Travel Becoming Increasingly Customized, Impulsive: WeTravel

WeTravel has launched its inaugural annual travel trends report, “Purchasing Habits: The Future of Travel Bookings and Payments,” using data from thousands of tour operators and group travel businesses to understand how travel purchasing is shifting in post-pandemic consumerism.

The cogitated report comprises the business’ internal data from over 3,000 clients—that, through the platform, marketed more than 100,000 global tours and multi-day trips, leading to over half-a-million traveler bookings and payments—and an external survey of nearly 150 non-WeTravel tour operators and group travel organizers, from wellness retreat leaders to destination management companies. Comparing this year’s responses on how consumers are booking and paying for travel to pre-pandemic booking data (2019), the report finds a drastic shift in travelers’ expectancy of personalization, customization, and automation pre- and post-trip, with control on where, when and how they book and pay for personalized travel experiences.

“As an anomaly to industry-wide, global consumerism, traditional—in this context, pre-pandemic—travel was often a well-thought, not impulsive purchasing decision, predominantly purchased up-front with cash or credit card, as the industry followed consumer cues with a slow embrace to e-commerce solutions that dominated other industries selling common goods or services,” said Ted Clements, WeTravel’s CEO. “However, after a two-year industry standstill, commonplace travel purchasing has been disrupted: Now the data finds expectation of personalization, customization and automation—which is well expected from consumer purchasing in differing industries—is dominating this year’s purchasing decisions.”

Here are key highlights of the report:

Women account for nearly 70 percent of all tour and multi-day travel bookings, dominating the purchasing decisions in 2023. In 2019, women accounted for less than 60 percent of all travel bookings. In addition, the average age of purchasers is maturing. In 2019, the average age of a traveler (who booked and paid for a tour) was 30; in 2023, the average age of a traveler is closer to 40, with the highest growth in travel bookings coming from the 40-55 age group, followed by the 61-plus age group.

Tour and multi-day package pricing is increasing to recover lost costs, while reflecting global inflation. More than 86 percent of survey respondents increased their trip pricing by 10 percent or more in 2023 compared to 2022; nearly a quarter of respondents increased their trip pricing by more than 25 percent in 2023 compared to 2022. Of the 1,000-plus wellness travel companies using WeTravel’s platform to market and sell their tours, the average trip cost increased 16 percent in 2022.

Fifty-six percent of respondents stated an increased traveler demand for packages and tours instead of all-inclusive packages. More than 85 percent of respondents offer add-ons or customizations to their tours, up nearly 20 percent compared to 2019; the most-popular add-ons are special activities and tours (64 percent) and extra days (36 percent).

Travelers are booking closer to departure in fear of cancelations, but this is reducing refund processing for travel businesses. Sixty percent of tour operators said travelers are booking less than three months prior to departure, more than a 20 percent decrease in booking lead time compared to 2019, which saw more than 50 percent of bookings with a six-to-12-month lead time. Less than 20 percent of travelers are booking more than six months before departure, which is down more than 15 percent compared to 2019. Fifty percent of respondents stated they expect their travelers to book closer to departure date to reduce cancelations and refunds.

Of all respondents—including tour operators, group travel organizers such wellness and student trips, destination management companies and travel advisors—the most common payment option in 2019 was deposit and final payment 30 days prior to departure; in 2023, the most common payment option is deposit and four installment payments prior to departure.

In 2023, the highest-growth payment option (10 percent growth compared to 2019) is more than four installment payments, with some respondents claiming their travelers are seeking up to eight installment payments prior to departure. In 2019, the most-commonly used payment method for booking tours was cash or credit card; in 2023, the most used payment method is debit card, followed by alternative payment methods such as Apple Pay.

The report showed that travelers expect local payment methods when purchasing international trips from global companies. Thirty percent of respondents expect their travel payment methods to change to online, local payment options by the end of 2023.

Source: WeTravel

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