The "State of the American Traveler" is Brighter in 2013

Director of Research and Online Marketing
Published 1/30/13
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The "State of the American Traveler" is a major bi-annual research study of American leisure travelers conducted by Destination Analysts, a leading tourism and travel research company and long-term partner with Miles. Miles has been the primary sponsor of the research since its inception in 2006.

Download the January 2013 Research Report: "State of the American Traveler"

The January 2013 report highlights a range of important trends in the travel market and actionable insights for any tourism marketer:

Travel expectations show sharp improvement

Travel expectations have shown a sharp improvement, with 33% of Americans planning to travel more in 2013 than in the past year, when the July 2012 report showed another "speed bump" in the recovery of the economy and tourism. In addition, 34% plan to spend more on travel in the coming year. Both these travel expectations are at levels not seen since early 2008.

"Personal financial reasons" as a motivator for not traveling has declined

Conversely the % of Americans citing "personal financial reasons" as a motivator for not traveling has declined to the lowest level (41%) since Destination Analysts started asking the question in mid 2009.  Also in decline is the % of American leisure travelers actively looking for deals or bargains. This has softened to 50% of travelers – off a high of two thirds of travelers in late 2008.

Bottom Line: Taken together, there is clear evidence that Americans should be traveling more in 2013. Their travel planning will be motivated more by the experience, facilities, reputation, location and other factors, not (as in past years) often by the lowest price. 2013 suggests that that any discounting can and should be done with more care and selectivity. Refocus your marketing away from price to the many other factors considered by your visitors or guests.

Media use continues to involve online and offline media

Media use by the 2013 American leisure traveler continues to involve a complex range of both online and offline media in trip planning. American travelers use more media across more channels, both online and in traditional media, than at any time in history. Research from Google (The 2012 Traveler Research Report) outlined how the average traveler visits more than a dozen different web sites during their trip planning and more than 40% of travelers are using multiple digital devices in this research – from traditional desktop PC (where use is in decline) to mobile and tablet devices (where use is rising strongly). Travelers are also using traditional print media at even higher levels of use as in 2006 - in conjunction with these digital channels.

Use of print media remains strong among American travelers

The use of print media continues to show robust and even strengthening levels of usage by American travelers. Despite challenges in some traditional media (newspapers), print use by travelers reached over 49% of American leisure travelers – a new record in print use by US Travelers tracked by the "State of the American Traveler." Since 2006, media use among US travelers has been closely monitored every six months by this research and even as online channels (esp: mobile and social) have grown explosively, print usage (including magazines, State or City visitor guides, brochures etc) have held steady and indeed risen over the last couple of years to almost half (49%) of US travelers.

Bottom Line: Mass media may be in decline - but mass media is alive and the central lesson of planning your advertising in 2013 and beyond. Develop an advertising and marketing plan that tightly coordinates both digital and traditional (especially print) media channels and look for publications and solutions who can offer robust, integrated advertising options across multiple channels and media

Online media use remains strong and steady

Online media including web sites, social media/UGC and mobile are all steady in use from 2012.  After several years of strong growth, the penetration of Social Media and User Generated Content plus Mobile amongst US leisure travelers has held steady over the last 6-12 months. This suggest these digital media channels have reached maturity and are close to saturation amongst some consumers, especially younger, more technology-savvy travelers.

While other market segments (eg: older travelers) are using more "traditional" digital media (eg: web sites) in conjunction with print publications, they are far slower to adopt social media and even mobile solutions in their trip planning. One change is noticeable in mobile: travel planning reported by travelers on mobile smartphones (41% of American leisure travelers) is now almost equal between users citing "before travel" to those noting "during travel." Mobile-friendly web solutions are now just as important at the inspiration and active trip planning phase prior to travel as they are on the trip itself (for flight or hotel check ins, maps, researching dining etc).

Bottom Line: Develop your advertising plan and media selection by carefully considering your target audience and their media use. Consider simple, low cost research (an online survey or guest check in form) to ask your guests about their media habits and sources of travel information. Most importantly, look for robust reporting - from all online advertising and offline with the use of trackable phone numbers. Remember - a significant proportion of phone calls start from travelers researching you online (in addition to ads placed in print publications).  Low cost trackable phone numbers allow you to measure and track every phone call from all your online and offline advertising.

About: The State of the American Traveler research is one of the nation's most important studies into leisure travel and is undertaken by Destination Analysts with long term support from Miles. The research study of 1000+ American leisure travelers has been produced every 6 months since 2006 and plots long-term trends and changes in travel intentions, travelers' behavior and their media use in trip planning, both online and in traditional media.

Download the January 2013 Research ReportState of American Traveler Jan 2013 Summary Report

Google's Travel and Tourism Research Library: Think with Google

Past Issue: Read the Summary and Access the Summer Edition of the "State of American Traveler"

More: Destination Analysts company web site.