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Study: The Traveler’s Road to Decision – Prepared by Google and OTX

2010 Traveler's Road to Decision - Travel Outlook

Plan to take the same or more Personal/Business Trips in 2010

This year, the study provides us with facts and numbers supporting what many of us thought about the state of the travel industry.  Business, personal, and leisure travel is improving,  online reviews are extremely influential, and the use of social media and mobile devices is increasing at a remarkable rate.

Research Methodology:

A total of 5,000 US Internet users who identified themselves as Personal or Business Travelers were interviewed in Q2 2010.  Approximately 1,500 Affluent Travelers (based on self reported income) were also interviewed about their leisure travel behavior/intentions.

This study was also conducted in Q2 2009, and a similar study (with some variation in sampling) was conducted in Q2 2008.

Part 1:  Travel Outlook

Part 2:  Internet Usage

Part 3:  Online Video Usage

Part 4:  Mobile Usage

Part 1: Travel Outlook is Positive

All three Traveler types (Personal Traveler, Business Traveler, Affluent Traveler) reported that they plan to take the same or more Personal and/or Business trips in 2010 versus 2009.   This information is of particular note to the hospitality industry, which has experienced an average of 10% decline in most online business categories for the previous 12 months.  This study lends weight to the position that business and leisure travel will see a rebound in business productivity in 2010 as a result of the improved economic impact.

Our internal surveys have indicated that many properties have experienced increased website traffic YTD over last year, and have also increased ADR as they regain confidence in the outlook for 2010.

Data:  Plan to take the same or more Personal/Business Trips in 2010 (vs. 2009)

  • Personal Traveler:  87%  -  up from 82% in 2009
  • Business Traveler:  86%  -  up from 77% in 2009
  • Affluent Traveler:  92%  -  up from 86% in 2009

Business Travelers Are Increasingly Adding Leisure Time to Their Trips

Leisure activities among business travelers are vital to the hospitality industry.  As these business travelers – who are very active with mobile devices and smartphones – learn more about your area, they are more inclined to post messages on their social networks and provide positive words to friends and family about your area.  Most businesses in the hospitality industry are given more than one opportunity to initiate a conversation about the area with business travelers.  Don’t underestimate the importance of these opportunities.  In most cases, your advice will be received with a high degree of influence, and the small amount of time you spend with them can have a very positive impact on their opinion of your city and your business.

Data: Include Leisure Time in Business Trip

  • Always:  23%  -  up from 18% in 2009
  • Frequently:  30%  -  up from 29% in 2009

Personal and Leisure Travel Expenditure

As with increased leisure activities among Business Travelers, the behavior and anticipated spending of Personal and Affluent Travelers play a major role in the success of hospitality industry establishments.  Anticipated increases mean more discretionary income which translates to more revenue across the board.  Hospitality owners and operators can implement more value-added and profit driven products and services this year than in 2009, and by integrating additional leisure offers with local businesses you can differentiate from the competition and capture more marketshare.

Data: “I plan on spending less on leisure travel in 2010 compared to 2009 because of the current state of the economy”

  • Personal Traveler:  36%  -  down from 41% in 2009
  • Affluent Traveler:  35%  -  down from 40% in 2009

Significant Increase in Rewards Program Participation

Many independent hotels, resorts, and restaurants have been implementing rewards programs for repeat guests.  These programs have been available for years within the major brands and nationwide chains, but it is becoming more and more effective in generating repeat business for companies of all sizes.

Data: Member of a Travel Rewards Program
+  Personal Traveler:  65%  -  up from 58% in 2009
–  Airline:  47%  -  up from 44%
–  Hotel/Lodging:  39%  -  up from 36%
–  Car Rental:  18%  -  up from 17%

+  Business Traveler:  90%  -  up from 83% in 2009
–  Airline:  74%  -  up from 68%
–  Hotel/Lodging:  73%  -  up from 64%
–  Car Rental:  48%  -  up from 40%

If you’ve been thinking of implementing a rewards program at your property, we recommend “Building Customer Loyalty: Ten Principles for Designing an Effective Customer Reward Program” from Cornell University’s The Center for Hospitality Research.

View/Download PDF “Ten Principles for Designing an Effective Customer Reward Program”

Part 2: Internet Usage

The Internet Continues to Grow as Consumer’s Primary Source for Travel Information

The growth of Internet usage in consumer travel industry research is really not much of a surprise, but out of 7 categories there was only one category which experienced a decline and this was a bit of a surprise – word of mouth. When asked the question “Which of the following sources do you typically use to plan?” 59% of Personal Travelers and 34% of Business Travelers responded positively to “Word of Mouth” down from 63% and 37%, respectively.  This decline can be directly attributed to the success and growth of social media and online review sites like TripAdvisor.   The decline is a bit misleading, since online reviews can be thought of as “the new word of mouth.”

Interesting facts:

  • 41% and 57% of personal and business travelers, respectively, said they “Read reviews from other travelers
  • 24% and 42% “Watched a travel related video
  • 24% and 40% “Read a travel related blog
  • Only 15% and 30% “Posted reviews of places I have been

Part 3: Online Video Usage

In this year’s study, one of the biggest surprises came from within the Online Video category. Check out these stats:

  • 86% of Personal Travelers watch videos online
  • 90% of Business Travelers watch videos online
  • 81% of Travelers who watch videos online visit YouTube

And they’re not just watching the latest YouTube sensation or email chain video – they are increasingly watching and uploading travel-related videos. 43% of Personal Travelers, 63% of Business and 58% of Affluent Travelers are watching travel videos – and it’s almost an even match between professionally produced videos and “trip reviews or videos created by people like me.”

Uploading Travel-Related Videos

In the 2008 Traveler’s Road to Decision, only 4% of travelers reported that they had uploaded a video from their past travels within the past 6 months. This year, that figure has shown remarkable growth, with 9% of personal and almost 25% of Business and Affluent Travelers reporting travel video upload.

Part 4: Mobile Usage

Now we have reached the most exciting part of this year’s study – not because of flashy images or groundbreaking charts – but because there is a growing consensus that mobile devices will become the most popular way for people to access the Internet. I must admit, I recently purchased a beautiful smartphone with a large touch-screen display, and I have on several occasions – while at home – reached for my phone to search Google to find the number to the local restaurant and even looked at the menu even though my widescreen wireless laptop was only 10 feet away.

Use Mobile Device to Access Travel Info

More than 50% of these Mobile users have researched an upcoming trip AND read reviews from other travelers. 47% of Personal and 70% of Business travelers have checked in to their hotel/flight/cruise using their mobile device. These numbers are exciting for two reasons – mobile users are more active in social media – and mobile use allows for enhanced communication and local search advertising.

View/Download Full Report “Traveler’s Road to Decision -2010″