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Understanding Today’s Leisure Traveler: Unpacking Key Findings 

What does your brand need to know about the rebound in the travel and tourism industry? Tom Charno, Senior Consumer Insights Strategist at TEGNA, details key findings from our latest consumer insights e-book, Taking Off: Understanding Today’s Leisure Traveler.

Meredith Cunningham Published: September 8, 2023
Understanding Today’s Leisure Traveler: Unpacking Key Findings  image

Tom CharnoBy Tom Charno, Senior Consumer Insights Strategist, TEGNA 

Travel is rebounding in a big way, and the data provided in our latest e-book, “Taking Off: Understanding Today’s Leisure Traveler,” confirms it, as wanderlust has turned into a wander-must for most Americans. In fact, 94% of Americans choose to travel in the next 12 months and plan an average of four overnight trips a year.  

What does this mean for your brand? There’s an excellent opportunity for your travel and tourism brand to reach these travelers, get them out of the house, visit your attractions, and get heads in beds.  

These insights are essential to understanding target audiences, which helps brands develop creative that resonates, increases brand awareness and sales, creates better products and services, and discover new opportunities for business growth.  

With this in mind, let’s look at some key insights we unpacked.  

Travel is a Priority Across the Board 

Many respondents consider travel to be even more critical today than before 2020 for younger generations, but why? We found that rest and relaxation is the top motivator for travel. Meanwhile: 

  • Half of travelers plan trips to reconnect with loved ones to compensate for lost time. 
  • Older generations travel to check off a bucket list. 
  • Experiences drive the younger cohort, and they’re even more likely to prioritize spending on travel over goods. 

Everyone is doing a bit of social media sightseeing. If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Do it for the gram” or “TikTok made me do it,” you know it means to be motivated to live your life for social media. Posts about trendy locations and hotspots drum up envy and inspire 75% of travelers to get going.  

Quality & Service Perceptions 

Most likely born out of the COVID protocols we’ve grown accustomed to, travelers rated cleanliness and cancellation policies as much improved since 2020. But like most industries, travel and tourism businesses struggle with staffing, which has led to a perceived decline in service.  

This is so important to highlight because travelers have high expectations and are inclined to leave reviews about their experience. Video reviews and review sites are among the top influences on decision-making. 

Inflation Continues to Impact Travel Plans 

Although it shows signs of cooling, 76% of travelers expect inflation to impact their plans in the coming year. Economic headwinds are still very much top of mind, and prices are still higher than ever.  

How are travelers shifting gears to offset higher prices?  

They’re changing where, how, how long they travel, and what they do while traveling. They’re also cutting out the middleman when it comes to booking reservations. Direct bookings give consumers a savings advantage through loyalty program perks or exclusive discounts that third-party sites and others can’t offer. Booking direct also means avoiding those surcharges and junk fees causing strife among consumers. 

So even with the specter of inflation looming large, nearly seven in 10 travelers are either keeping their budgets the same or increasing them. People increasing their budgets aren’t willing to sacrifice quality or give up the entire experience. After all, travel is the highlight of their year.  

Of course, high prices are factoring into why travelers are reducing their budgets or not traveling. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable that discretionary spending has to take a hit. However, three in five Americans can still be swayed by deals and discounts if they’re booking travel.  

As the price of goods and services increases, so does the number of hometown tourists. More Americans choose a staycation or participate in activities within an hour of their home. One in three Americans is changing their travel plans to stay close to home, spending money in their backyard on outdoor activities, cultural attractions, live entertainment, et cetera. Adventure is always just a short road trip away, with many opportunities within a 25-50 or 75-mile radius. 

Leisure Travel Download

R&R Now Means Relaxation & Reunions 

The abbreviation R&R takes on a new meaning because, as I mentioned, travelers seek relaxation and reunions. Some might say that family time is the antithesis of peace. I wouldn’t know that, but both are the top motivators for travelers.  

Going on vacation to relax is obvious, but de-stressing doesn’t have to start when you check-in. We saw that more Americans are choosing to take the stress out of the planning process by booking vacations like cruises and all-inclusive resorts where meals, lodging, and activities are all found in one spot. Those kinds of travel saw the most significant increases in intent versus a year ago. 

Looking at the other R in our new definition of R&R, there’s been a resurgence in reunions. After years of postponement, family gatherings drive travelers to spend more on multi-generational events, which leads back to making up for lost time. 

Video Content is the Ideal Travel Companion 

Video content is viral, entertaining, and influential when making vacation decisions. We found that those consuming travel content via video also turn to their local news outlets to stay informed about travel news, trends, and nearby tourist activities. This makes local news a trusted co-pilot in travel planning, especially as these viewers are more likely to trust travel information they receive from local news over national news.  

More generally, high emotional trust in local news is double that of national news counterparts. That trust then extends to advertisers as well through a halo effect. Local news viewers are more likely to trust and take notice of brands that advertise within local news content.  

Is Your Brand Ready to Hit the Road? 

Turning these insights into action, at TEGNA, we can help you help travelers make up for lost time. Whether through linear TV, lifestyle segments, streaming, or digital marketing solutions, we’re here to help your brand hit the road running. Let’s get in touch and see how we can help you prepare for your audience’s arrival.  

Leisure Travel Download

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