Close up over a woman's shoulder to a laptop computer where she's using a search engine to find a flight

Travel is seemingly yet to settle down after over a year of restricted movement, the threat of new variants and rises in infections across Europe means that the new travel consumer is a subject of much interest for the industry.

As a result, there have been a number of new reports and surveys looking to make sense of the new travel consumer’s mindset and priorities in 2021 - and most importantly figure out travel marketing 2022 plans.

What does the new travel consumer want?

Sparkloft Media’s new spring 2021 traveller sentiment report suggests the new travel consumer is ready to open a new chapter. Using social media insight, they were able to make sense of the following:

“Travellers are ready to see images and content of people and groups together and activities that they maybe couldn’t do during the pandemic,” said Gio Palatucci, director of research at Sparkloft Media.

The report reveals that while safety is important, travellers know it’s part of the logistics they now need to figure it out.

Sparkloft’s analysis of social media conversations in the US and Canada suggests users are seeking “meaningful travel”, which means different things to different audiences; friends and family togetherness, self-care and healing or a big adventure.

Other key trends are around diversity, inclusivity and sustainability.

Expedia Group’s report What Travellers Value in 2021 showed that nearly two-thirds or 65 percent of the 8,000 global travellers polled on their travel preferences said they are more willing to book accommodations owned by women and/or people of colour, as well as accommodations that are welcoming to the LGBTQIA community and travellers with disabilities.

This trend is particularly resonant with travellers under the age of 40.

Is sustainable travel a lasting trend?

During COP26, more than 300 players in global tourism agreed a single roadmap addressing climate change, signing the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, This declaration made a public commitment to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.

As a result, climate change is now sitting at the top of the global tourism agenda, even if much more needs to be done. 

It reflects the appetite of travellers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, who are increasingly seeking to experience nature and culture-based activities, aligning with brands who share their values.

According to a new global study by Twenty31, 62% of leisure travellers now say they actively seek out tour operators who adhere to responsible travel standards, while 63% want to support local communities, 

“Community first” also ranks among Booking.com’s 2022 travel trends survey, confirming this growing consumer interest in sustainable tourism.

Concerns for the new travel consumer

While these are positive messages for the travel industry, there’s obviously still a concern around safety in the light of the pandemic.

Research by comparethemarket.com reveals how attitudes towards holidays have now shifted.

The top three things people consider when booking a holiday now are:

• Taking out the right level of travel insurance cover before travelling (40%)
• Less inclination to visit countries that suffered badly during the pandemic (37%)
• Taking further precautions while travelling, eg masks/bacterial gel/own food and drink (34%)

But beyond the concerns around health, there’s still a problem with consumer trust for the industry according to other independent research by travel retailer Travelport.

As in the previous research, consumers are particularly concerned about Covid-19 safety practices but also, their data privacy; price transparency, ie. having no hidden costs; flexible refunds and information credibility, particularly of websites with an agenda to sell. Unsurprisingly, Generation Z were the least trusting in almost every category.

“Trusted companies make better retailers. When trust is combined with cutting-edge technology and effective sales, it becomes a powerful proposition,” said Greg Webb, Chief Executive Officer at Travelport

What about the luxury travel consumer?

Luxury travel consumers are also changing - a key aspect of the revolution is due to the rising affluence of digital natives like younger millennials and Generation Z.

In the TravelWeekly article, Advisers Urged to Prepare for the Luxury Floodgates to open, Signature Travel Network executive vice president Ignacio Maza said,

“Well-to-do families have done exceptionally well during the pandemic, and the great growth in their wealth has brought a new optimism that has caused them to reorient their lives. Travel is the number one priority, not the Range Rover or the Picasso. They want to go away; they want to be pampered." 

As a result, a higher level of personalisation is necessary for these audiences as they’re looking for heightened experiences via private jets, private island villas and private tours.

Marketing to the new travel consumer

Whether you’re looking to target luxury or regular consumers, travel companies with a digital-first mindset - in other words, the ones using data and analytics to make decisions - are best placed to respond to the opportunities emerging.

There are various key approaches moving forward:

Travel brands will need to gain insight from data and deliver personalised messaging with context to cut through the noise consumers are faced with.

They’ll also need to provide valuable information to set consumers minds at rest and build trust all the while tapping into the new trend of values-driven travel.

Travel marketers will have to be increasingly adept at using all channels to hit the right tone for the right consumer segment.

Of course, it’s not as easy as that: With all brands shifting their attention to the digital space, it’s led to a number of problems; higher cost of advertising, lower conversion rates and lots and lots of content.

Nevertheless, digital is now the space where everyone is making up their minds - not only generation Z and millennials.

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