What will move the purchase meter in travel this year? What are consumers looking for and how will hotels, airlines and agencies appeal to the more affluent traveler?
While technology has certainly made its impact on how consumers book travel in the past years, 2012 might be the year personality drives bookings - and by personality, we mean both the consumer and the travel site.
After all, while the economy might still be in flux, latest reports show that consumers are ready to get back to travel, but expect a lot more personalization for their pennies. During a webinar last week titled "PhoCusWright's Hot Topics 2012," PhoCusWright analysts weighed in on 10 topics and trends that will shape the travel landscape this year.
The top traffic drivers this year won't come as a real surprise - mobile platforms and social media will continue to ride the travel tidal wave, boosting revenue via new consumers for hotels and online agencies. But the one factor that might skew the travel scene in 2012? Overall consumer attitude.
Over the past few years hotels, airlines and even travel agents have guided the guarded travel - the one who, unsure of what the economy will do, puts most everything on hold in an effort to protect their bank account (and their family's security). And while there's still some safeguarding happening, 2012 seems to be the year consumers are saying "bring it on!" and spending, though, spending wisely.
Carroll Rheem, director of research at PhoCusWright, the Sherman, Connecticut-based travel industry research company, said consumer sentiment on travel went from "we can't" in 2009 to "we shouldn't" in 2010. In 2011, more consumers packed up and headed on vacation for the sake of sanity, above all else, but in 2012 things might be more reigned in, in a good way. This year will be the year, we predict, that travelers spend their money on more experiential experiences, instead of spending for spending sake.
The PhoCusWright analysts also highlighted the following trends that will drive more travel in 2012:Social Media
: More travelers will use social media as a research tool in 2012Search
: The easier the search function on your site, the better chances a traveler will book, said Rheem. "Whoever makes travel search easy, those are the companies that will win," Rheem said.Flash sales
: You might think it's tacky, but according to PhoCusWright, consumers are seeking the deal and will book last-minute trips if the price is right. One word of advice: if you do plan on testing out the flash sale route, do so with style. Too much of something is never a good thing, and you don't want to saturate the market with one-day deals.Mobile
: No doubt mobile technology has been the darling of developers in the past year, but as more consumers spend more time on their smartphones, mobile will continue to be the driving force of last-minute sales and bookings. Bottom line: the smartphone is a necessity for smarter living.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