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Posted May 28, 2018

travel trends

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WEX and Mastercard recently partnered on a survey of US travelers, identifying attitudes and preferences across a range of travel topics. The 2018 Travel Trends Report confirmed travelers’ accommodation selections are changing, and it found some interesting differences between the generations.

The evolution of the sharing economy, particularly within accommodations, has made it possible for segments like Gen Z and Millennials to travel more frequently without relying on Mom and Dad to foot the bill,” states the report. “The success of companies like Airbnb and HomeAway hasn’t dissuaded travelers from traditional lodging options as much as it has whet younger generations’ appetite to travel.”

More travelers opting to rent room than bunk in guest room

Traditional hotels will continue to be the top choice in 2018, according to the survey’s findings. As a share of accommodations, stays in all types of hotels/other rented lodging was 70.9% last year and respondents estimate that will increase to 79.4% in 2018 versus 29.1% for “stay with family/friends” in 2017 and 20.6% in 2018.  Overall, the report predicts an increase in apartment/home rentals, resort destinations and luxury hotels.

In our earlier post, From Gen Z to Boomers: Reasons For Travel More Similar Than You May Think, we noted that visiting family and friends was a strong motivator to travel, but the report also found that travelers likely don’t want to stay with the people they’re visiting. Across all generations surveyed, that accommodation option dropped significantly.

Seventy percent of respondents agreed that they “prefer to stay in a hotel because everything is taken care of for me.” The other survey statements that had high levels of agreement were:

  • Staying in a hotel makes me feel like a tourist (54%)
  • Open to using alternative accommodation services, like Airbnb, to rent a single room from a host (49%)
  • Using alternative accommodation services allows me to afford travel (41%)
  • Using alternative accommodation services makes me feel like a local (37%)

Both subtle & major difference between generations

The WEX and Mastercard 2018 Travel Trend survey results point to changing preferences in the younger generation with only slight adjustments in older generations.

In 2017, the category of hotels/other rented lodging with the highest share (15.8%) for Gen Z was “economy hotel.” That group expects “luxury hotel” to be their top choice this year (18.1%). Millennials also used economy hotels the most (15%) last year and will be staying at those properties again this year (15.3%). Both of these groups predict increases in their use of all hotel types and apartment/home rentals.

Gen X and Boomers cited luxury hotel as their top choice last year, 23.8% and 21.1%, respectively, with little change in share for 2018. They each will increase their use of apartment/home rentals. Gen-Xers see a slight decrease in a couple hotel categories and Boomers will make minor adjustments in their choices this year.

In terms of preferences, all generations agree they choose hotel stays for ease and convenience (everything is taken care of). Gen Z had the highest rate (78%) and the lowest was Millennials at 65%. Expedia’s recent Generations on the Move report finds connectivity is part of Gen Z’s expectations when choosing a hotel, ”Wi-Fi is an absolute necessity” for one-third of them, and “they are often willing to select hotels based on free Internet access.”

Peter C. Yesawich, vice chairman, emeritus of MMGY Global wrote about the company’s 2017 Portrait of American Travelers that “consumer preferences for both the type and brand of lodging accommodations continue to evolve.” He notes, “Preference for all-suite lodging is highest among Gen-Xers, Boutique lodging is preferred by more affluent millennials. Millennials also express greatest preference for bed-and-breakfasts and greater interest in ‘shared economy’ accommodations.”

Private accommodations a growing choice

While alternative accommodation services show an increase with all generations, the highest is Millennials (3.6%) and the lowest is for Gen X (1.4%). For all respondents, the overall share of apartment/home rentals will increase by 2.7%.

Taking a look at some of the attitudes that influence the decision to choose an apartment/home rental, it’s not surprising where the generations fall.

  • Gen Z and Millennials are the most open to using the service (both 57%)
  • Millennials feel by using alternative accommodation services they can afford travel (56%)
  • Millennials also find that alternative accommodation makes them feel like a local (50%)

Interestingly, those who most feel that alternative accommodation won’t be as advertised were Gen X (32%). They also had the highest concerns about safety (26%), though all generations were fairly close on this issue.

A part of an international survey, Accenture found that for all travelers “price is the top driver of consideration and choice” when selecting to stay in private accommodations, but for US guests it’s the unique experience. They also found that the US “has the highest number of leisure travelers exclusively choosing private condos (23%) and private houses (19%).” Research by Skift found that one-third of what their US Experiential Traveler Trends 2018 defines as “avid travelers” used Airbnb during a leisure trip at least one time.

In a late-2017 post about this research, Skift’s Megan Carty wrote: The continuing rise in popularity of alternative lodging companies, exemplified by Airbnb, means that today’s travelers have more choices than ever when it comes to selecting their travel accommodations.”

Mainstream travel companies are also moving into the alternative accommodation space. Booking Holdings is leading the way; in April 2018, it was disclosed that Booking.com now has more than 5 million listings of homes, apartments and other unique lodgings – a figure that puts it ahead of Airbnb, Skift reports.

Younger travelers age, increase their income and have families, which may influence their future accommodation choices. Older travelers are increasingly considering and booking alternative accommodation services. Travelers may have more choices than ever before, but the new options don’t appear to be impacting the traditional ones. Probably more likely they’re impacting stays on relatives’ sofa beds.

Download the full 2018 Travel Trends Report.


Cynthia Frebet

Cynthia Frebet

Part of the WEX team since 2014, Cynthia is responsible for taking care of some of our largest travel customers. With a background in B2B payments, Cynthia’s proactive approach and attention to detail helps ensure we surpass the expectations of our customers in meeting their business goals. Cynthia has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from European Business School, Paris.


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