The broad consumer shift toward experiences has been well known and well documented over the past half-decade.
In the most recent research from Arival and Phocuswright, a
forthcoming consumer study of more than 8,000 travellers worldwide, 58%
of Gen Z and millennial travellers say they are prioritising their
spending on experiences over things. For affluent travelers (household
income of US$150,000 or greater), that preference jumps to 68%.
But what does this mean for the broader travel industry?
From tickets to tours and experiences
The experiences trend is fuelling a strong resurgence in tours and
activities (note Viator’s 179% growth in gross bookings for Q3 2022
versus the same period in 2019). It is also driving – in part – a
notable shift toward small group and private guided experiences vs. the
purchase of individual attraction tickets.
Activity importance drives advance booking
Historically, travellers book most tours and activities either in
destination or closer to departure, but after they have organised their
transportation and accommodation.
However, we found that the booking window is highly correlated to the
perceived importance of a specific tour or activity to a traveller and
their trip. Travellers that place a higher priority on a specific
experience are more likely to book it in advance.
Performing arts and sporting events tend to be booked furthest in
advance, while tours and museum tickets are much more likely to be
booked much closer to the day of the experience. This correlates
directly to the perceived importance of the experience to the traveller.
Someone who follows a musical artist or sports team will organise a
trip around that event, while a traveller on a leisure trip may book a
tour or decide to visit a museum at the last minute.
Gen Z, millennials have different priorities
Younger travellers, however, appear to be taking a different approach
to trip planning and both how and when they book. Why? The shift is
because of experiences.
Travellers 55 and older (older Gen-X and Boomers) are planning their
tours and activities according to historical norms. Most are booking
experiences either in destination or before departure but after
arranging the other components (see next slide).
Younger travellers, 18 to 54 (but primarily Gen-Z and millennials),
are showing a dramatic shift in when they book experiences. More than
seven in 10 say they are planning their tours and activities at the same
time as or before they book transportation and accommodation.
Experiences will drive the future of trip planning
This shift is nothing short of remarkable and has significant
implications for destination marketers, accommodation providers, travel
agencies, OTAs and just about any organisation involved in travel
inspiration, planning and booking.
Younger travellers are putting experiences front and centre. Things
to do will increasingly be central to the destination decision and
overall trip-planning. Travel brands and destinations that lead with
experiences will be best positioned to win over the traveller of today –
and especially tomorrow.