Customer Journey: End-to-End Travel Experience
Travel experiences important to Gen Z are group travel experiences, adventure experiences, environmentally friendly experiences, Instagram-worthy scenery, and cost-friendly/convenient amenities. Millennials are looking for relaxation, new cultural experiences, party experiences, solo travel experiences, and family travel experiences. Gen X is looking for social experiences, experiences that disconnect them from their daily grind, family experiences, relaxing experiences, and dining experiences. Lastly, boomers are primarily interested in international/bucket-list experiences, luxury experiences, social experiences, and relaxing experiences. A detailed analysis of this data along with detailed insights about the U.S. travel consumer journey, pain points, and industry opportunities has been presented below.
Travel Experience Factors Important to Gen Z
- One-third of Gen Z survey respondents said they plan to travel solo, while the same percentage said they prefer this type of travel. This suggests that the majority of Gen Zers prefer the experience of traveling with others.
- "A majority, 56%, say they want 'an adventure experience from their travels, such as paragliding or bungee jumping,' while 52% plan on trekking to an extreme location."
- 54% of Gen Z seek travel experiences that are environmentally friendly and as such, consider the environmental impact when deciding on a destination.
- 40% of Gen Z travelers are looking for Instagram-friendly experiences when it comes to travel, with 25% saying they take more than 50 photos a day when traveling.
- Gen Z is looking for cost-friendly and convenient travel experiences, with 40% of survey respondents saying free WIFI is an expected travel amenity and 61% expect free breakfast at their hotel.
Travel Experience Factors Important to Millennials
- 41% of Millennials report that they seek relaxing vacation experiences.
- 86% of millennials want to experience a new culture while traveling.
- 44% of millennials are looking for a party experience while traveling.
- The vast majority of millennials are interested in solo traveling experiences, with 58% surveyed saying they would travel this way and 26% saying they have done so already.
- Family experiences are important to millennials while traveling, as 44% of millennial parents have traveled with their children, with 62% of these bringing children under the age of five.
Travel Experience Factors Important to Gen X
- The vast majority of Gen X are open to the experience of meeting new people while traveling, with 54% saying they partake in casual interactions with new people, and 19% saying they develop friendships with new people while traveling.
- The majority of Gen X like to disconnect from work while vacationing, with 55% saying that it's not important to stay connected to work. Additionally, 47% said that getting away from normal, everyday life was their main motivator when it comes to travel.
- Gen X largely prefers the experience of spending time with family or friends while traveling, as this is the main motivator for this generation's travel, according to 54% of respondents.
- Another 54% of respondents said that relaxation and rejuvenation was their main motivator.
- Dining out experiences are also important to Gen X when it comes to travel as, as this was the most popular travel activity anticipated by this generation for both international and domestic travel (57% and 56%, respectively). Comparatively, this was not the top response for millennials.
Travel Experience Factors Important to Baby Boomers
- The majority of Boomers are looking for international travel experiences, with 51% reporting that they plan to travel abroad in 2020, with 26% of these trips in the cruise variety.
- Boomers are looking for luxury travel experiences, as this generation says they are planning to travel to more expensive places, take extended trips, are seeking out higher quality accommodations, and want to enjoy more activities.
- Baby boomers are far more likely than younger generations to say bucket list trips and visiting places they have always wanted to go as their reason to travel.
- Like other generations, social experiences are important to boomers while traveling, as 57% say spending time with family and friends is their main motivation to travel. Boomers are also keen to interact with locals while traveling, as 53% say they're interested in dining with locals, 49% want to take tours with locals, and 19% said they would like to stay with locals.
- Boomers are looking to unwind and relax while traveling, as 49% say relaxation and rejuvenation is their main travel motivator, and 47% say they are looking to get away from their every day life.
U.S. Travel Consumer Journey
- When deciding on where to go, word of mouth via direct contact (non-social media) is the number one method by which Americans find inspiration, as reported by 65.6% of survey respondents.
- Online content, such as articles, reviews, business websites, blogs, podcasts, and videos are the second most common way Americans find travel inspiration, with 40.3% reporting they use this method. This excludes, however, social media, as only 21.9% of Americans report using this method, a significant decrease from 30% in 2018.
- When looking travel inspiration, the most common sources Americans reported using are as follows: search engines such as Google or Bing (34%), Facebook (31%), TV Shows (31%), authoritative travel websites such as Trip Advisor or Expedia (30%), movies (29%), magazines (26%), online videos (24%), tourist offices (22%), Pinterest (21%), and Instagram (21%). Other types of sources of inspiration received lower ratings.
- When conducting research to collect information about a travel planning, Americans report using the following sources the most: search engines (46%), travel websites (43%), tourist offices (30%), guide books (25%), travel supplier websites such as airlines and tour operators (24%), Facebook (22%), travel clubs such as AAA (21%) and magazines (21%). Other types of sources of inspiration received lower ratings.
- It appears that consumers do their hotel and transportation research first, before researching activities and experiences. This is based on data from Google and Greenberg, which states "in the 12 weeks leading up to a trip, there are 3X more experiences searches than hotel searches," and "in the 12 weeks leading up to a trip, [there are] 8X more experiences searches than air searches."
- Leading up to a trip, travel activity research tends to happen across all devices, however, travelers who do plan to delay this research until they have arrived at their destination are mostly using mobile (54%).
- Consumers care about the recent press an airline has received, prior to deciding to fly with that airline.
- When choosing which flight to book, the most common considerations passengers take (aside from cost) are the timing of the flight, which route is most direct, and how long the layovers are.
- When choosing a hotel to book, the most important factors American travelers consider is price, reviews, amenities, local attractions, and public transportation.
- According to insights published by Expedia, when consumers are deciding between two hotels that are similar in price, they are "more likely to choose the one that offers better amenities, such as free breakfast, fitness centers, pool access, and on-site restaurants."
- Hotel websites and online travel agent websites (e.g. Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisors) are the most common ways that Americans book their travel reservations (21% and 20%, respectively).
- Other booking channels that Americans use include: theme park websites (15%), airline websites (13%), car rental websites (8%), cruise line websites (6%), home sharing websites such as AirBnB (6%), travel agents (6%), and tour operator websites (3%).
- According to a travel behavioral study conducted by Google and Greenberg, "48% of experience bookings are happening once travelers arrive at their destination."
- Travelers spend more money when they book their activities ahead of time, with 47% more being spent on accommodations and 81% more being spent on transportation.
Travel to Airport:
- A bi-annual survey of passengers at the Washington-Baltimore Regional Airport found that the most common way people get to the airport is by automobile, accounting for 84% of all "local originations". This segment includes personal vehicles, rental vehicles, taxis, Uber/Lyft, and transportation network companies (TNCs).
- TNCs are most preferred among those ages 19-34, while passengers over the age of 65 prefer the use of taxis. However, the use of private vehicles is a common preference across age groups. The use of regional transit as a means of getting to the airport came in at 7%. The metro rail was used by 12%.
- 9% of passengers reported getting to the airport via some other means of transportation. These other means include walking, biking, hotel bus, airport bus, and limo.
- This survey found that the majority of passengers headed to the airport are those who started out their journey from a private residence (58%), while 30% started out from a hotel/motel, and 2% started out from a short-term rental, such as AirBnB. About 4% start out from their workplace.
- 77% of passengers do not park upon arriving at the airport, as the majority are dropped off or carpool to the airport (52% and 24%, respectively).
- Only 1% use an hourly parking lot, 2% use a daily parking garage, 2% use long-term A/B parking garages, 1% use short-term hourly parking, 2% use long-term daily parking, 1% used long-term economy parking, and 1% use off airport private parking.
At the Airport:
- Once at the airport, the typical consumer goes through the following stages: check-in, bag tag, bag drop, security, border control/immigration (if necessary), and boarding. Consumers are least satisfied with the security and border control stages, and are most satisfied with the check-in and bag tagging process.
- 50% of North American travelers prefer to check-in at the airport using their smart device.
- While at the airport, 27% of consumers report using an airline app to "pay for last-minute purchases, such as an additional bag, upgrade, or lounge access."
- While at the airport, 80% of consumers expect the bag drop-off process to take less than three minutes, while 79% anticipate spending less than 10 minutes with immigration/customs, and 74% anticipate spending less than 10 minutes with bag collection.
- Three out of five consumers report receiving all of their boarding passes for all their transfer flights when they initially check-in at the airport.
- 50% of American travelers report spending 45 minutes waiting in lines at the airport, while around 20% say they wait an average of one hour. Most of this time is spent at security.
- While at the airport, most consumers prefer interacting with human employees rather than automated services for the following interactions: baggage (54%), security (55%), boarding (64%), and concierge services (83%).
- While at the airport, passengers spent an average of $1-$24 on concessions (54%). Only 23% of passengers don't spend any money at the airport at all. Only 7% spent over $50 at the airport. Passengers on connecting flights are more likely to spend money on airport concessions.
- As of 2015, 58% of passengers say they eat at the airport after going through security.
- Among airline travelers to check a bag, 46% pay for the baggage when they pay for their ticket, 38% pay at the airport, and 16% pay sometime in between. 82% of passengers say they check their bag.
- "Americans spend an average of $51.32 on in-flight purchases each time they fly, with the bulk of that splurge going to duty-free purchases ($32.53). Other top expenditures were for onboard Wi-Fi ($4.92), food ($11.68), drinks ($4.56), and alcoholic drinks ($4.76).
- Most passengers who watch movies on a plane, do so only via their personal device (46%), while 44% said they used the seat-back screen only. 10% used both.
- In-flight, consumers are engaging in the following activities using their personal devices: music (68%), games (54%), reading (48%), and movies (44%).
- Only 2.7% of passengers said they purchase food while on a plane, as of 2015, while 8% said they bring their own food. Additionally, 5% say they purchase food at the airport to bring on the plane.
- 60% of consumers anticipate the boarding process to be efficient.
- 46% of consumers say they wish there was more overhead space available for their luggage, and 48% worry if there will be enough overhead space for them prior to boarding. Additionally, 76% of passengers believe that the overhead space above their row should be specifically reserved for them, rather than relying on a first-come, first-serve system.
- 30% of airline passengers say they prefer bringing carry-on luggage only, while 52% said they prefer to bring a mix of carry on and checked bags.
- 46% of air passenger survey respondents feel that there should be a reserved section of the plane for families with children under the age of 10.
At the Hotel:
- The first things American travelers do when they arrive at their destination is check into their hotel, get settled, and drop off their luggage (77%). The next most popular activity is eat at a restaurant.
- Many hotels now offer guests the ability to check-in prior to arriving at a hotel, including the ability to upgrade and select from optional amenities.
- Today, many hotels offer guests the option to either speak with a front desk representative upon arrival, or check-in using a self-service kiosk in order to get their keys.
- Additionally, many hotels allow guests to order amenities via their personal device, and can also use their phone to select a late checkout.
- A survey of hotel consumers found that 81% would like to get recommendations from their hotel about local experiences, such as dining (27%), and hotel upgrades/services (21%).
- 56% of hotel consumers surveyed said they are not interested in interacting with hotel robots, but are interested in taking AR/VR tours of the hotel.
- Other amenities hotel guests are looking to use during their stay are the business center (34%), fitness center (27%), spa (24%), room service (15%), fresh towel delivery (11%), and late checkout (11%).
- 63% of hotel guests like ordering room service and housekeeping services via a hotel-provided smart device rather than using their own personal device.
- "Top amenities of interest to those looking for a more home-like experience include: a better WiFi connection than currently offered (59 percent); their preferred coffee/tea selection in-room (38 percent); their preferred toiletries in-room (33 percent); a white noise machine (20 percent); an option to select their room’s layout (18 percent); and a selection of books to read at their leisure (16 percent)."
U.S. Travel Consumer Pain Points and Industry Opportunities
Pain Point: Poor Customer Service
- Lost luggage, hidden fees, flight cancellations, unfriendly flight crews, and unclean lavatories are the top five reasons why passengers say they choose to never fly with an airline again.
- Lost luggage ranks as the top most frustrating experience for 11.4% of survey takers, while hidden fees/lack of pricing transparency holds 8.2% of the vote.
Pain Point: Travel Delays
- Flight cancellations and delayed flights rank as the number one most frustrating experience for passengers (34.7%).
- Additionally, 4.5% of consumers report that a lack of direct flight options is their biggest travel frustration, which is 2x higher among women compared to men.
Pain Point: Annoyance With Other Travelers
- The top reasons consumers report abandoning an airline when it comes to interactions with other passengers include: sitting next to a drunk passenger, sitting near someone who smells bad, crying babies/loud children, sitting next to passengers of size, and parents who ignore their children.
- Additionally, the top five passenger behaviors that bother other passengers are as follows: body odor, passengers who kick the back of one's seat, sitting near drunk passengers, having to listen to other passengers argue with each other or the flight attendant, and parents who ignore their children.
Opportunity: Increased Transparency and Information Availability
- According to a global survey, 72% of passengers said they want to be "kept informed throughout their journey via travel notifications sent to their personal device."
- Text messaging is the most preferred method of receiving travel updates (39%).
- The status of the flight and information about their baggage are among the top considerations passengers want to be kept informed about (83% and 45%, respectively). In addition to this, passengers want to get information that helps them "plan their passage through the airport", especially when it comes to security wait times (45%), and border control (37%).
Opportunity: Use of Biometric Technology
- "70% of passengers [globally] are willing to share additional personal information including their biometric identifiers to speed up processes at the airport."
- This finding is especially true among frequent fliers, particularly those who often travel (10+ trips per year) for business (76%).
- The majority of passengers surveyed said they would prefer to rely on the use of biometric technology rather than a paper passport.
Opportunity: Baggage Tracking and Delivery Services
- "Over half of passengers (53%) said that they would be more likely to check their bag if they were able to track it throughout the journey. And 46% said that they want to be able to track their bag and have it delivered directly to an off-airport location, if that service were available."
- Currently, some airlines and airports are collaborating to improve baggage tracking through the use of RFID, which is known to be much more accurate than tracking through the use of bar codes.