US The Experiential Traveler Market Report 2020
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“‘Experience’ has long been a buzzword in travel; but for many providers, the concept has been hard to pin down concretely. Shedding some light on the subject, the idea of…

US The Experiential Traveler Market Report 2020

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Report Summary

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Experiential Traveler: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

“Experience” and “authenticity” are buzzwords within the travel industry, but finding ways to meet these demands is elusive. Nearly two thirds (62%) of travelers take trips in order to escape their everyday lives and the idea of “experience” is to augment this element of escape. Authenticity, meanwhile, serves to validate an experience and increase enjoyment of a trip. Importantly, travelers are willing to pay an upcharge for increased access to an experience, particularly if it means having a story to tell later. The COVID-19 pandemic’s shutdown of travel is unlikely to countermand these underlying drives, though it might extend the research period for people interested in traveling but unable to do so while nonessential travel is limited.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Mike Gallinari, a leading analyst in the Travel sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

‘Experience’ has long been a buzzword in travel; but for many providers, the concept has been hard to pin down concretely. Shedding some light on the subject, the idea of experience appears to involve exploration and access, though these characteristics vary for different types of travelers. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had dire ramifications for the travel industry as a whole, the views on experiential travel that people have are likely to persist once the virus has run its course Mike Gallinari
Travel & Leisure Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • Market overview
            • Top takeaways
              • Impact of COVID-19 on experiential travel
                • Figure 1: Short, medium and longer term impact of COVID-19 on experiential travel, June 2020
              • How travelers view experiences
                • Half of travelers are “experiential,” but a divide exists
                  • Figure 2: Experiential traveler segments, February 2020
                • Getaways are for getting away
                  • Figure 3: Travel goals, February 2020
                • What travelers want from experiential travel
                  • Room for travel experiences across categories
                    • Figure 4: Most desired experiences, February 2020
                  • Exclusivity can yield new revenue streams
                    • Figure 5: Desired upgrades, February 2020
                  • A personal interest in being personally interesting
                    • Figure 6: Attitudes toward sharing experiences, February 2020
                  • What’s next
                  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Experiential Travel

                      • Figure 7: Short, medium and longer term impact of COVID-19 on experiential travel, June 2020
                    • Opportunities and threats
                      • Short-term threats
                        • Short-term opportunities
                          • Figure 8: Aer Lingus customer email, April 2020
                          • Figure 9: Visit Colorado “Waiting to CO!” campaign, May 2020
                          • Figure 10: Visit Faroe Islands Instagram post, April 15, 2020
                        • Medium-term threats
                          • Medium-term opportunities
                            • Long-term threats
                              • Long-term opportunities
                                • How the crisis will affect key consumer segments in travel
                                  • Impact of COVID-19 on travel behaviors
                                    • Figure 11: Concern about changing travel plans, April 16 – June 4, 2020
                                    • Figure 12: Change in spending priorities, April 16 – June 4, 2020
                                  • How a COVID-19 recession will reshape travel experiences
                                    • How 2020 will compare to 2009 for travel spending
                                      • Figure 13: Consumer spending on air transport, monthly, 2006-10
                                      • Figure 14: Consumer spending on hotels and motels, monthly, 2006-10
                                    • Americans will put family first
                                      • Figure 15: Most-anticipated post-quarantine activities, June 2020
                                    • Financial optimism is timidly increasing, but recession creates uncertainty
                                      • Figure 16: Financial situation self-assessment, May 2020
                                      • Figure 17: Prediction of own personal finances, May 2020
                                    • COVID-19: US context
                                    • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                      • Travel experiences face a tough road in the face of pandemic
                                        • Who are experiential travelers?
                                          • Engaging marketing can make travel experiences as important as the destination
                                            • The economy is bad, and relief is a long time coming
                                            • Target Market: Experiential Travelers

                                                • Factors
                                                  • Figure 18: Experiential Traveler segments, February 2020
                                                • Experiential Traveler segments
                                                  • Eager Experiencers – 23%
                                                      • Figure 19: Eager Experiencer segment demographics, February 2020
                                                    • Local Lookers – 30%
                                                      • Figure 20: Local Looker segment demographics, February 2020
                                                    • Regardless Rovers – 21%
                                                      • Figure 21: Regardless Rover segment demographics, February 2020
                                                    • Twilight Tourists – 25%
                                                      • Figure 22: Twilight Tourist segment demographics, February 2020
                                                      • Figure 23: Segment attitudes toward experiential travel, February 2020
                                                  • Market Perspective

                                                    • Activities carry less weight than the destination
                                                      • Figure 24: Importance of activities, by age group, February 2020
                                                    • Tours are the go-to experience
                                                      • Figure 25: Types of tours taken, February 2020
                                                    • The activity discovery landscape is changing to be more engaging
                                                      • Figure 26: Source of discovery for activities, by age group, February 2020
                                                  • Market Factors

                                                    • Unemployment will lead to cautious spending
                                                      • Figure 27: Initial unemployment claims, weekly, seasonally adjusted, 2000-20
                                                    • Delay in further stimulus will delay travel industry recovery
                                                    • Key Trends – What You Need to Know

                                                      • Food can be a momentous occasion
                                                        • Hotels and homeshares fight for locality cred
                                                          • Experiences can make the destination
                                                            • A look into experiential travel’s future
                                                            • What’s Happening

                                                              • SecretEATS provides moment-in-time food experiences
                                                                • Airbnb Experiences shows strength in locality
                                                                  • Hotels pivot to localized, niche services
                                                                    • Experiences ladder up to creating a destination
                                                                    • What to Watch

                                                                      • The future of experiential travel
                                                                        • Driver: Wellbeing
                                                                          • 2025
                                                                            • 2030
                                                                              • Driver: Surroundings
                                                                                • 2025
                                                                                  • 2030
                                                                                    • Driver: Technology
                                                                                      • 2025
                                                                                        • 2030
                                                                                        • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                            • Travelers are escapists
                                                                                              • Poor communication and hospitality can ruin an experience
                                                                                                • The way to a traveler’s heart is through their stomach
                                                                                                  • Experiential travelers seek either well-known, or little-known experiences
                                                                                                    • Travelers will shell out for access
                                                                                                      • Destinations matter when it comes to experiences
                                                                                                        • Travelers see themselves as considerate…
                                                                                                          • …but want to be seen as worldly
                                                                                                          • Travel Goals

                                                                                                            • Vacations are meant to make travelers forget
                                                                                                              • Figure 28: Travel goals, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Consumer thoughts on travel goals
                                                                                                              • Locality appeals to high-income travelers
                                                                                                                • Figure 29: Travel goals, by HHI, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Local Lookers are more local, Eager Experiencers more lonesome
                                                                                                                • Figure 30: Travel goals, by segment, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Vacations are a “me time” escape for women under 45
                                                                                                                • Figure 31: Travel goals, by age and gender, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Urban dwellers show more tolerance for crowds
                                                                                                                • Figure 32: Travel goals, by area, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Barriers to Enjoying Experiences

                                                                                                              • Transparency and communication are paramount
                                                                                                                • Figure 33: Factors that prevent enjoyment of travel experiences, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Service matters to experiential travelers
                                                                                                                • Figure 34: Factors that prevent enjoyment of travel experiences, by segment, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Higher-income travelers are less forgiving of poor service
                                                                                                                • Figure 35: Hotel and airline response’s effect on travel, by HHI, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Older, wealthier men appear to be the most sensitive to activity quality
                                                                                                                • Figure 36: Disappointing experience’s effect on enjoyment, by age and gender, by age and HHI, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Compelling Experiences

                                                                                                              • Food and festivals are the entry points to local culture
                                                                                                                • Figure 37: Most desired experiences, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Experiential segments tend toward fame or obscurity
                                                                                                                • Figure 38: Most desired experiences, by segment, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Famous routes can do more to drum up youth interest
                                                                                                                • Figure 39: Appeal of traveling famous routes, by age group, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Travelers may be more conscious about animal treatment in the future
                                                                                                                • Figure 40: Desire to interact with wild animals and streaming service adoption, by age group, April 2019-February 2020
                                                                                                            • Desired Upgrades

                                                                                                              • Access is worth paying for
                                                                                                                • Figure 41: Desired upgrades, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Millennials are all about access
                                                                                                                • Figure 42: Upgrades worth paying for, by generation, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Eager Experiencers can’t put a price on experiences
                                                                                                                • Figure 43: Upgrades worth paying for, by segment, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Line-skipping can attract high-income tourists
                                                                                                                • Figure 44: Upgrades worth paying for, by HHI, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Making Memories

                                                                                                              • The setting tells the story
                                                                                                                • Figure 45: Contributors to memorable travel experiences, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Young travelers go where the people are
                                                                                                                • Figure 46: Public spaces as memorable experiences, by age group, February 2020
                                                                                                              • The airport-as-destination idea may never take off
                                                                                                                • Figure 47: Transit hubs as memorable experiences, by age group and age of child, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Attitudes toward Finding Experiences

                                                                                                              • Travelers see themselves as mindful
                                                                                                                • Figure 48: Experience deal-breakers, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Young travelers and men are more thrill-seeking
                                                                                                                • Figure 49: Attitudes toward dangerous experiences, by age and gender, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Uniqueness is what you make of it
                                                                                                                • Figure 50: Attitudes about unique experiences, February 2020
                                                                                                              • The “Experience Generation” has trouble finding unique experiences
                                                                                                                • Figure 51: Attitudes about unique experiences, by generation, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Experience-hunting services can find a market among mid- to high- income travelers
                                                                                                                • Figure 52: Attitudes about unique experiences, by HHI, February 2020
                                                                                                            • Attitudes toward Sharing Experiences

                                                                                                              • Experiences are about personal fulfillment
                                                                                                                • Figure 53: Attitudes toward sharing experiences, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Make young people more interesting
                                                                                                                • Figure 54: Attitudes toward experienced people, by age group, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Young men do it for the ’gram
                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Importance of social media in experience choice, by gender and age, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Younger travelers prefer taking experiences slowly
                                                                                                                • Figure 56: Attitudes toward the experiential lifestyle, by age group, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Consumer thoughts on exploring destinations
                                                                                                                • Gifting attitudes can be a bright spot in economic downturn
                                                                                                                  • Figure 57: Gifting attitudes, by age, by parental status, February 2020
                                                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                                                • Data sources
                                                                                                                  • Consumer survey data
                                                                                                                    • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                                                      • Direct marketing creative
                                                                                                                        • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                          • Abbreviations

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