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What Travelers Want Right Now, According to Expedia Group Research

By Jon Bailey

Over the course of 2020, Expedia Group surveyed 34,000 travelers across 13 countries about travel decisions and how COVID-19 restrictions have changed their plans to travel. People have been dreaming about travel for quite some time and are now awakening to a new reality where they might actually plan a future trip. But when? How? Where?

We’ve got some stats to share, as well as some recommendations for marketers on what to do next.

Six Top Line Findings:

  • 57% of respondents will book trips in the first 6 months after the “end” of the pandemic; of those 34% will book within 3 months.
  • 66% will take the same number of trips as before the pandemic.
  • 71% said they would book their first trip through a third party and not directly themselves.
  • Travelers report needing at least 9 photos to determine if they are interested in staying at a property.
  • 90% indicate discounts and value-adds can persuade their decision to go, and to stay longer
  • Nearly 70% would prefer a short and efficient check-in experience and less interaction with staff.

New Travel Preferences Emerging

It’s interesting to note the research indicates that a majority of travelers (66%) report a change in their travel preferences post-pandemic. Globally, 31% will be taking more domestic trips, 22% traveling more by car and 20% enjoying more beach vacations than before.

In the US, folks will be planning road trips way more than any other country surveyed (32%) and 13% of travelers said they would increase visits to smaller cities over larger ones.

Regardless of nationality, it will be Millennials and Generation Z that will be first to travel, representing 2/3 of all travelers in the first six months. They also skew more to the adventurous side, with 15% more likely to travel internationally (versus 9% overall). This group is twice as likely to visit a major city and less likely to travel by car.

Families will also be among the first to travel, representing 68% of all initial travelers. Conversely, solo travelers will be slower to go with the majority waiting longer than 6 months to book a trip.

How to Reach Them:

  • Social media platforms are one of the best ways to reach the Millennial and Gen Z populations. But authenticity is key. They don’t like to feel like they are being sold to, they want to feel attracted by their own volition. Lure them with compelling and authentic visuals that tell stories.
  • Narrow your marketing programs to focus on smaller geographies within driving distance. Drill into these areas using geotargeting tactics that deliver customized messages. For example, a marketing message to San Diegans might say “drive from San Diego to Rancho Mirage and be in paradise within 2 hours”.
  • For smaller destinations, stress facts like the number of people per acre of land in your area. Or your population totals compared to the nearest large city. Let them see and imagine your wide open and uncrowded spaces.

Business Travel Back on Track

Although many sources indicate leisure travel will return before business travel after the pandemic, business travelers do expect to hit the road fast. In the US, 67% of business travelers expect to be back on the road within the first three months. In fact, 40% of those indicate they expect to travel for business more after the pandemic.

Even more interesting, nearly one in five business travelers indicated they would be back to travel within one month.

How to Reach Them:

  • Recognize that the new breed of road warriors may have new concerns, and preemptively address things like easy access and seamless stays with little human interaction needed.
  • Show your awesome choices for meetings outdoors and in uncrowded places that represent new and creative ways to conduct business.
  • Communicate area-wide cleaning protocols and other assurances that every attempt is being made to assure the destination is clean and germ-free. Show them, don’t just tell them. One hotelier we know told me they were keeping cleaning supplies and housekeeping services visible to guest, when before they would have kept them behind the scenes. There is something reassuring about witnessing the team cleaning surfaces while you are standing there.

Images Are Everything

Travelers are reporting they look at an average of 10 photos when considering where to visit. The majority stated that poor quality photos will cause them to rule out a property immediately. For accommodations, 81% of travelers desire good photos of the rooms, 61% think bathroom photos are important and 56% want property exterior images.

In addition to visuals, descriptions of amenities are very important to travelers. Nearly 50% will rule out a destination if it has poor quality descriptions.

How to Reach Them:

  • Use more video. From our own experience at 62ABOVE, clients report high engagement with onsite video content. It is often the first point of contact before a decision to continue searching the rest of the website.
  • Load up all relevant websites with fresh, new photography, and don’t scrimp on this budget. If you are budget-challenged, invite influencers known for their great visuals to help you produce this content by negotiating ownership in exchange for free stays. We’re talking social media sites, OTAs, review sites, partner sites, etc.
  • If you are a DMO, make the effort to supply great photos and visuals to all your partners for their use. Consider helping them by sending your own resources to capture high-quality images for them. They will do better if they look better, and therefore so will you.

These stats from valuable resources like Expedia Group are great as long as you put them to use in your marketing and sales effort. As always, we are here to help you as needed!

* Statistics shared from 2020 Expedia Group research study conducted by Wakefield Research.