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The Latest on the Updated Travel Consumer

02 Jul 2019 Elizabeth McHugh

in Strategy

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel by both plane and car this summer. That forecast aligns with the current state of the travel industry overall; as a business, travel is booming. Getaways are up, vacation spending is increasing, and even the average number of vacation days being taken is on the rise. Yet the industry’s health does not mean that it is exempt from changes in consumer behavior. As with so many other industries, consumers are demanding change and responding to disruptors. So, while now is an excellent time to be a part of the travel industry, the companies that understand the modern consumer will have the edge.


While summertime used to dominate as the peak season for holiday travel, that role is now more equally shared by summer and winter. In a recent study, 42% of respondents took an “any summer” trip last year, while 38% traveled for “any fall/winter.” Summertime does still have an edge in terms of length. In that same study, 41%—the majority—took their most extended trip in summer; the next two most popular times to travel were over Memorial Day and Labor Day, yet those occasions were mainly viewed as a chance for a short trip. Generationally, there’s much to unpack regarding consumer behavior. Long summer vacations are a habit of the Boomer generation, while Millennials take shorter trips and are the least likely of any generation to take a long summer break. Unsurprisingly, Millennials will likely further disrupt the peak travel timetable. More Millennials, particularly childless ones, are traveling during non-peak times. Desirous for shorter trips—but more of them and to new places—Millennials find savings during off-peak travel times. Brands need to be nimble with their marketing efforts and smart with their budgets. While a large portion of budgets are still required to woo traditional holiday travelers, the companies that surprise and delight off-peak travelers will have much to gain. Savvy audience segmentation will be a key to success.


According to Mintel, “There appears to be a correlation between the number of activities vacationers do and their sense of camaraderie toward their travel companions. Travelers who participate in five or more activities are more inclined to say that holiday travel helps them reconnect with their companions on a trip.” Seemingly, Americans love activities, enjoy being together, and find greater travel fulfillment when the two are combined. Therefore, the brands that offer the opportunity for rich, shared experiences can tap into positive psychology. While this thought has been prevalent, new research is now augmenting it, just as earnings reports are reinforcing it. As an example, the Q1 2019 earnings report for TripAdvisor noted that while revenue from the Hotels, Media & Platform business segment was flat, revenue from Experiences & Dining was up 29%. Wellness and quality time are decreasing stress—even during holiday travel, which can be anxiety-producing.

The proclivity for shared experiences explains, in small part, the simultaneous boom in wellness travel. Americans are currently spending $242B on wellness travel, which can be laden with activities and shared moments: consumers are seeking to connect. As they do so, they are at once reinvigorating and revamping the travel industry.


With our proprietary research community and rich consumer experience, Stella Rising leads in understanding the modern marketplace. Connect with us now to ensure that your marketing efforts are in sync with your desired audience.


Sources: Global Wellness Institute, Mintel Holiday Travel – US – May 2019