Every year, the summer travel season brings out a plethora of media stories about the hottest travel destinations and trends for that year. This year, Smarter Travel lists Southern California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania as among the hottest US vacation destinations; PR firm Hawkins International lists professional vacation photographers, wellness offerings, and art classes among its top 2015 luxury travel trends; and AAA lists Orlando FL, Miami FL, and Myrtle Beach SC as the nation’s top domestic travel destinations for 2015, based on hotel bookings. Meanwhile, a survey from Allianz Global Assistance USA reveals that consumers are looking to save money on travel this year, as 2015 summer travel spend decreases 13.5% to $85.5 billion from the $98.8 billion vacationers spent in 2014.
Here’s a summer travel trend that most trend-spotters overlooked: family vacationers are looking for unique, self-actualizing experiences amidst all the bargain hunting. For most family-oriented leisure travelers, price isn’t the end-point in their decision set, but rather one factor in their quest for the perfect summer vacation. While vacationers may spend less on travel this year, those who do spend will be less focused on price.
When we looked at family vacation travelers—the 19.1 million US adults with children under the age of 18 who travel for leisure—we found a contradiction at the heart of their travel value system. At first glance, they look largely as you’d expect them to, with family vacationers much more likely than the general US population to visit theme parks, vacation at beaches and lakes, visit spas and resorts, and enjoy museums and art exhibits. It’s also true that family vacationers are cost-conscious and looking for family-friendly value: 72 percent of them indicate “Cost-effective” as a desirable travel product trait, while 50 percent desire travel products that are “Dependable” and “Safe.”
Still, family vacationers don’t wildly over-index on these travel product values when compared to the general population. What’s more, they’re just as likely to choose travel products based on brand (40% of family vacationers do so) as they are on price (39%). As for travel product attributes, family vacationers over-index on such attributes as “Innovative” (174 index), “Luxurious” (157 index), “High Quality” (153 index) and “Unique” (153 index)—attributes typically associated with higher travel price points. They also indicate a willingness to pay more for these attributes: when it comes to travel psychographics, 57 percent are willing to pay more for Luxury (171 index), 64 percent for Convenience (167 index) and 60 percent for travel Flexibility (161 index). While family vacationers our conscious of getting good value for their money, they’re also willing to trade lower price points for unique, luxurious travel experiences that allow them to juggle work and summer school schedules.
As for why family vacationers travel, “Taking Care of Family” is, unsurprisingly, their Number One motivation, followed by “Concern for the Future.” But there’s also a bit of self-motivation at work as well, as family vacationers are also motivated to travel to fulfill their desires for Self-esteem (161 index), Self-image (155 index) and Learning and Knowledge (146).
What Are The Implications For Travel Marketers?
As you court those online summer vacation shoppers, consider balancing your pricing messages with messages that speak to these vacationers’ desire for innovative, luxurious, and unique experiences. Create messages also that hit the sweet spot between these travelers’ desire to create indelible vacation experiences for themselves as well as for their families. Travel companies will always need to offer competitive prices—but those that focus exclusively on price are missing the opportunity to grab attention by emphasizing unique, indulgent experiences. Vacationers may spend less on travel this year—but when they spend, they’re doing so to create memories that last a lifetime.