Americans’ intent to travel is up 14 percent over 2015, according to MMGY Global’s new 2016 Portrait of American Travelers. Additionally, intent to spend is up nine points.
The POAT includes responses from 2,948 U.S. adults surveyed this year who have taken at least one overnight trip at least 75 miles from home in the past 12 months. The study measures over 2,000 variables, thoroughly analyzing and revealing American travelers’ perceptions of travel, planning priorities and emerging vacation behaviors and inclinations.
The report shows strong signs ahead for the travel industry, with MMGY predicting a record number of vacations and new highs in vacation spending among American travelers in the next 12 months. The market's intention to vacation during the next 12 months represents a 10-year high that surpasses the pre-recession record. 28 percent of travelers indicated an intention to take more vacations, while only 14 percent reported that they plan to take fewer, resulting in a 14-point net positive variance.
Additionally, in 2016, travelers reported having spent an average of $5,048 on vacations in the previous 12 months – an impressive 30 percent increase from 2010, and a 12 percent increase from an already-strong 2015. Travelers are planning to spend an average of $5,182 in the next 12 months – an astonishing 23 percent increase in only four years, and a nine percent increase in the past year.
The report also takes a deeper dive into traveler segments, with an approach centered on common goals and interests instead of pure demographics. With Millennials representing the largest generation in U.S. history (84 million versus 78 million Baby Boomers), the report identifies new micro-segments that cross between Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
HENRYs (High Earner, Not Rich Yet)
A HENRY is a traveler with a high, steady cash flow who is ready to spend for quality and service.
Three-fourths of HENRYs are willing to pay full price for a vacation and two-thirds of HENRYs expect personalized attention and options while on vacation. If HENRYs are disappointed by a travel service provider or a destination, they share it – 45 percent of HENRYs post written reviews on travel review websites or blogs.
GottaGoSOLOs are travelers who are married with children but vacation alone to reclaim their independence.
A full third of all vacations taken by GottaGoSOLO travelers are taken alone, while four in ten were with their children and a quarter with their significant other and no children. GottaGoSOLOs take more vacations than committed family-only travelers, and they reported a 61-point net positive variance in the intent to take more vacations during the upcoming 12 months.
This phenomenon appears to be closely correlated to age – almost three-fourths of GottaGoSOLOs are Millennials, while a third are Gen Xers.
YAHTZEEs (Young At Heart Travelers Zooming Everywhere Enthusiastically)
YAHTZEEs are active retirees who are traveling more and spending more, but are slow to join the sharing economy.
On a relative basis, this segment is spending more on travel (an average of $7,988 on vacations with the intent to spend more) and taking more extended trips than most any other micro-segment identified in this year’s study. YAHTZEEs are domestic vacationers – nine in 10 of their vacations were within the United States, and they generally opt for revisiting past favorites.
They are slow to adapt to the sharing economy, and only one in 10 has tried shared accommodations, such as AirBnB, and less than one in 10 has used ride-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber while on vacation.
Jet Sweaters amateur adult athletes without children who are redefining wellness in travel.
10 percent of American travelers travel annually to participate in 5K races, marathons, triathlons, cycling races, or other competitive athletic events. More than eight in 10 Jet Sweaters vacation in order to enhance existing relationships and to experience different cultures, compared to fewer than seven in 10 non-sporting travelers without children. Three-fourths of Jet Sweaters want to experience new cuisines, significantly more than their non-sporting counterparts.
The Brat Pack
Last are families with children 12 and under who influence vacation-planning decisions.
Three in four Brat Pack members select vacation destinations based on activities available to children, compared to two-thirds of travelers with teenagers. Six in 10 Brat Pack members say their vacations are entirely-child focused, compared to just a quarter of travelers with teenagers.
Messaging to Brat Pack families should be targeted to the needs and preferences of children, whereas travel messaging to families with teens should speak more to their parents and their expectations of a family vacation.
When looking for travel and inspiration for their next vacation, 18 percent of travelers turn to brand.com sites, down six points from 2015. However, 21 percent turn to online travel agents during this phase of the purchase path. Likewise, 32 percent of travelers prefer to book directly from travel suppliers, compared to 31 percent who book on online travel agent sites.
Additionally, half of all travelers who flew to their vacation destinations during the past 12 months typically booked their flights through an airline website or app, while only a third used an online travel agent website or app. Forty percent of travelers now typically book accommodations through a hotel website or app, while only a third booked through an online travel agent website or app.