum report that consumers
immediately responded with interest to the travel industry's early attempts at
getting in on the spending frenzy, but they seem to agree that the booking momentum
has really taken off more recently.
There are several factors to which they attribute the
growing popularity of booking travel during the holidays, including the fact
that travel itself has become a much more popular holiday gift option.
John Morrey, vice president and general manager of
Expedia.com, said, "We did a study this year that showed 94% of teens
would rather receive a trip as a gift over a new toy or game, and we've seen
other research [showing] that people find more fulfillment and happiness in
experiences over material things."
Expedia ran its first major Black Friday sale in 2011 and
added Cyber Monday deals in 2015. Morrey said that consumer engagement in those
deals has grown every year since.
As Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals have become
more commonplace, families gathering for the holidays have also come to
incorporate them more into the travel-planning process, which has further
fueled the effectiveness of the promotions.
Cox said that "with the growth of multigenerational
travel, the holiday season has grown to be a time when spring break and summer
vacations are being planned. It makes sense to be in front of grandparents,
moms and dads as they make these plans."
In several short years, post-Thanksgiving travel deals have
evolved from a nonfactor into something consumers have come to eagerly
anticipate, according to those travel companies that have carved out their
piece of the holiday sales bonanza.
"We have had many customers ask through the years if we
would be running any specials over the holiday weekend," said Lisa Stice,
vice president of global online marketing for Benchmark, which is offering
promotions at two dozen of its resorts and hotels in the period between Black
Friday and Cyber Monday.
Benchmark is among the companies that are seeing the
benefits of extending the promotional period beyond the typical day or two to
give travelers more time to seize on the specials.
"We noticed an uptick when we began offering the sale
for a longer time frame. We now do 'Cyber Weekend' rather than just Cyber
Monday," said Stice. "This grew out of ... the customers asking us to
extend our sale."
Along those lines, Expedia this year gave away 2 million
Expedia+ Rewards points to new and existing Expedia members ahead of Black
Friday and Cyber Monday, enabling customers to use those points on holiday
travel sales, Morrey said.
Nor are the specials available only to consumers. Travel
professionals, too, are seeing offers come their way. The Travel Institute this
year is launching its third annual Season of Savings promotions on Nov. 27 to
kick off five weeks of specials on its travel professional resource offerings,
such as certifications, membership and training.
As for how much all the holiday season travel deals impact
the popular, long-standing post-New Year booking period, most travel companies
say the start of the year still accounts for substantial sales.
"January is going to have a natural spike in interest
and activity, but that is normally a more gradual and sustained increase in
volume," said Marty Seslow, vice president of marketing and sales for Gate
1 Travel. "Black Friday is relatively unique, as we are able to
dramatically increase activity for a significantly more concentrated period."
As for whether the recent deluge of deals the industry has
been churning during the holidays risk diluting their popularity and
effectiveness over time, Expedia's Morrey, said, "The more deals that are
out there, the better it is for travelers."