The New Rules Of Travel Behaviour
Uwern Jong and Martin Perry of OutThere magazine share the results of their annual luxury travel insights report: essential reading to understand affluent travellers’ thinking for the year ahead
Each year at OutThere, we compile an annual luxury travel insights report that helps both our editorial and commercial teams plan out content and partnerships for the year ahead. It provides valuable predictions from data collected from our most engaged OutThere travellers about their behaviour, decision-making and spending habits in the luxury and experiential travel space. Over the last few years, we have released the findings to our partners, who have found them incredibly useful. We’re pleased to be able to do so again this year.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the landscape of travel has been highly changeable, from the unpredictability of consumers who are more impulsive in booking trips to cost-of-living and cost-of-travel challenges, a war in Europe and enduring Covid ‘PTSD’ restrictions.
This year’s report focuses on ‘why’ and ‘how’ we will travel this year and beyond, rather than just the ‘where to’ and ‘with whom’ that we’ve focused on in the past. We have also deliberately concentrated on horizon-based insights, those issues that will impact the very near future, rather than those that are blue-sky and longer term.
The sample consisted of 5% of our readership: all affluent, opinion-leading and worldly OutThere travellers who share in our values of diversity, discovery and discernment. While the sample is small, the value of the insights that we have received is significant. We hope that they will prove as useful to you as they are to us.
Travel is a firm spending priority in 2023
Respondents have unanimously stated that the cost-of-living crisis and economic uncertainty will not affect their travel spend. 87% of OutThere travellers have said that travel will be a ‘high’ (43%) or ‘very high’ (44%) priority this year; a 7% increase compared to last year. We have, however, noted from this data that there is a correlation to wealth. Those respondents in the highest income or household wealth bracket see travel as a ‘very high’ priority, whereas others see it as a ‘high’ priority.
Of the wealthiest of OutThere respondents, 61% plan to ‘spend more on travel’ in 2023, to ‘upgrade the quality of their experience’, or ‘go further’ and ‘travel deeper’ – an increase of 8% as compared to last year. This means that this already high-spending traveller will have an even greater economic impact and is looking to expand their travel horizons in 2023.
Both long-haul and domestic travel are on the up
83% of OutThere travellers will travel long-haul in 2023. On average they are planning to take four international leisure trips, a volume increase of one trip as compared to last year’s research but still below the pre-pandemic average of five trips per year. What’s more, for OutThere travellers, it seems domestic holidays are here to stay, contrary to what the industry is reporting overall. Last year, OutThere travellers took two more domestic trips than they had done in previous years and our research shows that they intend to do the same this year.
The renaissance for travel experts continues
This year, 66% of OutThere travellers will book their travel with a recommended travel advisor or tour operator, a staggering increase of 29% since 2019. We had anticipated that as the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic subsided, people would steadily return to self-booking, but were pleasantly surprised to find that they will continue booking with travel advisors having experienced the benefits of doing so over the last couple of years.
In addition, 88% of OutThere travellers will seek their inspiration from trusted commentators and mediums – websites, print mediums and specialist blogs being the ultimate source, now outperforming social media and influencer-led activity. They are looking to those outlets and individuals who can demonstrate a comprehensive understanding and, moreover, have an opinion of the state of travel today. 64% are looking to be led by travel experts on their choice of destination or travel provider, rather than proactively researching or picking one for themselves, a significant behavioural lean to the supply side.
OutThere travellers are overwhelmingly looking to ‘increase the value of their holidays’. Value in this case does not mean price, deal or offer-seeking. Instead, these OutThere travellers seek to reprioritise their spending on experiences that allow them to ‘go further’ and ‘travel deeper.’ In essence, they will spend the same amount of money (or in some cases, more), but they are looking for more bang – better experiences – for their buck.
They are also looking for a greater ‘spirit of generosity’ from their travel providers: meaning those who can go the extra mile, personalise the experience and deliver added perks, amenities and little surprises, will see a competitive advantage when working with these travellers. In addition, they are still looking for things that came as standard during the pandemic to remain: flexibility, greater hand-holding and dedicated customer service being important examples.
Travel for longer but less frequently
OutThere travellers will also be increasing the duration of their trips on average to between 7-10 nights. In previous years, the average stay was 5-7 nights. It seems that they are planning to travel for longer and perhaps also less frequently, making bigger journeys to allow them to ‘travel further’ and ‘go deeper’.
While there may be some correlation, we do not feel that this is just due to the sustainability-driven needs of those who want to ‘travel less, stay longer’ that we have been hearing a lot about in the industry. This is more based on hedonism-driven travel and an appetite for better experiences, stemming from a desire for self-indulgence. Also, in an era of more flexible working conditions and self-defined business hours, OutThere travellers feel empowered to make much more of their holiday time.
This presents an opportunity for destinations and travel providers to engage travellers better and get them more invested in the destination during their stay. It also provides destinations and travel providers that neighbour popular OutThere destinations the chance to draw in travellers who traditionally would only consider a single-destination vacation into booking a multi-destination trip.
A more spontaneous traveller
There is still a great level of spontaneity in the market. 42% have said that their booking window will be within a month of departure (a 7% increase from last year), with another 41% within three months of departure. We expect this behaviour to change as the year goes on, as travellers find availability increasingly challenging as more international visitors re-enter the market. At the start of last year, OutThere travellers were mostly looking to book their trips for year-end. The good news is that they are now looking to book more evenly across the year, albeit closer to the date of travel than before.
Each year we ask our respondents to choose which of the six OutThere traveller types they identify as most. It’s a barometer and indicator of the sort of travel they seek to undertake this year. Culture, hedonism and escapism came out on top for 2023.
1. Culturalist (25%)
2= Hedonist (20%)
2= Escapist (20%)
4. Adventurer (15%)
5. Sophisticate (12%)
6. Insider (8%)
1. Culturalist (25%)
2. Sophisticate (19%)
3. Adventurer (17%)
4. Insider (15%)
5. Escapist (13%)
6. Hedonist (11%)
Anyone who works in luxury travel is more than aware of the post-pandemic-driven industry trends. Travellers have become far more discerning, savvy even, playing the demand-side swing to their advantage. These travellers are redefining what luxury travel means in the new ‘roaring 20s’. Understanding – and fulfilling – their needs will be crucial for any luxury operator to succeed in the year, and decade, ahead.
To read the full report, visit http://www.trends.byoutthere.com/
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