What’s your pleasure? travel

We know more Americans traveled last year, and now we know more about who traveled and how they traveled.

Most people traveled for pleasure, not business, and most of that travel is within the United States.

U.S. leisure travel increased about 2 percent last year, accounting for 80 percent of all U.S. travel, according to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA).

Overall, airlines carried a record 965 million U.S. passengers* in 2017, up 3.4 percent from the previous high in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). More than three-quarters of those passengers (742 million) were on flights within the United States.

Airline passenger traffic 2003-17

Travelers were more likely to choose closer-to-home destinations with paid lodgings, but not necessarily a packaged flight, according to travel research firm Phocuswright. In fact, air and cruise purchases declined in 2017, and prepackaged vacations were flat, it said.

Leisure travelers spent $718 billion in 2017, nearly double the amount spent by business travelers and up 5 percent from 2016, according to the USTA. Food and lodging were the top two spending categories.

Here’s how those USTA numbers broke down for 2017:

  • Travelers spent $257 billion on food at restaurants, grocery stores and bars, accounting for 25 percent of all U.S. traveler spending.
  • Travelers spent $220 billion on lodging, including vacation homes and campgrounds, accounting for 21 percent of total U.S. traveler spending. Although more than two-thirds of U.S. travelers (68 percent) stayed in a hotel, that declined from 73 percent in 2016, according to Phocuswright.
  • Spending on auto travel rose 8 percent, mostly due to higher gasoline prices. Phocuswright also found that the number of car rentals also increased slightly
Phocuswright travel trends
Leisure travel trends from 2014 to 2017. (Courtesy of Phocuswright)

U.S. air travel continues to rise this year. As of April, the number of air passengers was up about 5 percent from a year ago, according to BTS statistics.

* Passengers on domestic and international trips traveling on U.S. or foreign airlines.

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Are travel sites ripe for personalization?

Most people plan and book their travel online these days.

Last year, consumers booked nearly half of all U.S. travel online, and the online travel market is growing faster than the offline market, according to industry researcher Phocuswright.

Research firm eMarketer predicts that global digital travel sales will increase from $548 billion in 2016 to $855 billion by 2021.

Phocuswright's Mark Blutstein headshot
Mark Blutstein (Courtesy of Phocuswright)

It’s not all smooth sailing though. A new report from Phocuswright notes that consumers often complain that online travel shopping takes too long and they have to search too many different websites.

Phocuswright analyst Mark Blutstein notes that other websites — from e-tailers to Netflix —  have personalized and streamlined the process. These sites offer customers suggestions, such as movies or clothing they might like, based on current site activity, what’s in their cart and past searches or purchases. Why can’t travel sites?

Half of U.S. online travelers say they’d rather see fewer choices based on their interests than spend hours searching for the perfect option, according to Phocuswright.

The flip side of personalization, Blutstein reminds us, is that you have to share your personal data.

Many consumers are on high alert about data privacy these days. Social network Facebook recently garnered a lot of attention about the way it collects and stores users’ information following news that Cambridge Analytica, a company with links to President Donald Trump’s campaign, accessed the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users to target them for political campaigns.

Travelers may be different — at least when it comes to some general information. Roughly half of travelers say they’re comfortable sharing their past or current travel brands and destinations with online travel sites if it helps provide a more personalized experience, according to Phocuswright.

 

Report: Don’t ignore baby boomers in favor of millennials when it comes to travel

Focusing on millennials means baby boomers become an oft overlooked, large slice of the U.S. travel pie, according to Phocuswright research analyst Mark Blutstein.

Although the 75.4 million millennials (people age 20-37) outnumber boomers, there are still 74.9 million boomers (age 54-72). Each year more boomers will retire, providing many of them with the time and money to travel.

Boomers also make up a larger share of the traveler population: about 30 percent of U.S. leisure travelers were boomers in 2016, up from 24 percent in 2015, according to Blutstein. That compares with overall U.S. leisure travel declining somewhat in the same period.

While millennial travelers are adventurous and seek authentic experiences, they’re price-sensitive and brand-agnostic, Blutstein says.

Boomers may take fewer leisure trips each year, but they take longer trips – often seven nights or more – and spend more money than millennials, Blutstein said. Boomers are the only age group that increased travel spending from 2015 to 2016.

Average travel spending (Phocuswritght)

Boomers expect to take four or five leisure trips this year, spending about $6,400 ― the same or more than in 2017, according to a national survey conducted by AARP.

About half of those survey respondents expect to travel within the United States, with Florida and California being the most popular destinations. The other half plan to travel domestically and internationally. Top choices for those going abroad are the Caribbean/Latin America and Europe.

In 2016, 30 million Americans traveled internationally for leisure, according to the International Trade Administration. Here are some characteristics about U.S. leisure travelers who visited another country that year:

  • The average age was 45.
  • 54 percent were women
  • 58 percent traveled alone
  • 91 percent were adults
  • 63 percent were on vacation and 32 percent visited family or friends
  • The top three international destinations were: Europe (36 percent); the Caribbean (25 percent); and Asia (18 percent).
  • The average trip cost $2,398 per person.
  • The average household income of travelers was $119,779.

Two U.S. travel startups win contest

Paperless tickets for tourist attractions? Hotel bookings based on price reductions?

That’s the technology behind two travel startups attracting attention.

Redeam, the business behind the paperless ticket idea, and Waylo, the hotel price prediction and tracking app, won Phocuswright’s Battleground: The Americas on Sept. 12 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

I previewed the Battleground contest in a blog post last month. Overall, 16 startups each had six minutes to show their innovations to judges and a live audience. Here’s a bit more about the two winners:

Redeam: It enables businesses to accept paper vouchers and mobile tickets from any reseller using a tablet-based validation platform. The company is based in Boulder, Colo.

Waylo: This app tracks hotels you’re interested in booking by using proprietary technology to predict lower rates and sending you alerts. The company is based in Berkeley, Calif.

Next, Redeam, Waylo and startups from other Battlegrounds worldwide will compete Nov. 7-9 at the Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a $100,000 investment from venture capital firm General Catalyst.

Funding for ideas that make travel easier, faster, cheaper and better has increased. Travel startups raised $29 billion from 2016 through June 30, nearly double the total amount raised in the previous decade, according to travel and tourism research firm Phocuswright.

Travel startups attract more capital

As travel has increased, so has funding for travel startups.

Travel startups raised $29 billion from 2016 through the second quarter of this year, nearly doubling the total amount raised in the previous decade, according to Phocuswright. Such startups raised $33 billion in capital from 2005-15 — the first decade that Connecticut-based travel and tourism research firm tracked funding.

Those statistics offer a peek at a Phocuswright report, “The State of Travel Startups 2017,” to be released next month.

Part of the reason for the funding increase is the trove of travel-focused investors, incubators, accelerators and startup programs that have launched in the past several years to link  startups with capital, resources and mentors, wrote Phocuswright analyst Michael Coletta in a company newsletter.

Another reason might be the increased demand for travel as more baby boomers retire and millennials rank travel high.

Travel grew in 2016 and is expected to continue growing at a moderate pace in the near term, according to the U.S. Travel Association. More travel will be within the United States, not internationally.

While Coletta noted that big travel companies continue to get bigger, making it difficult for startups to compete, entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are focusing on new technologies and innovations. For example, millennial business travelers (age 18-34) book more than half of their hotel stays and nearly half of their airline reservations on smartphones, according to Phocuswright research.

Phocuswright will host a startup contest — Battleground: The Americas — on Sept. 12 at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif. Sixteen startups get six minutes each to show their innovations to judges and a live audience. Two companies will progress to pitch their ideas to some 1,800 industry influencers at the Phocuswright Conference on Nov. 7-9 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Three travel startups vie for top innovator

What’s the next cool travel tool? Maybe it’s one of these three startups that will vie for the title of Business Travel Innovator of the Year later this month at the Global Business Travel Association Convention‘s Innovation Series Competition:

30k: The technology computes the number of frequent flyer miles needed for any flight in your airline loyalty program and related alliance and private airlines. The membership-based service also highlights upgradable fares.

AirMule: This app matches travelers who have unused luggage space with TSA-certified shipping companies on the same route. Air couriers earn $150 per checked bag each way or they can buy an Airmule flight with savings built into the price. The company says it screens and inspects all shipments. It sends items for you to pack and deliver.

WayGo: Point your iOS or Android smartphone at a menu or sign in Chinese, Japanese and Korean for this free app translate it without an Internet connection. More languages are on the way.

The three companies already beat out six other startups to win spots at the convention’s expo July 15-19 in Boston and a chance to pitch their ideas to convention goers, who will vote for the top innovation. The competition is a partnership between GBTA and Phocuswright, a travel industry research firm.