Two years of lockdowns and shifting travel restrictions may not only have created an appetite for “revenge travel,” it may have driven a greater hunger for adventure and more options in how to pay for it.
Those are some of the key takeaways in a new report from WeTravel, an integrated booking and payments platform serving multi-day tour operators. The company’s inaugural travel trends report combined data from more than 3,000 clients — which saw more than a half million bookings — with a survey of nearly 150 additional tour operators and travel organizers.
In comparing new responses on how consumers book and pay for travel with data from 2019, the report reveals how much travelers’ expectations have shifted since the pandemic, says Ted Clements, WeTravel’s CEO. Travelers now expect greater personalization, customization and automation – things they were accustomed to when making purchases from other industries but were slow to find in the travel sector.
“We’ll use the information to help these operators make guided business decisions to support their operations – and their travelers,” Clements says. “With access to global data on the expectation shift from travel consumers, we believe the industry will be better placed to shift their e-commerce solutions to better attract and retain their customers.”
Among the findings in the report:
- Travelers are changing. The average age of travelers who booked and paid for a tour is increasing, up to around 35 now from 30 before the pandemic. And women now account for more than two-thirds of tour and multi-day travel bookings, an increase from almost 60% in 2019.
- Different needs and wants. More than half of the survey respondents stated an increased demand for tours instead of all-inclusive package. And as fears of health- or weather-related cancellations increase, travelers are booking closer to departure.
- Shifting costs and payments. Nearly 90% of the operators surveyed reported trip pricing increases of at least 10%. Travelers are responding by seeking more installment payments.
The report’s findings of rising costs and a push for more payment flexibility is no surprise to Damien Cramer, the global head of airlines and travel for Worldline, a multinational payment and transactional services company.
“Costs are increasing for everybody,” he says. “This also reflects the continuing demand for revenge or catch-up travel, and high demand equals higher prices.”
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And higher prices equal a need for more payment options. The most common payment option in 2019 was a deposit with final payment 30 days prior to departure, according to the WeTravel report. Now the most common option is a deposit followed by four installment payments.
“One of the byproducts of higher prices is customers’ desire to have flexibility in the payment schedule,” Cramer says, noting that his company recently partnered with leading travel payment provider Fly Now Pay Later.
Higher prices may be a factor in the advancing age of the average traveler. The WeTravel survey found the highest growth coming from the 40-55 age group, followed by the 61-plus group.
Not everything in the WeTravel report aligns with what’s been experienced at TourRadar, which operates an online marketplace and booking platform specializing in multi-day organized adventures, cofounder and CEO Travis Pittman says.
One thing that does: an increase in bookings in the 50-plus demographic.
“They do have more disposable income,” Pittman says, “and I think lockdowns and everything else have left them wanting to travel more. They may be thinking, ‘I don’t know how many holidays I have left.’”
TourRadar has also seen increasing interest among travelers 25 and younger. A part of that might have to do with the company’s increased focus on customization, another factor highlighted in the WeTravel report.
“We focused during the pandemic on private and tailor-made functionality on our platform, so that of course has improved,” Pittman says. “But I think it’s both a function of us focusing on it more and a bit of a consumer shift in how they actually view things.”
WeTravel found that more than 85% of its respondents now offer add-ons or customizations to their tours, an increase of nearly 20% since 2019. That might be in part because travelers are seeking more from their trips. Among WeTravel’s respondents, 56% saw increased traveler demand for tours instead of all-inclusive packages.
A greater sense of adventure is something TourRadar’s Pittman believes will be an ongoing trend.
“I do feel our style of travel – organized adventures, as we like to call them – they are more impactful types of travel, so they’re more meaningful,” Pittman says. “People say, ‘Hey, I’ve got $5,000 to spend, do I want to go sit on a beach in Mexico or do I actually want to go to Costa Rica and spend 10 days traveling around and go to a volcano or white-water rafting or staying at a wellness retreat to do some yoga.’”