How consumer trends are changing travel

Among today’s trends: powerful consumers and the search for meaning

Consumer trends are emerging that are shaping the travel business in 2011 and beyond. Agents and other people working in the travel industry would be wise to look for ways to capitalise on them. First, hundreds of thousands of baby boomers are reaching retirement age, with time, energy and money on their hands and a yearning for new experiences.

Primarily, they will value the expertise of travel agents above booking over the Internet. Second, the recent economic turmoil and its implications are turning consumers to focus on “meaningful” areas of life that they may not have been fully aware of in the past, including families and friends, self-improvement and spirituality. “For agents, the real strength is in marketing what they have in a different way – offering it to their customers as valuable, meaningful experiences,” one agent explains. “You have to press different buttons.”

Third, environmental awareness is continuing to evolve as a factor influencing consumer choices. “Concern about sustainability and the planet is top of mind for everybody,” says a San Francisco company that advises global Fortune 100 companies. Agents are advised to “seek out companies doing green things that are cool” and “use that as a selling tool.” Fourth, it’s important to remember that marketing is losing its power, as consumers recommend travel products to other consumers with ease via social networking and other channels.

Other discernable consumer trends affecting travel include : growing numbers of single women, many of them over 50, travelling with their friends; an increasingly defensive mindset over spending a lot of hard-earned money in case something goes wrong, where agents must think of ways of putting stressed minds at ease; the power of consumers in creating news and stories that influence culture and public thinking in unpredictable ways, such as on YouTube; and generally the universality and ubiquity of the Internet in influencing consumer choices.

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