As COVID-19 vaccines open up to younger age groups in the U.S. there appears to be a divide occurring among the 93 million people who are vaccinated. According to a recent NBC article, there are millions of individuals who are reluctant to leave the safety of their home, fearing that their vaccine will not effectively protect them from future variants of the coronavirus. On the other hand, there are millions of vaccinated individuals who are itching to get out of the house, see their friends and family, and travel.
For the hospitality industry, vaccinated individuals who want to travel are already starting to book hotel rooms. Data from STR shows that weekly hotel occupancy stood at 58.9% for the week of March 14 to March 20 – the highest since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, cruise line stock prices for companies such as Norwegian continue to rise in value following the CDC announcement that it is now safe for vaccinated people to resume traveling.
So what kinds of people are interested in traveling? What can businesses do to reach them? To find out the answer to these questions and more, HT spoke with Dave Kelly, CEO of AnalyticsIQ. AnalyticsIQ is a predictive analytics firm that recently finished polling its robust database (consisting of more than 242 million individuals) to learn more about this new breed of American traveler.
What kind of consumers travelled during the pandemic? During which part of the pandemic?
Based on research conducted at the height of the pandemic, our team found that 26% of the US population was likely to travel despite the presence of COVID-19. According to AnalyticsIQ data, individuals most likely to travel during the pandemic are around 47 years old and 120% more likely to be married. These individuals are more likely to be Asian or Caucasian rather than Hispanic or African American.
They are an affluent group with an annual income that is 96% higher than average, are 45% more likely to have children, and spend big on discretionary items – specifically dining out where they spend over 50% more per year. They are approximately 25% more likely to be early adaptors of technology and foodies that enjoy trying new food and posting it to social media.
Consumers likely to travel during COVID-19 also care about the environment – they are 47% more likely to donate to environmental causes and are 51% more likely to have a propensity for Tesla than the average individuals. They may not watch TV all day, every day, but when they do, you’re most likely to catch them watching live sports. And when they are surfing the net, you’ll find them on LinkedIn, not Facebook.
What kind of consumers are interested in travelling now or in the near future?
Our data shows that 43% of consumers have an interest in traveling, indicating pent-up globetrotters are itching to get back out there. And those individuals most likely to travel in the next 3-6 months are far more likely to travel domestically vs. engagine in cruises or international travel. In fact, these individuals are likely to spend more than 230% more on domestic travel than on cruises in the next year.
So, who is the domestic traveler?
Consumers most likely to travel domestically in the future are a slightly older audience at nearly 60 years old. These individuals are approximately 30% more likely to be conscientious in their decision making, meaning they want to have as much information as possible when considering different offers. While their income is 19% higher than the average consumer, they seem to be saving their money for their travels as they do not spend big across any discretionary category other than travel where they are likely to spend 27-42% more per year.
How are these groups of people different?
When we compare individuals likely to travel during COVID-19 and the average travel intender that is likely to travel in the future, we see that those likely to travel during COVID are a younger group made up primarily of males. Both of these groups have above average affluence levels but those likely to travel despite the presence of COVID-19 spend more on discretionary items outside the travel category each year than the average traveler thanks thanks to their high annual income.
Those likely to travel during COVID-19 and the average travel intender are both likely to be married with children, but Asian consumers were more likely to travel despite the pandemic than they are during an average year. Those likely to travel in the future are not interested in exercising on vacation but those likely to travel during the pandemic are a much more active group that exercises daily.
So, while both groups have something in common – a likelihood to travel – they are also very unique and should receive personalized communications based on individual characteristics. Travel brands may want to consider family-friendly offers for all of those looking to travel soon but consider a focus on rest and relaxation for the average traveler and a more active experience for those that are likely to travel during the pandemic.
What can hotels do to market to these consumers and engage them?
To be successful, hotels need insight into who people are, what they do, and most importantly – why they do what they do. During sensitive times or when navigating dynamic situations like returning to travel after a global pandemic, brands must get to know the hearts and minds of consumers in order to gain insight into the motivations driving their decisions.
While travel brands should absolutely personalize their messaging based on insights, like the fact that likely travelers also spend big on dining and family-friendly activities, marketers must first understand travelers’ mindsets, not just preferences.
After a year of uncertainty, it is apparent that consumers want to feel confident when venturing back out into the world and booking travel plans. In fact, our research shows that domestic travelers are 31% more likely to consider travel insurance. And even more astonishingly, those likely to travel in the next 3-6 months despite COVID-19 are 165% more likely to do if presented with new discounts, new flexible cancellation policies, or robust travel insurance policies.
What should hotels avoid doing, if they want to entice these groups?
Based on the characteristics we see in those looking to travel in the near future, I think it is important for hotels to stay diligent in their COVID protocols and avoid returning to ‘normal’ too soon. As mentioned previously, consumers are itching to travel, but safety is still top of mind – both in terms of their health and in terms of their money. Travel intenders are actually 32% more likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine than the average consumer speaking to their desire to be protected despite their desire to start traveling again.
And while they have money to spend, their focus on their safety may mean hotel’s need to sweeten the deal not only with things that align to their interests like dining experiencers or fitness accommodations but also with things that provide peace of mind like travel insurance, discounts, and cancellation flexibility.