For the second consecutive year, WEX Inc. has partnered with Mastercard to look at U.S. travelers’ attitudes and preferences and how these will impact travel trends over the coming year. The U.S. Travel Trends 2019 Report is based on consumer responses about current and anticipated travel behavior, including the types of trips people expect to take this year.
Travel will continue to be all about experiences, and the survey found that travelers expect to be more adventurous this year, especially the Gen Z and Millennial groups, who are more likely to combine their leisure travel with volunteering or learning a new skill. Boomers will be exploring foreign countries that are new to them (37%), and Gen X travelers will be trekking to U.S. national historic sites (34%).
Research by others came to similar conclusions on the growth of experiential travel. Booking.com found “for almost two-thirds of travelers (60%) experiences are now valued higher than material possessions.”
And local experiences are key. According to Intrepid Group CEO James Thornton, “more people will take up friendly invites from locals to join them for a home-cooked meal or home-brewed tea.” In fact, the company has seen a 40% increase in their Sri Lanka food adventure bookings over the past year.”
Learning & Travel Go Hand-In-Hand
Traveling is inherently educational, but more and more travelers are making learning a focus of their experiential travel trips, as the WEX and Mastercard survey found.
Booking.com reports “68% of global travelers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill.” AAA Travel lists educational trips as a top 2019 travel trends through tours “on everything from endangered species to herd migration. Even the explosive interest in exploring ancestral roots is influencing educational experiential travel—particularly if a DIY DNA kit presents unexpected results.
Since younger generations are the future customer base for the industry, we expect to see OTAs, hotels and airlines increasingly begin to offer packages that include these types of activities.
With the growth in adventure travel, such as kayaking and camping, “tour operators have begun to offer educational excursions.” that teach adults how to pitch a tent, build a fire and other skills that one traditionally learns in childhood or not at all,” writes Ted Trautman. As he reports, “REI Adventures are the fastest-growing source of revenue for the outdoor retailer… National Geographic, the Sierra Club and Berkeley’s Backroads all offer similar opportunities.”
Changing Interests Can Challenge Travel Companies
OTAs and other travel companies are expanding their offerings to attract more adventure-seekers, which means they have to consider ways to ensure booking and payment system works for all suppliers. Unfortunately, many suppliers in this space are offline, and those who are online often use different systems for booking that require custom integrations. As they come online, Virtual Payments or Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs) can ease the process of working with new suppliers, as customizable integration options help simplify the payment process between the travel company and suppliers.
By increasing inclusive experiential travel offerings, the industry is recognizing that travelers have more complex needs and it’s becoming more responsive to travelers who want to experience more adventure but don’t yet have the confidence to go alone.