Guest Post: The traveller preferences that will shape 2023 and beyond

Guest Post: The traveller preferences that will shape 2023 and beyond

Cheryl Miller, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Expedia for Business, says points to the key findings in the OTA's Traveler Value Index 2023

After several years of lockdowns and restricted travel the appetite for travel has never been bigger. 

According to Expedia Group’s recent Traveler Value Index 2023 study, nearly half of consumers globally (46%) feel that travel is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic, and almost as many (43%) are planning to increase their travel budgets in 2023. 

The number of people who say they are planning to take a leisure trip within the next year is also on the rise, with more than two-thirds (79%) planning to do so. 

As the travel industry continued to rebound last year, there is no question that it also experienced unprecedented, and likely permanent, changes. 

Arguably the most significant change is the higher expectations travellers now have for their entire travel experience. 

Expedia Group’s Traveller Value Index examined what travellers truly want, and how travel professionals can tap into that demand to provide the best end-to-end experience possible.

New Motivators for Travel

As a starting point, travel professionals should be aware of why people are travelling. 

According to the study, nearly half (49%) of consumers cited mental and physical well-being and change of scenery as their top reasons for travel in 2022, and self-care will continue to remain a priority in 2023. 

Many people also view travel as a way to gain new experiences (43%) and get out of their comfort zones (22%). 

Loyalty programs are also increasing in importance. More than half of consumers (53%) say that it is more important to travel with loyalty providers than before the pandemic, with 52% valuing discounted pricing from those programs the most. 

The good news is that 75% of travel providers are operating loyalty programs to encourage repeat bookings. 

It is important to make processes for redeeming these points and vouchers as easy as possible to capitalise on this demand and ensure travellers start off their trips right.

Flexibility is Still In Demand

The travel industry is far less tumultuous today than it was during the height of the pandemic. 

However, travel preference has permanently shifted to favour flexible reservation policies in case the need to change or cancel a trip should arise. 

In fact, nearly half of the respondents would not book non-refundable lodging or transportation domestically, and more than half say they wouldn’t book non-refundable lodging or transportation for an international trip. 

An overwhelming number of travel businesses adapted to this change in consumer behaviour. 

Ninety-six per cent say they offer refundable services or credits, and most of them (77%) introduced some of their refundable offerings because of the pandemic. 

Travel providers who offer flexible policies will be the ones best positioned to give travellers peace of mind in times of continued uncertainty.

Travellers Will Vote with Their Values

Travellers are increasingly choosing to book with providers that align with their personal values. In fact, more than two-thirds (70%) say they are more likely to choose more inclusive travel options, even if it means paying more. 

A staggering eight in ten (78%) of consumers say that they’ve made a travel purchase based on promotions or ads they feel represent them through messaging or visuals. 

The travel industry is quickly adapting to this continuing trend: three in five organizations (60%) made changes in the last year to ensure their services are inclusive and accessible, and an additional 21% have plans to do so.

UK travellers searching for last minute getaways 

Consumers in the UK are the most eager to set sail overseas, with forty-three per cent of UK consumers revealing they are very likely to book or have already booked an international trip in the next 12 months, ranking higher than the global average (30%) internationally. 

This eagerness has transpired into last-minute bookings, with almost half (49%) of UK consumers comfortable booking trips less than a month in advance. 

Therefore, it is unsurprising that flexibility is the most valuable policy for UK travellers when choosing booking providers. 

As air travel returns to popularity, UK travel professionals and consumers are aligned on ranking full refunds as the top priority when travelling via plane.

Travellers are rapidly becoming more savvy as they place greater importance on travel as a way to heal and reconnect with the world. 

It is vital for the industry that travel organisations continue to adapt with flexible, sustainable, and value-driven options to not only attract consumers, but to follow through on the promise to delight travellers from the booking experience to the taxi ride home.