Consumers want more personalization, customization and automation when it comes to planning trips than they did in 2019, according to a new report from WeTravel, an end-to-end booking platform dedicated to planning multi-day tours.
“As an industry-wide anomaly of global consumerism, traditional – in this context, pre-pandemic – travel has often been a well-thought-out rather than an impulsive purchase decision, mostly purchased in advance with cash or credit card, as the industry followed consumer signals with slow adoption of e-commerce solutions that have dominated other industries selling brick-and-mortar goods and services,” said Ted Clements, CEO of WeTravel.
“However, after two years of industry stagnation, the usual travel shopping has been disrupted. Data now finds that expectations of customization, personalization and automation – well-anticipated by consumer purchases across industries – are dominating purchase decisions this year.”
Here are some of the key findings of the Shopping Habits: The Future of Booking and Travel Planning report.
Customized packages are ahead of All Inclusive vacations
Fifty-six percent of tour operators surveyed said they have seen increased demand for customized tours compared to all-inclusive packages. In response, more than 85% of respondents said they offer add-ons or customization options for their tours, an increase of nearly 20% compared to 2019.
The most popular add-ons are special activities and tours (64%) and extra days (36%).
Travel advisors are seeing the same demand, with 70% of travel advisors who responded to the survey saying they saw increased demand in 2023 bookings for add-ons and personalized experiences. Additionally, 95% said they offer add-ons to the tours and trips they sell.
Direct bookings prefer multiple payments
In 2019, the most common payment option was a deposit and final payment due 30 days before departure. For 2023, the most common payment option for travelers booking direct is a deposit and payment in four installments prior to departure.
For travelers who plan, book and purchase their vacations through a travel advisor, traditional payment methods are still preferred.
The most common payment option for these users is paying through a travel advisor with a single deposit and final payment 30 days before departure.
And while other payment methods (debit card, Apple Pay, etc.) are gaining popularity among consumers booking directly with a tour operator, among those using a travel advisor, 95% still use a credit card.
The booking window remains tight
Sixty percent of tour operators say travelers book less than three months before departure, a more than 20% reduction in booking time compared to 2019. Additionally, less than 20% of travelers book more than six months before departure.
Women dominate travel purchases
It may not come as a surprise to many advisors, but women continue to dominate travel purchasing decisions, with women making up nearly 70% of all tour and multi-day travel bookings. This is an increase of 60% in 2019.
When looking specifically at purchases made through a travel advisor, the report found that more than 60% of purchases for departures in 2023 were made by women.
The average age of tour buyers is increasing…
In 2019, the average age of a traveler who booked and paid for a tour was 30. For 2023, that number is closer to 40, with the highest growth in travel bookings coming from the 40 to age group 55 years followed by 61+ age group.
… But the age of travel advisor bookings is declining
The average age of travelers who choose to book with an advisor is slightly higher, hovering around 45. But the data shows that the biggest increase in travelers booking through a consultant is in the 31 to 45 age group, with an 11% increase compared to 2019.
The report’s findings are based on internal business data from more than 3,000 tour operators, as well as an external survey of nearly 150 non-WeTravel tour operators and group travel operators, from wellness resorts to destination management companies.