2013 Travel Trends, from ETC ’13

by Chris on January 27, 2013

What is the state of the American traveler? A few trends that I heard at the annual ETC conference in Orlando.

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I spent this weekend at the annual conference put on by the Educational Travel Community (ETC), a place where tour operators and destinations can connect with universities and other entities that offer learning vacations for their alumni. If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen trips like this advertised in the back of your alumni magazine. This conference is where it all comes together.

I spoke on three separate panels at the conference (they paid for my hotel and airfare to Orlando, so they wanted to get their money out of me). My topics were “Meet the Press,” where I spoke specifically about how tour operators and destinations could work with bloggers; “Creative Conversations: Engagement Tools,” where I outlined various social media tools that could be used, and “Writing for the Web” where our panel discussed how communication is different online than in print.

In between panels, I had a chance to hear some good speakers. I loved David Meerman Scott’s speech on how marketing techniques have changed, so much so that I ended up buying his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR. I have a feeling I’ll learn a lot from reading it.

Another of my favorite speakers was Peter Yesawich, a top researcher and analyst of travel trends. I have seen Peter speak several times, before as a representative as his own company Ypartnership. He’s joined MMG since as a partner, turning them into the powerhouse MMGY Global.

Peter’s latest survey had some interesting insight into the behavior of American travelers. I’m listing some of the bullet points below. Keep in mind that most of this data comes from a survey of frequent travelers, from households that make more than $50,000 a year. So the trends reflect what’s happening with the upscale and elite end of the scale.

  • American travelers, particularly on those who make more money,  have been watching the Fiscal Cliff debate and Bush era tax policies closely. The majority said that significant changes in taxes on higher income brackets would impact their travel plans in 2013.
  • Mature travelers (defined as +67) don’t skimp on vacations. They pay more than other cohorts, including Boomers. Millennials spend more than Gen X (possibly because they don’t have families yet.
  • Good news for those in the travel business. Yesawich says that demand for vacations from affluent families is going up for 2013.
  • Consumers still say Online Travel Agencies (such as Expedia) offer best prices & most convenience. That’s not necessarily true, Yesawich says, but it shows that their marketing works.
  • The New Frugal attitudes of the recession still prevail, but people are becoming more optimistic.
  • Pricing power is back, which means hotels, tour operators and others can start raising their prices. But customers demand quality for the price, Yesawich warned, and won’t put up with paying more for a shoddier product or service (This plays into my views on Value Luxury!)
  • Because Mature travelers are spending the most, the demand for multi-generational travel is still going up, up, up. Operators should capitalize ont the trend by offering multi-cabin rates, Yesawich says.
  • Travel for milestone b-days (anything divisible by 5) and anniversaries (celebration vacations) is still HUGE. 69% of Americans want to take them, Yesawich says
  • Safety is #1 thing that Americans look for in destination. #2 is having enough time to relax. Access to Internet has grown steadily over the years and is now #5!
  • The number of Americans who travel with tablets is showing huge growth. That means destinations/operators will have to start thinking more about tablet marketing. It’s the new frontier, Yesawisch says. (This trend is in line with what I saw on my recent Viking river cruise, where passengers of all ages were spending their free time looking for Internet and/or checking Facebook).
  • Over 1/2 Americans travel with a smartphone. 21% have multiple devices. Yesawich calls them the Digital Elite.
  • Search engines such as Kayak and Yapta have transformed the marketplace, making prices more transparent. That means brands have to have more clarity about what they offer, and focus on their service, Yesawich says.
  • 73% of active American travelers are on Facebook. It’s far and away the largest social network, followed closely in this survey by LinkedIn. Nearly 1/2 of Millennials say they post photos to “make friends jealous.”
  • 60% of travelers go to TripAdvisor. 1 of 4 travelers check YouTube. While online travel forums and communities aren’t as widely used, they are very popular with the most affluent travelers, he says.

For those of us who write about travel, all these statistics and trends are interesting food for thought. What stands out to you among this list?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy Coonley/Serendipity Traveler January 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Insightful trends , Thank you for sharing Chris.

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Chris January 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Peggy – Thanks! Glad you got something out of it. A session with someone like Yesawich is gold.

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Teresa Bitler January 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for sharing! What really got me thinking was, first, that so many people are traveling with their tablets and, second, that 60 percent consult TripAdvisor and 25 percent YouTube. I think I need to start writing ebook travel guides, producing YouTube travel videos and marketing myself on TripAdvisor.

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Chris January 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm

It does make you realize how reading habits have changed. I am also continually surprised by video, because I hate most of them. But when you think about tablets and how phones like the Samsung Galaxy II have better screens, I can see why it’s growing.

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Natalie T. January 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Great insight! It’s nice to hear that more people are feeling optimistic about travel in 2013!

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Chris January 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

Agree! Always good to hear.

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Colleen Madden Devan January 30, 2013 at 7:52 am

Fantastic insights! I especially enjoy the stats on how the overlap of technology and travel as it is our new reality. Digital Elite is the addition to my vocabulary for today.

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Chris January 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

Thanks! I find that part fascinating as well, particularly the rise of the tablet.

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Diana April 30, 2013 at 2:11 am

Thanks for this Chris. It is interesting to see the travel landscape from a statistical perspective. I can now gauge my approach as to which travel products I can create. Looks like e-books and videos are the way to go.

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Travel Musts May 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

It’s nice to hear that the demand for travel is going up! I think everybody deserves to see this beautiful world! Thanks for the insightful article!

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Teresa Roberts May 20, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I was surprised that the 67+ crowd spent the most on travel, well, sort of. I know they dominate the expatriate movement.

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