In what might be the world's first "spontaneity report," 2,200 residents of the island nation of the United Kingdom have been surveyed about spontaneous travel. Or, as the report bills it, "the largest ever independent study into British spontaneity."
The report delves into the current realities of "spontaneous travel and leisure behavior," and the limitations to growth in that particular segment of travel. The name belies the overarching theme of opportunity being left on the table: "Spontaneity: The Behaviour That Means Business."
This work was the effort of the London School of Economics and BDRC Continental, with the poll conducted by OnePoll in September 2013, and was underwritten by the spontaneity-loving folks at lastminute.com.
Methodology and the current state of spontaneous travel
The report pegged the current amount added to the economy from spontaneously-planned travel at £26.1bn annually. And the report claims that a further £8.2 billion is being left on the table due to the lack of full leverage within this segment of the travel industry.
The survey was constructed to look at the following types of trips:
- "A holiday away from home in your own country of at least 4 nights staying in either paid for or private accommodation."
- "A holiday away from home overseas of at least 4 nights staying in either paid for or private accommodation."
- "A short break away from home in your own country of between 1-3 nights staying either in paid for or private accommodation."
- "A short break away from home overseas of between 1-3 nights staying either in paid for or private accommodation."
During these trips, the economic activity was measured by asking about these experiences:
- "Days out activity experiences participating in paid for activities such as water sports, flying, motorcar racing, adventure sports such as paintballing, photo-shoot or day spa."
- "Days out destination experiences to paid for attractions such as a zoo, special exhibition at a museum, theme park, aquarium, stately home and garden etc. This excludes places at which people are already a member e.g. if you have National Trust membership."
- "Live entertainment experiences at paid for events such as live music shows & festivals, cabaret, comedy, theatre and sporting events, premiership football, Wimbledon etc."
- "Restaurant experiences i.e. paid for meals not for work purposes."
The statisticians then took this dollar value and substituted in what would happen if the cohort was behaving as they currently wished. The opportunity for increased travel activity was an average of £521 per person, which breaks down thusly:
One of the pressing issues related to the current state of spontaneity in the UK is to dispel the long-held vision of the UK as a risk-averse, traditional society not especially interested in leading an unplanned, spontaneous life. So the report makes a point to state that 1 in 3 Britons - or 17 million - have softened their attitudes and have a "truly spontaneous personality type."
This methodology used to determine this level of spontaneity is called the "UK Spontaneity Scale," and was adapted from Kipper and Shemer by Dr. Ben Voyer for the survey. It asked those surveyed to self-identify with different personality traits which correlated to different levels of spontaneous behavior.
The scale asked repondents to rate how they felt throughout their day: ‘Free to invent’, ‘Alive’, ‘Energized’, ‘Uninhibited’, ‘Do whatever, within limits’, ‘Free’ and ‘To act, even outrageously’. Respondents were then awarded an average "spontaneity score."
Outside of this personality research, Britons are already taking a modicum of spontaneous trips, with a third of British travel spend going to these sorts of trips. Of the 5.62 trips enjoyed, 2.13 were booked three weeks or less before departure. The research also found that one pound out of three was spent on spontaneous trips and outings - or £1,933 out of £6,073.
Even so, these statistics could be even more compelling, as 31% of respondents stated that they would like to book more short breaks. And 24% said that they would be more inclined to do more last minute travel with fewer barriers.
Technologies driving spontaneity
Survey sponsors Lasminute.com have seen an increase in smartphone bookings alongside a decrease in booking window. Last year, 38% of UK bookings were day-of and 40% of flights were within 3 days of travel. The company predicts that the majority of hotel bookings via smartphone will be within 24 hours in 2017, with flight bookings doubling within a 48-hour window.
With this sea change in consumer habits, technology becomes even more important for travel brands to succeed in driving spontaneous behavior. Of course, many in the industry would prefer to keep this sort of behavior in balance with more time-generous planning.
Nonetheless, the opportunity for travel suppliers to book distressed inventory is very real, as lastminute.com CEO Matthew Crummack points out:
“In August 2013 almost every fifth (17%) seat on a plane that left Heathrow was empty, that’s the equivalent of an estimated 110 aircraft unfilled each day. Last year, almost one in four (24%) hotel rooms in the UK lay unoccupied and one in three (31%) West End theatre seats went unsold.
Match this with mobile technologies fuelling last minute demand, a growing consumer appetite for travel and leisure at short notice and it is evident the travel industry needs to take greater advantage of available technology to improve revenue and yield management strategies. Every business and individual in the travel space must do their bit to tackle the barriers that limit customer spontaneity."
So what needs to be done to get Brits out on unplanned adventures?
The report has a clear agenda - to catalyze an industry-wide conversation on getting this particular demographic out and traveling more - the rising tide lifts all boats, including the sponsor's in this case.
The report identifies 5 specific hurdles to clear for more spontaneous business, many of which are economic and systemic - but nonetheless offer a look into the consumer psyche.
- Money #1: This is a key issue for anyone looking to travel more, with 60% of those surveyed unable to travel spontaneously due to life costs. Also, 57% of surveyed prefer saving to spending, with 53% of those worried about spending too much with an uncertain economy.
- Money #2: Travel is too expensive for 56% in the UK, given that close-in flights are more expensive. 63% said that accommodations were too expensive, especially among parents - 68% of which said the high costs of going away during holidays was preventing them from traveling more.
- Work: Demands at the workplace prevent flexible travel plans, with 41% not being able to holiday at short notice and 38% having to accomodate colleagues' holiday plans when they make their own.
- Indecision: This is a very revealing statistic, as 30% can't decide where to go, 29% don't have enough time to research and 34% are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. This is an area that travel brands would see return on investment.
- Mistrust of mobile: Another area of concern for travel brands is that 32% of Britons don't trust mobile bookings. That still leaves 68% who are ready to rock on mobile, so be sure to keep serving these folks while breaking down barriers to adoption for the others.
As this survey is clearly tied to the company's brand - it is "lastminute.com" after all - the company has pledged to "work with the industry towards a more spontaneous Briton. This is a tall order in a country not often seen as traditionally spontaneous, and so the company has released their very own manifesto: "Manifesto for a more spontaneous Britain."
The company has pledged to roll this out in their own UK products over the next three years, allowing for the following by 2017:
Challenge the travel industry to respond to spontaneous Brits’ changing expectations. We’ll be working with our partners to help them be more flexible with their prices and availability. So it’ll be easier for customers to make spontaneous choices.
Set new standards in the last minute mobile booking window. By working with our customers and partners to increase trust in the technology. And make sure people using their mobiles to book can get the deals they want.
Help customers live more spontaneous lifestyles by challenging and rewarding them. We’ll encourage our customers to share their experiences, stories and inspiration on our spontaneity channels.
With these results, the company hopes to catalyze the industry towards supporting a more spontaneous Britain - whether or not that happens is up to the consideration of the Brits, and for now at least, the ability of the travel industry to facilitate increased spontaneity in travel.
NB: Device image courtesy Shutterstock.