by WEX Travel
Travel booking trends and how travel is researched is constantly changing – latest research suggests inspiring travelers could be the key to successfully winning customers.
Vacations are important to consumers and families, but they’re also a major budget item. So, it’s not surprising that the purchase journey of travel consumers takes time and includes many steps. While consumers can be influenced by advertising and high-pressure sales tactics, the influence of friends and family, as well as online reviews, are crucial in helping consumers make the final decision. Ultimately, consumers want reassurance that when they shell out their money, their vacation is going to be exactly what they expected.
Travel Booking Trend 1: Inspiration Comes From The Inside Circle, Plus Search Engines
How many times have you had an idea for a vacation, when a conversation with a friend or family member about their amazing trip to Turks and Caicos sends your travel plans in a completely different direction? Trust is a major factor in making expensive travel decisions, so it makes sense that one clear travel booking trend we see is consumers turning to those they trust most for ideas and inspiration.
As proof of that, a recent Expedia survey of travel consumers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada showed that between 66% and 69% of consumers relied on the opinions of friends and families at the beginning of their trip planning process (they relied a similar amount on search engines at this stage).
In an interesting twist, another Expedia survey shows that young children – aged 10 and under – can have a huge influence on a family’s travel planning. Skift reports these statistics: 80% of those surveyed said they talked about travel with their young children or grandchildren “at least somewhat frequently” and 43% said that children influence family travel decisions – particularly destination choices (64%) and trip activities (57%).
Learn more about the impact the youngest generation is already having on travel: Gen Alpha: Littlest Travelers Have Big Impact On Family Trips.
Travel Booking Trend 2: Advertising Plays A Role In Travel Decisions
Another travel booking trend to watch is advertising. Research from Expedia of British, American, and Canadian travelers explains that between 27% and 38% of travelers are influenced by advertising when considering more than one location.
On top of that, other types of sales tactics work as well. High-pressure tactics such as showing the number of hotel rooms left, or the number of viewers looking at a listing work, but their days may be numbered. Research from Fuel shows that 66% of those surveyed felt that high-pressure tactics influenced their recent travel purchasing decisions – tactics that will soon be off the table, at least in the U.K.
As of September 2019, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is putting in place measures that limit a number of sales tactics to pressure consumers into making a fast decision.
Travel Booking Trend 3: Travel Reviews Are Alive & Well – & Driving Purchasing Decisions
Despite warnings over the last several years that online reviews are full of fake or untrustworthy reviews (see articles from New York Times, Forbes, and other online sources), travel consumers remain unphased and continue to rely on reviews for research into destinations, hotels, and other travel services.
In a survey sponsored by TripAdvisor that polled the website’s users in Asia, America, Australia, and Europe, respondents revealed some key findings on this travel booking trend:
- 85% believe the hotel, restaurant, and attraction reviews on TripAdvisor accurately reflect their experience
- 72% say they always or frequently read reviews before deciding where to stay or eat or what activities to do
- When booking accommodations, 81% say they always or frequently read reviews before making their final decision
- 79% say they’re more likely to choose a hotel with a higher rating when deciding between two otherwise similar properties.
The results also reveal a method to how consumers read and analyze reviews. In order to get an authentic picture, users look for quantity (52% say they wouldn’t book a hotel that had no reviews), recency (78% focus on the most timely reviews), variety (55% say they read several pages of reviews to get an overall opinion), and commonalities (39% say they ignore extreme comments and focus on the mid-range of reviews).
The previously mentioned Fuel survey seconds many of these travel booking trend findings and provides more depth of detail. Data indicates that while consumer trust in reviews is still high, with 79% of those surveyed saying they will not book travel without reading reviews, the percentage is down 4.3% over last year. Trust in hotel website reviews as well as TripAdvisor reviews are highest, followed by reviews on OTA websites and restaurant review site, Yelp. An article on Travolution quotes Steve Brockway, the Chief Research Officer of Maru/Matchbox – the research company who conducted the survey – as saying that poor reviews are especially influential and can overshadow even the best prices and promotions from a travel agent. In other words, advertising, pricing, and promotion might get you a look from consumers, but reviews are likely to seal the deal.
Read more about this travel booking trend and how it is influencing Millennial and Gen Z travelers: It’s Personal & It’s Driving Younger Travelers’ Decisions.
The bottom line from these travel booking trends is that the goal of travel consumers is to find out from authentic and trustworthy sources what the perfect destinations, hotels, and services are for their family. Prices and promotions are important. Advertising can help. However, giving travelers real, authentic information about the types of destinations they’re interested in will help travelers have a better travel planning experience and help them realize their dream vacations. And dream vacations create happy and repeat customers.