Travel and tourism trends are changing fast, and statistics are quickly becoming outdated. To help you keep up, we've delved into our favourite sources around the web for the latest and most thought-provoking stats we can find, plus actionable insights. It's nerdy, it's number-heavy, but it shows that travel and tourism are exciting places to be right now. Here you go, enjoy the numbers.
Looking for the latest trends? You can now access our travel statistics for 2017-2018 here. Or download our 2018 Trends Report:
1. The tour and activity industry: a multi-billion dollar market
- In Europe, tours and activities account for around US$40 billion (WIT, 2016)
- The tour and activity sector generated 37,000 million euro in Europe in 2015, tripling the total market size of car rental (10,000, million euro) and reaching almost half the total market for hotel reservations (80,000 million euro) (Phocuswright, 2016)
- In the USA alone, there are approximately 67,000 businesses valued at US$20 billion in the tour and activity space. This makes it the third largest segment of the travel industry after air and accommodation (WIT, 2016)
- Travellers are likely to spend more on sightseeing than on shopping, souvenirs and nightlife combined (TripBarometer, 2015)
Key takeaway: Expect big developments in the tour and activity market this year. Tours and activities might have once been the ugly ducklings of the travel industry, but there's a whole lot of money behind them now, especially considering recent moves from Viator.
2. Suppliers need to strike a balance between advance and last-minute offers
- 30% of millennials worry that costs will rise if they wait too long to book their trips. Yet 19% of consumers wait to book their travel a week or less before departure - and millennials are even more likely to procrastinate (Adobe, 2016)
- Consumers plan most in advance for Christmas and Thanksgiving when only 7-10% of flight bookings happen on the week before departure (Adobe, 2016)
- 59% of travel related searches are from those aged 35-64 (Bing, 2016)
- 82% of US consumers report that a domestic trip will be their primary summer vacation (vs. 74% in 2015 (Adobe, 2016)
Key takeaway: Tourism companies should stay alert to how their guests are booking, notice how far in advance they book, and open up avenues for feedback (such as automated post-trip emails) to optimise their process and availability.
3. It's a year for adventure and new experiences
- 69% of global travellers - of all age groups - are planning to try something new in 2016 (TripBarometer, 2015)
- 17% will try solo travel for the first time in 2016, and 15% will try adventure travel for the first time (TripBarometer, 2015)
- Tourists in 2016 are looking for opportunities to explore lesser-known destinations, especially those that are untouched or unique (Virtuoso, 2016)
- 1 in 5 global travellers have visited a destination because they saw it on a TV show (TripBarometer, 2015)
- Just 31% of travellers book a trip based on their own past experiences (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
Key takeaway: Adventure travel companies, this is your time to shine. All other tour and activity operators can tap into this desire for new experiences by adjusting their marketing messages to encapsulate adventure and novelty.
4. Treating ourselves is a priority when we travel
- 1 in 3 travellers (33%) are planning to spend more on travel in 2016 than they did the previous year, and not just because of rising costs (TripBarometer, 2015)
- The 5 most common things travellers are willing to spend more on as a treat: Sightseeing (53%), special dining experiences (41%), accommodation (41%), activities (35%) and shopping (24%) (TripBarometer, 2015)
- Among those who plan to increase their travel budget in 2016, 49% said they will do so because “because I or my family deserve it”, while 31% said they would spend more on travel because “it’s important for my health and well-being” (TripBarometer, 2015).
- Like last year, "Sand & Sea" is the most appealing vacation type; "Mountains & Nature" is #2 this year (tied #2 with "Big city/Museums" last year) (Adobe, 2016)
Key takeaway: Tour and activity providers need to cut the hassle in their booking processes and provide a treat-worthy experience from the first point of contact. An experience that stands out from the competition by giving away valuable add-ons, extra personalisation, and generous customer care will be the one chosen by these travellers.
5. Manage your reputation online
- 95% of respondents in a TrustYou survey read reviews before booking (Tnooz, 2015)
- 4 in 5 TripAdvisor users will “usually” or “always” reference reviews before deciding on an attraction to visit, especially Australian travellers (82%) and Generation X (74%) (TripAdvisor, 2015)
- Leisure travellers read an average of 6-7 reviews before booking (spending an average of 30 minutes, although 10% spend more than an hour); business travellers read an average of 5 (Tnooz, 2015)
- 80% of travellers say summarized reviews are time efficient, while only 59% said the same for full-text reviews (Tnooz, 2015)
- 70% of travellers look at up to 20 reviews in the planning phase (Worms University of Applied Sciences/ITB Berlin, 2014)
- More than 6.2 million businesses and properties in 128,000+ destinations use TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor, 2015)
- There are 200 new user contributions to TripAdvisor every minute (TripAdvisor, 2015)
Key takeaway: Nurturing an online presence is a daily task, especially when it comes to building up positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Going out of your way to help a customer takes effort, but what you get back in word-of-mouth advertising is invaluable.
6. Accept online bookings to access maximum revenue
- 83% of tour and activity companies still work with traditional methods for their daily management, which means that digital customers are not able to encounter the products in an online channel (Phocuswright, 2016)
- Tour and activity providers tend to get 30-40% more bookings after implementing an online booking system (TrekkSoft, 2016)
- Millennials are 'fluent and comfortable with booking plans online, as well as on mobile and tablet devices' (HVS, 2013)
- 65% of tourist book hotels reservations for the same day on a mobile device (Statistic Brain, 2015)
Key takeaway: While increasing numbers of travellers want to book tours and activities online, the majority of suppliers are not ready. Now is the time to catch up, especially now there are so many booking software providers to choose from to best suit your needs. Arrange a call with us and we'll guide you through the process with a personal consultation.
Take action: 10 ways to get the most out of your booking engine
7. Mobile-optimised businesses are ahead
- Mobile bookings in travel have grown by 1700% between 2011 and 2015, moving from 1% to 18% of online revenues (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
- 45% of connected travellers use their smartphone to book travel activities pre-trip (TripBarometer, 2015)
- 85% of international travellers have some kind of mobile device with them while travelling (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
- 8% of travellers book their trip on a mobile device (TripBarometer, 2015)
- Nearly 50% of users have visited TripAdvisor via tablet and phone, and the company continues to see an industry rise in engagement on mobile devices (TripAdvisor, 2015)
- Between 2013 and 2017, mobile phone penetration will rise from 61.1% to 69.4% of the global population (eMarketer, 2014)
- Asian travellers are least likely to use offline methods to book accommodation, US, UK and Italian travellers stand out as online booking channel users, and the Chinese are most likely to make bookings via mobile apps (TripBarometer, 2015)
Key takeaway: One of the easiest way for tour and activity companies to cash in on the benefits of mobile is to choose a responsive booking system and website builder. That way, all the work is done for you. If you choose to integrate booking software with your existing website, make sure you have a mobile-optimised template with great UX that loads quickly.
8. Social media doesn't just mean Facebook
- Social messaging will account for 2.5 billion global users by 2018, more than the 2 billion general social media users (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
- Consumers are 44% more likely to learn about a new travel brand on Twitter than on the average social network (Twitter, 2014)
- 39% of Twitter users access the platform mid-journey (Twitter, 2014)
- 97% of millennials say they share pictures while travelling, especially on Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Snapchat (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
- 27% of Twitter users share positive travel experiences, creating positive buzz for the brands they mention (Twitter, 2014)
- 5 out of 6 millennials will choose to connect with companies on social media, but want something in return (predominantly perks & discounts) (SDL, 2014)
- The number of Gen Zs using Facebook is on a steady decline while Instagram adoption continues climbing (Sparks & Honey, 2014)
Key takeaway: It's not worth trying to be active on every social media channel. Find out where your target customers are active, and join in with these conversions. Just because there's a new social network, it doesn't mean you need to join it -- unless that is where your audience is.
9. Millennials are money poor, time rich
- Millennials will represent the #1 consumer segment in the U.S. hotel industry by 2018, if not 2017 (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
- Travellers ages 15 to 29 accounted for an estimated 23% of international travellers in 2015 (WYSE, 2016)
- Young people are often money poor but time rich, which means that they can spend longer in a destination than a typical tourist. As a result, however, they end up spending up to two thirds more on average (WYSE, 2016)
- 78% of millennials would rather spend money on a desirable experience or event than buying something desirable (Harris/Eventbrite, 2014)
- Young travellers are relatively intrepid and unlikely to be phased by economic problems, political unrest or epidemics. If there are fewer job openings, it can even encourage young people to travel or gain work experience abroad during a gap year (WYSE, 2016).
- 6 out of 10 millennials would rather spend their money on experiences than material things (MMGY Global)
Key takeaway: Millennial travellers are looking for unique and authentic experiences, and tour and activity providers wishing to access this market need to prioritise this. A walking tour company could offer a chance to meet a local farmer or craftsperson, while a food workshop could show guests how to make a difficult-to-accomplish regional dish.
Read more: 8 ways to adapt your tours for millennials
10. There's a growing health and wellness trend to cater for
- An estimated 17 million travellers identify themselves as being 'health and wellbeing' focused, with 40% of them travelling regularly (HVS, 2014)
- Wellness tourists spend 130% more than the average tourist (Body & Soul)
Key takeaway: As Susie Ellis, Chairman and CEO of the Global Wellness Institute, has explained, wellness travel has never before managed to "powerfully dominate the forecast like it does in 2016". The wellness trend encompasses a whole mindset and lifestyle: something that tourism companies with a health or wellbeing focus need to truly understand. Through an immersive understanding of this lifestyle, it is much more likely that advantageous partnerships and business moves can arise and prove lucrative.
11. Business travel is seen as an adventure
- Nearly all Virgin Atlantic international business travellers (99.5 percent) look forward to business trips and nine in 10 say they always get excited to fly (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
- Three in four Virgin Atlantic business travellers say it feels like "A Call to Adventure" to travel for work (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
- China is poised to overtake the US as the #1 business travel market in the world. It will surpass US in spending by 2017 (China Internet Watch, 2016)
Key takeaway: Tour and activity providers should consider how to access the leisure time of business travellers. This could mean partnering up with a local hotel that's popular for business stays and offering a special deal, or even building a partnership with companies that regularly send their employees to your region.
12. It's time to start thinking about Gen Z
- Gen Zs (born late 1990s to 2010s) will be more conservative with their money, though not fearful of splurging on trips that enhance their views of the world (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
- Gen Zs have global aspirations and draws inspiration from all over the world (Upfront Analytics, 2015)
- 8 seconds is the time that Gen Zs take to process information, consider what it means and then move onto the next thing that catches their eye (this is down from 12 seconds in 2000) (Skift Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016)
- Gen Zs watch 2x as many videos on mobile as other generations (Upfront Analytics, 2015)
- Gen Z shuns conformity and tradition but like storytelling and visual displays (Upfront Analytics, 2015)
- 60% of Gen Zs want to change the world, compared with 39% of millennials (Upfront Analytics, 2015)
Key takeaway: Gen Zs are still young, but the world that they are growing up into - which we live and work in - is changing fast. Tour and activity suppliers that want to attract young travellers need to be prepared to keep up. Show that your experience is worth giving attention to; market with snippets of powerful content that can be consumed in seconds.
13. Visuals are a powerful part of your marketing toolbox
- There are more than 53 million candid traveler photos on TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor, 2015)
- 76% of TripAdvisor users agree that traveler-submitted photos influence their booking decision (TripAdvisor, 2015)
- Coloured visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80% (Xerox, 2014)
- The decision to read or reject pamphlets and direct mail pieces is made by readers in just 2.5 seconds (Xerox, 2014)
- Colour increases readers' attention spans and recall by 82% (Xerox, 2014)
Key takeaway: Travellers want to visualise potential new experiences. How will it make them feel? What photos will they have to share with friends and family afterwards? To stand out in the tourism industry and inspire travellers to book you over competitors, place compelling visuals centre-stage throughout your marketing.
14. Video can bring huge audiences
Streaming video will account for more than two-thirds of all consumer Internet traffic by 2017, according to Cisco (Cisco, 2015)
- 78% of people watch videos online every week (MWP, 2015)
- YouTube (and even YouTube on mobile alone) reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S (Youtube, 2015)
- 80% of YouTube’s views are from outside of the U.S. (Youtube, 2015)
- More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices. (Youtube, 2015)
- 70% of Gen Zs watch at least two hours of YouTube per day (Upfront Analytics, 2015)
Key takeaway: Make this the season you try video. Your first video might not gain huge transaction immediately, but stick with it for several weeks and listen to the feedback you receive. Is it a worthwhile time investment, for you and your audience?
Our summary: We know, there seems to be a new travel trends article every week. We write a lot of them! But I suggest this: stay alert to the insights you keep hearing about, and above all look out for them in your day-to-day work. As a tour or activity company, it really is worth paying attention to patterns, acting on them, and giving guests what they're looking for. Know your market and who you want to attract to your business -- including who this might be six months or a year down the line.
Looking for trends for 2018? Download the latest report to discover what's influencing consumer behaviour, recent changes in the industry, and marketing must-dos for tourism professionals.
Published by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.