As tourism is the world’s largest industry, the analyzing of tourist behavior and trends is an industry obsession. After all, good intelligence can be a competitive advantage in a highly competitive business.
One source, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), is a large producer of ongoing tourism research, which the Durango Area Tourism Office uses in its strategic planning.
According to USTA’s body of research, it’s crystal clear that the Internet has changed how the world plans its vacations. This makes a destination’s website its most important global marketing tool and a GREAT website is the minimum ante to play the game. One study found that vacation shoppers relied primarily on destination websites for ideas, information, and inspiration. But wait, there’s more.
Potential travelers have now become hyper-informed shoppers because of the increased use of smartphones and online travel reviews.
As high as 80 percent of leisure vacationers report that they engaged in some travel-related activity via social media.
A new 2015 study says that now travelers are becoming confused and overwhelmed by all the options and that they are decreasing the number of sources of advice and information. Another study addressed information overload by saying TripAdvisor is the winning influencer because of its breadth of content and trusted consumer reviews.
Are we there yet?
No, another study says the travel decision making process is not linear, and often includes multiple steps in a circuitous process that combines traditional tourism materials with website searching, travel review sites, travel editorial, and of course old-fashioned word-of-mouth ... so around we go.
What do people want?
A separate study identified that the top five fundamental and desirable attributes that travelers expect when deciding on a destination were beautiful scenery, relaxation, safety, accessibility, and unique setting.
Sounds a little boring, what about adventure? Research says that adventure is what millennials say they want. Except that millennials are the segment of travelers most suffering from “Vacation Guilt.” Fully 60 percent of millennials feel “vacation shamed” verses 40 percent of those older than 35. I had no idea vacation planning was so painful.
Once decided on a destination we find out that researchers discovered we are living in a “No Vacation Nation”.
Four in 10 Americans are not using all their paid time off, and if the decline continues we’ll take no vacations in 2040.
Apparently there is a growing culture of silence around vacations because our culture stresses productivity over personal balance. This leads to “work martyrdom” with 37 percent of the workforce claiming it’s easier to keep working than take time off. This is not a problem in my house.
So, fight back America. There’s no shame in taking your vacation. Surf the web. Don’t be influenced by that cry-baby blogger that even his mother couldn’t please. You decide where you want to go. Make a decision. Book your own travel and accommodations. Start packing. Post some travel photos. Have fun.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.