Travel Unplugged: Examining Consumers' Vacation Behavior

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Because travelers tend to unplug while on vacation, marketers must understand where and when to target customers to ensure that alerts and relevant trip information don't go unnoticed.

When consumers make vacation plans, they're typically looking to escape the hustle and bustle of today's busy world. Just as they hope to leave their cares behind, many also choose to turn off technology in an effort to truly "vacate" the everyday grind and abandon their responsibilities, even if only for a few short days. But, with such patterns popping up across the board, travel marketers must integrate the insight gleaned from these consumer behaviors in order to target their messages accordingly.

To explore how today's traveler truly behaves, SDL surveyed 4,000 consumers across the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia to determine how vacationers respond to various types of media at different points during their trip. "The Modern Traveler: A Look at Customer Engagement in the Travel Industry" report examines what channels consumers are most receptive to and what they're looking for when they do embrace media while on vacation. "The goal with our original research is to take a more in-depth look at specific industries as a way to discover insights on how brands can optimize their customer experience to increase engagement, revenues and loyalty," said Bob Hale, CEO, SDL Campaign Management & Analytics Division. "With travel and tourism being identified as one of the fastest growing sectors, it is imperative that brands build and scale their customer experience management practices to meet the changing needs of customers around the world."

The following statistics highlight the modern traveler's basic behaviors and how marketers can use such insight to hone their communications strategies:

  • While nearly 70 percent of global survey respondents say they unplug completely or as much as possible when on vacation, the United Kingdom (74 percent) surpasses the United States (60 percent).
  • More than 40 percent of all respondents admit that they don't use mobile apps while on vacation.
  • For the estimated 60 percent of travelers who use mobile apps when on vacation, most do so for navigation (42 percent), transportation (27 percent), and communications (27 percent) purposes.
  • Nearly one-third of those polled share their vacation experience online, but not until they return. Thus, marketers must understand that many travelers don't necessarily wish to interact during their trip.
  • Though 83 percent of global respondents prefer to receive travel reminders, such as airline reservations, hotel check-in times, and flight delays, via email, 18 percent wish to receive SMS text messages.
  • While nearly 80 percent of respondents book their travel online, 84 percent confirmed than a positive online experience ranges from important to very important when booking trips.
  • Overall, 44 percent of respondents say they use surveys to share feedback. Yet, while 27 percent are praising good service on social media, 54 percent don't post any comments about travel companies.
  • More than 25 percent of those polled don't participate in travel loyalty programs. Of those who do, only 9 percent always consider such programs when making plans, as most feel they can find better deals.
  • Forty percent of global travelers rely upon the trustworthy input from family and friends when making travel decisions. U.S. respondents (51 percent) are particularly dependent on the opinions of relatives.
  • Thirty-five percent of those surveyed trust online reviews for travel recommendations. While 85 percent say they read reviews at least some of the time before making decisions, 39 percent of this group always reads reviews prior to confirming their travel arrangements.

Key takeaway: The more technology begins to infiltrate the average consumer's life, the more eager they are to escape from the daily drudgery of constant connectivity. When travelers head off on their personal getaways, they look to these trips as ways to leave technology behind, meaning many of them aren't tweeting or checking in everywhere they go. Marketers must consider such behaviors as they come to understand where and when consumers want to receive notifications, updates, and relevant travel information. The key to understanding the average traveler comes from knowing how to get in front of them at a moment when they will welcome such messaging. Once marketers integrate the consumer's tendency to unplug with their overall strategy, they will be able to tap into even more opportunities to create and elevate positive experiences that may trigger advocacy down the road.