Today’s global travel industry – sitting at roughly $8 trillion – now competes as a consumer good and an entertainment product. As we enter into a new decade, consumers’ travel needs, behaviors and wants continue to evolve, much of which is fueled by technology and a growing desire to create deeper connections with the people and places travelers are visiting. Through an ongoing mission to create a seamless, timely experience for tourists, marketers have tapped into the most relevant trends of today’s travel industry.
Food Tourism Takes Center Stage
Unlike traditional tourism, food tourism or “foodie travel” focuses mainly on culinary experiences. A recent Food Tourism Survey from Skift resulted in almost every respondent stating they have participated in a food and/or drink-related experience while traveling. In recent years, the appetite for food tourism has significantly expanded, with culinary travelers now accounting for roughly 47% of all American leisure travelers. As this food-focused trend continues to gain momentum, brands are feeling the pressure to improve their offerings and go beyond just cooking classes and dining in five-star restaurants.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Hangzhou, China, for example, offers a private dinner and tour, where visitors are taken through the local food market to enjoy authentic Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine. Airbnb coined the phrase “live like a local” for travelers who want the inside scoop on where to wine and dine, while TripAdvisor takes a modern approach to the traditional word-of-mouth recommendations, sharing restaurant reviews from tourists and locals alike.
As foodie travel becomes more and more mainstream, marketers are also seeing the role social media and television shows can play in increasing brand exposure, creating a cult following and bolstering food tourism. From culinary travel-based TV shows to food magazines to blogs about food and travel, social media has created a population of people craving a style of travel where cuisine takes center stage.
According to Skift’s “The Rise of Food Tourism” report, “...culinary tourists share millions of food and beverage themed photos daily across social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and especially Flickr. This increases travel consumer’s awareness of different cuisines and cultures and it fuels their desire to experience them.”
A study from the World Food Travel Association further proved the massive role food tourism plays in promoting destination marketing, and it reiterated why marketers should cater toward the culinary traveler:
- 93% participated in a food or beverage activity while traveling in the past two years
- 81% learn about food and drink when they visit a destination
- 83% believe food and drink experiences help to create a lasting impression of a destination
- 59% of people believe food and beverage is more important when they travel than it was five years ago
The Travel Industry Welcomes A Newcomer: Subscriptions
Travel companies have perfected the art of getting someone from point A to point B, giving them a place to sleep and recommending activities to do and sites to see. However, much of the general population only travels a handful of days per year, which begs the question: how do travel companies create products that customers crave more than just once or twice a year?
Points programs have lost their luster, causing travel brands to evolve and embrace subscription and membership models in order to build customer loyalty. Delta Air Lines created SkyMiles Select, offering boarding perks, free drink vouchers and more added luxuries for a set fee each year. Inspirato, on the other hand, introduced an all-you-can-travel subscription membership, offering travelers multiple luxury hotel stays each month for a (rather large) monthly fee of $2,500. Subscribers must sign up for a minimum of six months in order to obtain the subscription service.
“There’s nothing out there that’s great for frequent travelers who stay in hotels, especially those who travel a lot for work and expense it themselves,” said Maya Poulton, co-founder of traveling subscription company Safara. “Previous generations may have been happy with always staying at one big hotel chain, but today’s frequent traveler wants choice, and they want smart, efficient, sleek and curated brands with a point of view.”
The jury is still out on whether or not subscription travel services will be the next big thing. In the meantime, travel brands will need to continue finding new ways to bridge the gap between physical products or experiences and the digital-first environment we live in today.
Generation Z Influences The Overall Travel Industry
Generation Z has contributed significantly to the boom of the travel industry, much of which is due to the younger demographics’ use of social media. 84% of Gen Z travelers said social media can be influential when planning a trip, specifically through promotions and travel images shared by friends or experts. Members of Gen Z are notorious for taking to major social platforms like Instagram to document their travels through photos and videos, creating a domino effect and enticing others to follow in their footsteps. As a result, many people are choosing destinations for their next trip based on how “Instagrammable” the location is. A recent Millennial and Gen Z Travel Survey from Skift surveyed travelers ages 16-38 and found a significant amount of these individuals prioritize a destination’s “Instagram-worthiness” before planning a vacation.
Searching for the best deal is fairly common among travelers of all ages, but Gen Z in particular has a tendency to seek out the most value for their money, as much of this demographic is not yet or is just becoming financially independent. On average, Gen Z takes 2.8 leisure trips per year.
How Gen Z spends their time during trips is also of the utmost importance. Relaxing, sightseeing and visiting family are the top three trip types for Gen Z travelers. However, this generation was also found to be more likely than other generations to take part in activity-based vacations, or travel for a special event. When asked to prioritize based on importance, Gen Z ranked activities and “once-in-a-lifetime trips” or “bucket-list experiences” over the best deals or lowest prices.
An up-and-coming phrase marketers should familiarize themselves with is “Bleisure travel,” a trip combining business and leisure. Bleisure is anticipated to become more prominent in the coming years, as Gen Z is expanding into a fast-growing workforce. Gen Z currently takes part in 4.8 business trips per year, while saving for opportunities to extend business travel for leisure, or bleisure. Travel marketers seeking opportunities to engage with Gen Z should highlight entertainment and activities, as 41% of Gen Z said the option to experience either or both options while on vacation is a leading factor in their bleisure travel decisions.
One thing digital marketers can surely agree on is that today’s travel industry is no longer just about holing up in an all-inclusive resort. Experiences, social-worthy posts and an overall more immersive trip have become the new luxury, and marketers must stay ahead of the curve in order to leave a lasting impression in the minds of current and future travelers.
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