Distance Lover: Traveler Demand for Open Spaces, Quantified [INFOGRAPHIC]

At first glance, this infographic may not be surprising.  The general consensus among travel experts these days is that people are opting for less crowded experiences as a result of the pandemic.  But when you start to look for data to back this up, it’s largely based on surveys or anecdotal evidence and quotes. We wanted to see what actual travelers were doing vs. saying

So we dug into the TripTuner Taste Lab. The Taste Lab is comprised of unique preference data pulled from the precise actions of users on preference slider inputs across the TripTuner platform. It’s the output of a patented process, in which the twin attributes of each slider measure the relative preference between two criteria (you can play around with it here).

In this case, we looked at the relative preference for social distancing among U.S. travelers across three categories: destinations (remote vs. urban), beaches (secluded vs. lively) and activities (hidden gems vs. popular). The base timeframe starts with the designation of a pandemic in February 2020 and runs until the first reports of a successful vaccine in November. For a pre-pandemic comparison, we took the same timeframe from 2019.

Where’s the Remote (Destination)?

As expected, Taste Lab data shows travelers prefer less crowded destinations, beaches and activities across the board. But it wasn’t the same for each type of travel experience. For destinations, in 2020 travelers were on average 22% more inclined to choose a remote destination.

This may not seem significant, however if you look at the position of the average slider preferences it shows a flip from a pre-pandemic bias towards urban locations to more remote. Of course, individual tastes will vary (and we can capture that on an individual level) but the overall sentiment shifted significantly. Remote destinations are on average, the new default.

Beach Towel Territory Battles

You know those pesky travelers who claim their territory with a beach towel sometime before you go to sleep and finish breakfast? Those battles are primed to continue, but along a different front. Instead of staking claim to a spot closest to the action, beachgoers are choosing secluded spots by 33% more than they did pre-pandemic. Despite being outdoors, distance still matters for travelers looking for their next beach vacation.

Authentic Activities at-a-Distance

When looking for activities, the general thinking is that most travelers will flock to the “must-see” experiences in a given location (looking at you, Times Square). But post-pandemic, travelers are 24% more likely to select a “hidden gem” (let’s run it back, Oiji). We’ve seen how many trends have been accelerated by COVID-19, so this too may not be surprising given the general shift toward more authentic, local experiences. Still, like the growing taste for remote destinations and secluded beaches, these changes represent a major shift in traveler activity preferences.

Moody Truths

Given the pandemic’s relative lack of booking and historical preference data, it’s imperative for travel marketers to stay closely attuned to how travelers are feeling right now, in the moment. A major shift may only be a headline away. Implementing a way to gather first-party preference data now is the best way to future-proof against the next major disruption to travel – before it becomes cliché like social distancing. To find out how, give us a holler.

Stay tuned. Be well.

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