2018 Consumer Travel Trends

Man in airport checking his mobile phoneThe travel industry and internet technology have evolved together, transforming the travel experience. When planning your next vacation or trip, chances are you go online to do research, find deals, make reservations, or book tickets. As an international leader in the virtual card payments technology that’s behind much of this activity, we’re always interested in understanding consumer behavior. That’s why we recently partnered with Mastercard to survey US consumers about how they plan for trips and what’s in store for 2018.

“Online dominates consumers’ travel planning, with 86 percent of the people we surveyed consulting online travel sources for ideas, information, and reviews,” says Lissa Andrews, director of our global marketing team for enterprise payments. “Our survey also drilled down into the top three online booking channels – direct with an airline or hotel, or using an online travel agent – identifying specific preferences and differences between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.”

More than 1,500 consumers ranging in age from 18 to 70 were polled for the Travel Trends 2018 Report, which uncovered several themes in attitudes, usage, and trends:

Make it Easy

Ease of booking was the #1 influencer in choosing a booking option among 72% of people we surveyed. Next as reasons to book travel were offers and promotions (50%), recommendations from family and friends (47%), and payment options when booking (42%).

New Travel Tech

Only 22% of our respondents were aware of the existence of travel bots, and just 4% anticipated booking a 2018 trip through a travel or chat bot. Instead of bots, we believe that the next big thing in travel tech will be the ability to explore and book vacations using voice-activated home assistants.

“Bleisure” Travel

Mixing work with pleasure was a travel behavior for 57% of our respondents who like the idea of tacking on a couple of vacation days to business travel. Hotels are making the most of this trend by offering conference attendees a discounted rate for extending their stay beyond the scheduled event.

Friends and Family

Almost two-thirds of consumers say vacation is a time to reconnect with friends or family, and 68% anticipate taking this type of trip in 2018. On a related note, 62% of Gen Z (age 18-20) respondents prefer group travel – a clear differentiator for these youthful travelers with the next closest group, Millennials (age 21-34), at 39%.

Domestic vs. International

While two-thirds of the travelers surveyed are comfortable with foreign travel, a resounding 93% said they will travel within the US in 2018. However, 62% also expressed plans for international travel in 2018, signaling a potentially significant increase over the 2017 rate of 50%. Europe remains the most popular international destination for US travelers at 29%, closely followed by Central America and the Caribbean at 23%.

Read the full 2018 Travel Trends report for more on these trends, as well as differences between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers on preferences for tours and packaged travel, expected travel in 2018, and affinity for non-traditional lodging such as Airbnb and HomeAway.