Travel is more important now than it was pre-pandemic, according to new research from Expedia Group.
Additionally, travellers are planning trips further out, city and beach destinations continue to shine and loyalty programs are rising in importance.
Those are some of the findings in Expedia Group’s quarterly Traveller Insights report, which Raina Williams, Expedia’s senior regional manager, shared at Discover America Canada's annual general meeting at The Chefs' House at George Brown College in Toronto last Thursday (March 30).
Among North America travellers, international search volumes were up during the weeks of November 28 and December 26 – perhaps bolstered by holiday sales and promotions.
North American travellers' top 10 booked destinations during Q4 of last year included New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Cancun, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, London, Honolulu, and San Francisco, Expedia says.
Thinking ahead, planning ahead
Until COVID, travel and planning a trip were inherently uncertain, but Expedia Group's latest research suggests that this picture has changed.
While most travellers are now planning and searching for trips for the short term, the share for longer search windows increased last year.
Business travel also increased by 10 per cent in Q3 and Q4, and that growth is expected to continue, Expedia says.
As business travel extends beyond in-and-out trips, data shows that business travellers are extending their trips not just for leisure, but also for flex vacations.
The travel industry has opportunities to offer "blended" or "flexcation" travel options – a longer stay that combines work with leisure.
According to Expedia, over one-quarter (28 per cent) of consumers are looking to take a flexcation trip in the next 12 months.
Price, value, loyalty programs
While travel intentions are high, traveller spending behaviours are expected to evolve, reflecting the growing importance of price, value and loyalty programs.
Travel demand remains strong despite increasing travel prices, with Expedia reporting that 40 per cent of consumers are planning to increase their travel budgets.
Even with higher budgets and higher spending rates, the study indicates that consumers are still likely to be more price-conscious than ever.
In terms of loyalty, Expedia Group indicates that 52 per cent of consumers value loyalty program discounts the most.
Williams suggested travel companies to incorporate promotions to stand out from the competition.
Destinations could also consider ways to leverage loyalty programs to support travellers and benefit from them, she said.
“When we look specifically at our loyalty shoppers and our members, they spend two and a half times more, and they spend two and a half times more frequently. So, when somebody is loyal to a brand, and they're loyal to earning those points, you’re going to see more engagement,” said Williams.
Experiences & “nothing-cations”
Travellers' decision-making last year was largely influenced by pre-pandemic activities and experiences, research indicates that this is once again important.
However, for many, especially those experiencing post-holiday burnout, this can also mean experiencing nothing, or a “nothing-cation,” where warm weather, relaxing, and recharging are the main attractions.
Williams also shared that vacation rentals trended during the pandemic as people wanted to be in their own space with friends and family.
This sector continue to grow as the industry recovers, Expedia says.
The top 10 booked destinations by North American travellers’ include: Kissimmee, FL, Panama City Beach, FL, Lahaina, HI, Kihei, HI, Naples, FL, Cape Coral, FL, and Scottsdale, AZ.
Additionally, travellers booking shares on mobile devices (phone and tablet) increased 15 per cent from 2019 to 2022, led by strong growth on mobile phones.
For more findings from Expedia, click here.
Brand USA shares good news
Brand USA’s Casey Canevari, senior manager, global trade development for Canada, also shared travel insights.
Brand USA’s highlights include:
- Total outbound travel from Canada is expected to surpass pre-COVID levels by 2025.
- Travel from Canada to the U.S. is expected to surpass pre-COVID levels by 2024.
- The U.S. is forecasted to represent 59 per cent of Canada’s total outbound travel in 2024.
- The top five states account for 47 per cent of total travel from Canada to the USA in 2022: Florida, New York, California, Nevada and Michigan.
- Air capacity from Canada to the U.S. in 2023 is expected to reach 90 per cent of 2019 levels.
- 48 per cent are very or somewhat likely to visit the U.S. in the next 12 months in March 2023.
Building Canada-U.S. tourism
Discover America Canada is a “small, but mighty” organization whose mission is to provide a networking forum to exchange marketing strategies and build Canadian tourism to the United States, explained Susan Webb, president of Discover America Canada.
Members are based in Canada and the U.S. and are from all sectors of travel, from DMOs and destinations to attractions and hotels to tour operators, airlines, and rail companies.
Discover America Canada continued to grow its membership to 63 in 2022.
Webb said it will be another busy year with more events and meetings happening in person planned between May and the year's end.
For more on Discover America Canada, click here.