Research without bias

Research without bias

I generally don’t trust research results. Too often, the data is incomplete, not well sourced or outdated by the time it is published. In too many cases, there is an obvious agenda behind the results.

While the industry complains about the reliability of consumer-generated data and reviews from the likes of TripAdvisor, and I understand those concerns, when it publishes research results on travel trends, I have more faith in the results as I don’t believe there is much of an agenda. It would be nice to know more about the demographics of the 3,000 U.S. travelers who recently completed the survey, but for the purposes of this blog I will assume it is a cross-section of typical business and leisure travelers.

Some of the results seem like they are worth passing along here as I see them as indicative of current and noteworthy trends.

·         Fully, 47% will take eco-friendly factors in to consideration, such as their carbon footprint or “green” hotel policies, when making travel plans in 2011, and 20% expect to be more environmentally conscious in their travel decision and choices next year.

We suffered through what some called “green fatigue” the past few years as we crawled our way out of the depths of a serious recession. Now I expect the greening of the hotel world to come back in full force. It doesn’t cost as much to build green or buy product with a good green story. As the next generation becomes your core customer, they want to feel good about your green quotient. Soon, all hotels will have a green policy and hotels will be built to green specifications.

·         When it comes to booking hotels, travelers are significantly less brand loyal than one year ago, with 39% of travelers now faithful to one name – a significant drop from 59% in 2010. The top three brands earning guest loyalty are to no one’s surprise Marriott, Hilton and Hampton Inn.

Everyone needs a deal or feel as though they are being recognized. It doesn’t surprise me to see a luxury brand like Ritz-Carlton start a loyalty program, and it would surprise me even less to see its luxury competitors follow suit as even high-end consumer are showing less loyalty and want more perks to earn their repeat business.

·         Travelers named an increase in online travel deals as the best travel development of 2010 (39%), while rising airfares (40%) and bedbugs (20%) are the top travel concerns for 2011.

Every couple of years, the bedbug issue raises its ugly head. It will come and go in the headlines again and again. The most important thing you need to know is how to handle a problem from a PR standpoint and make sure guests are reassured and affected guests are treated extremely well.

·         It is not surprising to read this from a report by TripAdvisor since they publicize these types of accommodations, but vacation rentals will be popular in 2011 with 47% considering a stay in a rental home – up from 39% last year.

There is no serious branding in this space—at least from your traditional hotel companies. Does this present a growth opportunity?

Let me close with some other interesting results from the TripAdvisor survey:

·         Travel activities under consideration for the first time include cruising (11%) and taking an educational course on vacation (11%)

·         69% connect with work while on leisure trips; 16% says work always or often impacts their vacations

·         The top five vacation activities for 2011: visiting an historic site (85%); visiting a museum (73%); visiting a national park (46%); attending a festival (43%); hiking (42%).