American Travelers Look to Experiences, Social Media When Making Travel Decisions.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 24th August 2011
How do American leisure travelers spend their hard-earned cash? Seems they want of 'the experience' and less of the low cost rooms at top hotels, and how do American travelers decide where to go?

The answer lies in social media.

The annual survey, conducted by YPartnership and the Harrison Group, asked over 2,500 adults with an annual household income of $50,000 or more who have taken at least one leisure trip of 75 miles or more from home requiring overnight accommodations, about their travel habits, preferences and intentions when they plan their leisure trips.

The goal of the survey is to provide hotels and resort with insights about the attitudes that drive the decision making and purchasing behavior for vacations.

While the economy continues to be a drain on many American households, seems most families are determined to still take that much-needed vacation. Equally important as finding a good deal is creating memories, and embracing new experiences, according to the results of the survey. What does this mean for hotels?

The survey revealed the following key trends:
  • Nearly two in three travelers (64 percent) say they are willing to pay full price if they are guaranteed the quality and service they believe they deserve;
  • Experience-based travel involving family and friends rules: the leading types of leisure trips remain visiting friends and relatives (50 percent) and family vacations (42 percent);
  • Roughly one-half of leisure travelers (44 percent) have participated in outdoor activities such as a beach/lake trip, camping/hiking/climbing, snow skiing/boarding, fishing, golf, adventure/outfitting or hunting on a vacation during the previous year;
  • 70 percent of leisure travelers have taken a "celebration vacation" in the past 12 months;
  • Almost 30 percent of leisure travelers have taken a last-minute leisure trip (booked, on average, six days prior to departure) during the past 12 months;
  • The Caribbean (34 percent), Europe (33 percent) and Mexico (26 percent) remain the top international destinations visited by American travelers during the past two years;
On the social media front:
  • The percentage of travelers who have downloaded a smartphone travel app jumped from 19 percent last year to 28 percent in 2011;
  • Social media sites are gaining credibility as a trusted information source. The survey showed that among those who have visited an online community, travel forum or blog to seek and/or review information about a destination or service provider, 61 percent visited TripAdvisor prior to booking a hotel reservation, while 18 percent visited YouTube in the past 12 months.
What can we make of these survey results? Social media can be catalyst for driving the experiences leisure travelers seek.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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