The Yen for Hidden Gems: A Traveler Trends Triptych [infographics]

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Travel’s recovery is at various stages globally, but the trend towards more authentic, off-the-beaten-path destinations, experiences and activities is universal.  Or is it?

Earlier we shared how travelers are gravitating towards more remote (and particularly outdoors) destinations, activities and beaches.  Much of the news around travel trends and some big travel startup funding reports focus on outdoor experiences. We hear about it on webinars, in posts and conversations from industry colleagues – to the point where it’s an accepted truism.

But I’m a bit of a contrarian, so just for kicks we checked to see if the remote outdoors zeitgeist was truly universal. And it is.  Kinda.

Your Social Distance May Vary

We looked at the demand for urban vs. remote destinations across the TripTuner platform, and compared it to pre-COVID levels. Breaking down the desire for more remote destinations by the top four US metropolitan areas, we can clearly see that not everyone shares the same mojo to roll solo.

The teal dots show COVID-era preferences, with white dots indicating 2019 preferences. Chicagoans had the strongest post-COVID desire to go remote (note the delta between the blue vs white dot above), while Houston’s change was less than half of that – likely because they were already more apt to do so (their white dot). New York and LA also saw significant increases of 28% and 32%, respectively.

Solo Play

We also looked at the demand for popular vs. hidden gem activities across the TripTuner platform, and compared it to pre-COVID levels.  There was a clear overall trend towards less popular activities, but it varied across the four major US metros.

Here’s how it played out:
– LA travelers are now 26% more desirous of hidden gem activities 
– New Yorkers were next at 23%
– Houston came in at 18% and Chicago just 12%

Interestingly, Chicagoans are an outlier here. While they clearly prefer more remote destinations, they are less inclined to go off-the-beaten path when it comes to activities. The other markets are more or less aligned with remote destination and activity preference levels.

Which Way To The (Uncrowded) Beach?

Beach preferences jibed with the crowd-avoidance vibe. The change in pre- vs post-COVID preferences varied as with destinations and activities.

Here again however, Chicagoans stood out in having a much higher preference for secluded beaches than hidden gem activities. Perhaps the novelty of Oak Street Beach has worn off for locals?

Your Audience May Vary

What else does this data tell us? That despite a glut of views on what the “new normal” (sorry not sorry to use that worn phrase, it’s relevant) looks like for travel, we still need to dig into the numbers and see if it makes sense for our audience and what they want.

Ideally, you can do this on an individual 1:1 level (we can help with that) by leveraging your own first-party data (more on its importance here). But as much this pandemic has changed us, it’s more critical as ever to do the math – to question your assumptions and check that they are backed by real, relevant data.

Enough with the numbers. Now let me go dream about my next remote getaway destination.

PS – we can help with that, too 🙂

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

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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.

INFOGRAPHIC Traveler Tastes for 2018: To Chill or seek Thrills?

TT Taste Lab - relaxing

As 2017 winds down we’re sharing some fresh traveler preference data to help marketers target the world’s top 10 markets next year. It’s not your typical list of up-and-coming destinations (you can always find those here). Nor is it a list of popular activities or themes. Those have been covered thoroughly. Continue reading