As we head into the 2023 holiday season, U.S. travelers are making the most of their vacation planning despite inflationary pressures and rising debt rates. In a recent survey commissioned by IBS Software, a provider of SaaS solutions to the travel industry, a record 47% of respondents are utilizing in-person or online travel agents (OTAs) to book their holiday trips due to convenience. Perhaps surprisingly is the younger generation’s preference for traditional travel agents (38% of Millennials and Gen Z) given the group’s well-documented preference for digital behaviors over analog. This is in stark contrast to Gen X and Boomers, only 12% and 2% of whom use the services of a traditional travel agent. Instead, Gen X far prefers to use OTAs when booking their holiday travel (35%). This renaissance of the travel agent amongst the younger generation has contributed to just 22% of respondents booking hotel stays and airline tickets directly through their vendor’s websites.
Travelers are Maximizing Savings for Holiday Booking
Of the groups surveyed, 92% plan to spend the same amount or more on their holiday travel this year. Among the top reasons for increased spending include taking a longer trip (46%), splurging on higher-rated hotels (43%), in addition to upgrading to more comfortable modes of transportation (43%).
In order to maximize on their savings, travelers across all age categories are attributing how they book their vacations to increased savings where they are available. Across Gen X (52%) and Gen Z groups (36%), those surveyed say their booking choice is based on where they will get the best deal - likely taking advantage of bundle deals travel agents and OTAs provide. Boomers, who overwhelmingly prefer booking directly on airline and hotel websites (63%), attribute their booking methods to increased savings available through loyalty programs.
Holiday Travel Destinations and Timelines Vary Across Age Categories
U.S. travelers are prioritizing booking their holiday travel over secondary trips like New Year’s Eve as an estimated 40% reported just traveling for the holidays and only 17% percent plan to take a trip for New Year’s. For those who are planning a New Year’s trip, Manhattan and Las Vegas are among the top destinations at 24% and 21% with just 15% of respondents reporting that they would go elsewhere. Among Gen Z travelers, Las Vegas is their New Year’s travel destination with 31% reporting it as their top choice.
Family-oriented vacations are a top priority among Boomers (51%) and Gen X Americans (30%). For Millennials, theme parks are rated among the top choice for holidays this year at 23% whilst a ski trip is among the top choice for Gen Z at 29%. For Americans surveyed overall however, snow and ski destinations rank higher at 26% compared to a theme park destination at just 21%.
With an estimated 57% waiting until November and December to finalize hotel and airline reservations, travelers are continuing to put off booking until the last minute. Millennials are among the top age category to put off travel bookings at 61% compared to Boomers and Gen X groups who are booking in the months of September and October.
What is Drawing Travelers to Hotels and What is Driving Them Away
Location, cleanliness, and overall hospitality are among the top factors travelers take into consideration/account when choosing which hotels to book their stay at. Boomers are primarily drawn to the location of their hotels as 60% stated that it was an important factor when booking. Reviews and recommendations from friends and family ranked at 39% and 35% respectively, followed by 35% attributing their choices to brand loyalty. Hotel amenities are also a deciding factor for U.S. travelers with 41% of respondents reporting that amenities are among the top factors when selecting a hotel. Despite this however, the most crucial factor in deciding on a hotel across all age groups is overall cleanliness.
For every amenity that encourages consumers to choose a hotel, there will always be situations that ultimately push them to reconsider their choice and either try to switch rooms or even leave the hotel altogether. Cleanliness was a top priority for consumers by a landslide with 48% admitting they would be pushed over the edge to leave a hotel if they experienced dirty sheets and bed bugs (55%). Other factors like inadequate bathroom facilities and noise complaints made up the second highest majority at 29%.
Steffan Berelowitz, Vice President and Head of the IBS Software Hospitality Business, said: The most surprising finding from our survey was the fact that younger travelers, Millennials and Gen Z, prefer to book with traditional travel advisors at a higher rate than the older Gen X cohorts. We all think of younger travelers as digital natives, wedded to their phones and social media, and yet counterintuitively, they’re seeking more personal connection. There’s an important lesson there for us to question these stereotypes, we plan to invest a great deal more in understanding the needs of this future generation of travelers.”
This online survey of 2000 US Adults who are considering a vacation this Christmas/ New Year (domestic or international) was commissioned by Fight or Flight and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society's code of conduct. Data was collected between 27/11/23 and 28/11/23. All participants are double-opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. OnePoll are MRS Company Partners, corporate membership of ESOMAR and Members of the British Polling Council.