Research Uncovers Key Moments and Trends Dictating the Future of Leisure Travel
NEW YORK – October 13, 2015 – In the past 100 years, travel has evolved from a pursuit for only those who could afford it to becoming an attainable goal for many people. As a result, the travel industry has innovated and pivoted to keep up with changing demographics, technology and consumer expectations. A new report issued by American Express Travel reveals that today is the “Age of Connection,” a time marked by the marriage of technology and human guidance to shape personalized travel experiences.
With 85% of consumers planning to travel the same amount—if not more—for leisure in the next five years, according to the recent “Future of Travel Report,” travelers’ expectations from service providers will grow in tandem with their desire for more tailored travel experiences.
The report was revealed at the start of the American Express Retail Travel Network Learning Forum & National Summit, a three-day conference gathers company executives, suppliers, and the U.S. Representative Network, which consists of franchise agencies who use the American Express Travel brand and have access to its programs and benefits, to set the course for the year ahead and beyond.
Personalization: The New Definition of Luxury
Gone are the days when luxurious travel was marked by fine china and extravagant tours. Today’s travelers seek highly personalized, meaningful experiences away from home: 76% of survey respondents said that personalized service can make or break a trip, and 63% would be in favor brands using personal data to deliver a more-personalized experience.
“Travelers today are highly diverse and resourceful, and they are looking for travel providers who can deliver this,” said Yana Gutierrez, vice president, strategic partnerships and representative travel network, for American Express Travel. “Based on our research, we believe that our industry will thrive if we continue to focus our talent and digital resources on addressing the needs of the individual and offering them the connection – to people, experiences – that they seek.”
Where High-Tech Meets High-Touch
While technology keeps getting smarter, faster and more cost-effective, the human touch will be what differentiates unforgettable travel experiences from those that are simply good. Almost all survey participants in the U.S. (92%) said that using a travel professional completely or somewhat enhanced their travel experience. Additionally, 88% of respondents from the U.K. prefer to book flights, hotels and activities with the assistance of a person during travel.
Although travelers can easily toggle between high-tech and high-touch services, technology will help make routine travel tasks and destination research easier, while a travel professional can help with the emotional highs and lows of travel, such as helping with cancelled flights, lost luggage or making changes to an itinerary during a trip.
The hotel industry is also working to leverage technology to help provide more premium service: they will increasingly automate processes such as check-in and room service to free up staff to shift toward higher-value problem-solving and cultural orientation duties.
The High-Low Approach to Modern Travel
In air travel, travelers can expect luxury experiences such as lounges and suites with private showers in premium cabins alongside bare-bones options in economy cabins. Innovation will be focused on elements such as the check-in experience and in-flight entertainment rather than on aircraft itself.
Of U.S. Millenials, 71% say that the cost of leisure travel can be a barrier, followed by 58% of Gen Xers, 49% of Baby Boomers and 45% of mature consumers. For those on a budget, they will still find a way to travel on their own terms by using a high-low approach to travel: juxtaposing luxury and budget extremes within the same experience.
Evolution of Modern Travel
In addition to the survey research, American Express Travel used its own 100th anniversary, reached this summer, to examine the evolution of leisure travel over the past century for its “The Future of Travel” report. Within the report, which also contains survey data, four critical ages that have shaped the leisure travel industry are outlined in detail:
- The Age of Discovery – 1900s-1920s: Ideas about travel inspired by 19th and early 20th century explorers, and the experience was marked by exceptional personal service, luxury and glamour.
- The Age of Democratization – 1930s-1960s: Travel opened up to more people, due in large part to the rise of the automobile. Many iconic travel brands, from hotels to airlines, were born during this time, making travel more accessible to more people.
- The Age of Digitization – 1970s-2000s: Technology advances in the industry really started to take hold in the 1970s helping to manage the increasing complexity and scale of the travel industry.
- The Age of Connection – 2010 and Beyond: High-tech immediacy and high-touch human service converge to deliver more tailored and personalized experiences.
By defining the critical stages that mark great change in the industry, the research suggests that successive waves of technological innovation along with critical world events have continuously made travel accessible to more people.