Trends

Summer Travelers Seeking Value over Budget

A new consumer survey focused on travel for the upcoming summer season unveils some surprising trends, from a renewed interest in planning ahead to a primary focus on value rather than strict budget considerations.
A new consumer survey focused on travel for the upcoming summer season unveils some surprising trend
Summer Travelers Seeking Value over Budget

Destination Hotels & Resorts Road leading to mountains in the backgroundResults from the 2013 study conducted by Destination Hotels & Resorts(Destination), the nation’s fourth largest hospitality management company, also revealed that more than half of travelers are planning at least one trip without the kids. Those who do travel with the whole family are opting for group activities rather than arranging babysitters or day camps. And while a third of vacationers intend to document their experiences via various social media channels, they will by no means be glued to a computer or mobile device--more than half of consumers plan on signing up to learn a new adventure skill. Ten of the survey’s key findings:

1. Travelers are Learning the Early Bird Gets the Worm (and Best Rate).
Bucking the post-recession boom of flash-sales and last-minute-deals, vacation planners are beginning to shop ahead again. Destination has seen the booking window among leisure travelers increase by almost a full day year-over-year; this trend is anticipated to continue for 2013, with 40 percent of survey respondents already on the hunt for their perfect summer trip. “The travel industry is finally addressing the impact of training consumers to wait for the last second to get the best possible deal on travel,” says Jamie Sabatier, President and Chief Operating Officer of Destination Hotels & Resorts. “We’re working to re-educate consumers about the advantages of advance planning, and have created robust programs, like our ‘Countdown to Summer’, which encourage guests to book early with savings, upgrades, and added-value on packages.”

2. When it Comes to Vacation, More is More.
Travelers are looking to vacation often this summer. 76 percent plan to take as many short trips as possible, compared to only 22 percent eyeing a more traditional, week-or-longer summer escape. People taking frequent, shorter trips will be looking to ‘embark on a great adventure’ (45 percent), ‘learn something new’ (30 percent), ‘cross items off their bucket list’ (23 percent), and do a little ‘retail therapy’ (8 percent). Among the more traditional week-long travelers, the top priority was beach relaxation (66 percent).

3. We are No Longer Living in a Budget, Budget, Budget World.
Almost three-quarters of survey participants (72 percent) indicated that one of the most important elements in their final travel booking decision was value (defined as “possibly more expensive, but worth it”), beating out cost/budget as the prime consideration. More than just talk, travelers are putting their wallets where their mouths are, with Destination citing a 9.5 percent increase in average daily rates in 2013 versus 2012.

Where will they be spending? While 55 percent of respondents indicated that they are open to a variety of accommodations offerings, an additional 32 percent stated they are only looking for a full-service hotel/resort while on vacation.

4. Social Media Isn’t Just, er, Social. It’s a Critical Planning Tool.
Two-thirds of participants indicated that they spend time on a hotel’s or resort’s social channels before visiting. An overwhelming majority – 80 percent – noted that they browse online reviews when researching and booking their trips. While TripAdvisor® and Yelp led the pack, Pinterest, Foursquare and Instagram were all cited as useful tools for gathering insider tips while on the road; and more than 35 percent of consumers noted that while on their trip, they like to keep friends and family up-to-date with frequent check-ins, status updates and photo sharing.

“More than 40 percent of our online reviews come through TripAdvisor®,” noted Sabatier. “This accounts for roughly 5 percent of our referral traffic and we anticipate that number to continue to grow.”

5. Foodies are Still On the Rise.
From “Top Chef” to Food Network, it is no secret that Americans have made ‘foodies’ a mainstream staple - and that was certainly evident when participants were asked to share the most important considerations in booking their vacation. 15 percent ranked ‘locally inspired cuisine’ as the most important, can’t-live-without resort amenity, and a third indicated they are using the food-centric review site, Yelp, during planning. 55 percent ranked gourmet in-room coffee set-ups as a hot trend in 2013, and 23 percent said they seek out healthy food options to help determine where they will stay when traveling with kids. This sentiment is echoed in Destination’s food and beverage revenue which is up nearly 5 percent year over year.

“Enhancing the food and beverage offerings at our hotels and resorts continues to be a top priority for Destination,” says Sabatier. “We’ve recently opened two exciting new restaurant concepts, Frolik at Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue, Seattle, and Ferris & Jack at MileNorth, Chicago, both of which infuse locally-sourced cuisine with a dynamic, chic-yet-casual dining environment. We also launched The Study Of,’ an interactive series which features in-depth exploration of ingredients with the chefs of the Destination Culinary Collection. Each quarter, we unveil a new gastronomic topic for our chefs to examine through cooking demonstrations, educational lectures, innovative recipes or tastings. This quarter, the focus is on The Study Of salmon.”

6. Summer Travelers Aren’t Always Kidding Around.
Summer may be known as the heart of family-travel season, but more than a third of those surveyed indicated they do not travel with children, period. A full 60 percent of consumers surveyed (parents or not) will be taking at least one romantic trip with a significant other. Hot plans in 2013 include friend-focused expeditions (18 percent) and solo travel (8 percent).

7. The Family That Travels Together Plays Together.
Those who are traveling with children made it clear: while they appreciate “kids’ camps” to entertain their little ones on some vacations - they also want to spend quality time with their children. 69 percent of respondents are seeking accommodations and destinations that offer new experiences the entire family can do together, with a focus on outdoor options.

8. There’s A Reason They Call It ‘Classic’
Back to basics it is! Folks are looking to keep it simple when it comes to summer travel. 22 percent of participants identified a long, sight-seeing road trip as the most appealing type of vacation, and more than 82 percent (!) think America’s National Parks are hot, hot, hot this year.

9. New Experiences Wait For No One… Else.
Solo travel will continue to be a hot topic in 2013. 65 percent of people who plan to travel alone will be seeking out classes or interactive learning programs. More adventurous by nature, single travelers indicated a strong interest in learning a new skill (from surfing to climbing), and will be crossing items off their bucket list this summer. “We’ve experienced an overwhelming spike in adventure-seekers throughout the portfolio and have created our Destination Dream program to assist those ‘Bucket List’ travelers with their planning,” explains Sabatier. “Each property created once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences, including the ‘Crack a Coors on the Summit of Coors Mountain’ package from Hotel Telluride and whale-watching experience at Terranea Resort.”

10. Vacations Learn to Get Cutting Edge, Literally.
“We’re seeing a large majority (47 percent) of guests seeking new skills during their vacations,” explains Sabatier. Culinary classes are extremely popular - with 38 percent of respondents indicating they would be interested in a cooking or wine/beer tasting course – as are adventure skills, with 52 percent of respondents looking for lessons in active/outdoor activities. “Travelers don’t want to watch the chef cook them dinner, they want to be in the kitchen next to him. They want to learn how to rock climb from a mountain guide and leave their vacation being able to use their new skills at home,” he continues. “We created our Destination Discoveries program to help guests do just this; it provides guests the opportunity to take a class or lesson on a variety of topics from cooking and adventure, to history, art, science, and more.”

“When we really look at what travelers are looking for in terms of summer travel in 2013, it’s beyond the basics,” explains Sabatier. “Gone are the days when travelers go on vacation just because. They travel with a purpose, a goal, and we’re going to continue to make those authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences available in 2013 and beyond,” he says.

Methodology
A questionnaire developed by Destination Hotels & Resorts was distributed to past Destination guests via email on March 16, 2013 and was live until March 23, 2013. Respondents were asked for their opinion on several topics relating to the upcoming summer travel season. The more than 1,200 who responded were entered to win a giveaway from Destination. The results were tabulated, reviewed and analyzed by the Destination team.

About Destination Hotels & Resorts
Destination Hotels & Resorts is a privately held hospitality management company headquartered in Colorado. With 40 independent, luxury and upscale hotels, resorts and golf clubs, Destination is the fourth largest hospitality management company in the country. The company’s portfolio features more than 9,600 guest rooms, 18 golf courses and 16 full-service spas. Destination Hotels & Resorts properties are located in key metropolitan and resort markets including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Aspen, Lake Tahoe, Seattle, Denver, Austin and San Diego. The company is a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based investment, development and management firm Lowe Enterprises and the Lowe Hospitality Group.



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