In celebration of National Travel Advisor Day, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and Sandals Resorts partnered on a research study to examine travelers’ attitudes and behaviors ahead of the expected rush on summer travel.
The study, the first joint research project between ASTA and Sandals Resorts, provides key insights on travel advisor usage and explores destinations, trends and travel preferences. Here’s what they learned:
Use of Travel Advisors
More than one-quarter of travelers (27 percent) always or often used a travel advisor prior to the pandemic. The more trips a traveler took in the past three years, the more likely he/she has used a travel advisor. Among those who took six or more trips in the past three years, 39 percent always/often used a travel advisor, compared to 12 percent who took one or two trips.
Good news: After the pandemic is over, nearly half of travelers (44 percent) say they are more likely to use a travel advisor. Not surprisingly, nearly all travelers (94 percent) who always/often used a travel advisor before the pandemic are likely to use one after the pandemic. Among those who sometimes or rarely used a travel advisor pre-pandemic, 44 percent are likely to use one after the pandemic.
In addition, people who always or often used a travel advisor are more ready to travel within the next three months (72 percent) compared to non-travel advisor users (47 percent). They survey also found that people who use a travel advisor are more likely to: Stay at an all-inclusive resort (33 percent vs. 16 percent); go abroad as soon as they can (35 percent vs 18 percent); and take a cruise (36 percent vs 10 percent).
Nearly half of people who always use a travel advisor (45 percent) rank quality time without kids as a top priority compared to 13 percent of non-travel advisor users. In addition, 70 percent of people who use a travel advisor rank “having a leisurely dinner” as an important aspect of their next vacation, compared to 51 percent of non-travel advisor users. When it comes to traveling with a significant other, travelers who use a travel advisor seem more inclined to focus on aspects of their trip that augment quality time and worry-free planning.
Perhaps not surprising after the chaotic year, 53 percent of travelers desire quiet time on the beach or by the pool.
As for when people are ready to get back out there? More than half of travelers are ready to travel now (29 percent) or within the next three months (25 percent). By the end of 2021, all but 19 percent of travelers will be ready to travel again, according to the survey. As mentioned, among those who always/often used a travel advisor pre-pandemic, 72 percent will be ready to travel within three months. Further, among those who took six or more trips in the past three years, two-thirds (66 percent) will be ready to travel within three months.
So, how can you move the needle with non-travel advisor users? According to ASTA and Sandals, 55 percent of people who never use a travel advisor rank a complimentary room upgrade as important. This is a potential area of opportunity for travel advisors who are marketing to new clients. In addition, 72 percent of people who never use a travel advisor rank “free breakfast” as an important amenity on their next trip. This is another area of opportunity for travel advisors’ marketing efforts.
Large percentages of travelers also desire for gratuities be included (48 percent), to enjoy personalized experiences (44 percent) or to receive complimentary fine dining (44 percent). More than half (55 percent) of travelers who have never used a travel advisor are more likely to use one if it means they have access to the travel advisor’s special relationships and insider access. Half (51 percent) of travelers who have never used a travel advisor are more likely to use one because the travel advisor puts the client’s interest above their own.
The desirability of travel destinations has changed during the pandemic. Although nearly two-thirds of travelers (62 percent) desire going on vacation in the U.S., nearly half (45 percent) would like to go to Europe, followed by 44 percent wishing to travel to the Caribbean. This is in contrast to a survey of travelers conducted by ASTA in January 2020 where 75 percent of travelers planned to take a trip within the U.S. and 17 percent had Europe on their itinerary. The 44 percent of travelers who want to take a trip to the Caribbean this year represent a 33 percent increase from January 2020.
Desired traveler activities have also changed during the pandemic. The most desirable activities involve visiting historical places (53 percent), pristine beaches and sunsets (49 percent) or unique dining experiences (47 percent). Only 29 percent say they would like to visit a big city.
Respondents were recruited through a third-party panel provider, Lucid. Data collection occurred between April 1 and 8, 2021. To qualify for the survey, respondents needed to have travelled for leisure purposes at least once in the previous three years.