In a recent HSMAI webinar, “The Crystal Ball Is Less Cloudy: Using Traveler Sentiment Research as a Guidepost Forward,” Amir Eylon, president of Longwoods International, presented sentiment and visitor research on what travelers are thinking, how they are behaving, and how they are evolving to help hospitality professionals understand the road ahead. Here are five emerging trends he highlighted, based on data compiled by Longwoods Travel USA.
1. Americans are traveling in larger party sizes. In addition to trips with the immediate family, including grandparents or other relatives, friends are getting together and traveling as groups. “For those of you on the hotel side of the business, you’ve got to be able to accommodate those small groups,” Eylon said. “Can you give them a floor together? [In your dining room], are you able to accept more parties of eight or 10 versus parties of four? As you’re developing your marketing plans, expect those numbers of small groups to be traveling together much more frequently.”
2. Travelers are taking longer trips. People are taking fewer but longer trips. With more people being able to work remotely, they’re extending their time off and checking in with the office from the road or partaking in a “workcation.”
“But don’t ignore the short trips,” Eylon advised. “We’re also seeing more spontaneous travel, [with] a lot of day trips or short weekend getaways.”
3. The planning and booking cycles are long (and short). In light of the pandemic, people are taking those bucket list trips that typically take longer to plan. At the same time, Eylon noted that the data showed an increase in travel spontaneity, as some people may have more flexibility to travel than they did pre-pandemic.
4. Travelers are venturing into the great outdoors. These are still the No. 1 types of activities, according to the data Eylon presented. “Think about why people are traveling,” he explained. “They’re traveling for all those words that start with the letters ‘R-E.’ They’re traveling now to reconnect, to rekindle relationships, [to attend] family reunions, or to rejuvenate and recharge their batteries.”
5. Road trips are still dominating. Road trips were on the rise pre-pandemic and will continue to grow, according to Eylon. Early in the pandemic, road trips allowed people to feel safer in their own vehicles and more in control of their surroundings.
Overall, Eylon said the most important trend hospitality professionals need to be watching for is that shift in traveler mindset from pandemic to endemic, as their data showed that one in four travelers said the pandemic has no more bearing on how they travel.
“There’s light at the end of the long tunnel,” he said, “and we’re seeing it. It’s starting to shine on us. And we are going to be back stronger than ever.”