Consumer Behavioural Attitudes: Implications for eTourism

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Last month, the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in collaboration with Elsevier organised the 2nd World Research Summit for Tourism and Hospitality in Orlando. During this inspiring event, one of the keynote speeches featured some interesting findings from a national US survey entitled; ‘The Portrait of American Travellers’. This quantitative study consisted of 2,511 informants (who reportedly were active leisure travellers in 2013); who reside in households with an annual income of $50,000 or more (they also included “affluent travellers” with an annual income over $125,000); who have taken at least one leisure trip of 75 miles or more from home during the previous 12 months (who have used overnight accommodations).

The survey, which was conducted during February 2013, has provided an in-depth examination of the impact of the current economic environment, prevailing social values, and emerging media habits on the travel behaviour of Americans. Unlike most surveys in the travel category this particular study explained how consumers plan, purchase and share information about their travel experiences. It also revealed some of the underlying motivations that often influence travel decisions. Respondents were selected randomly and screened before they voluntarily participated in a 45-minute online survey. The study indicated that all tests of statistical significance were made at the 95 percent level of confidence.

In a nutshell, this American study has shown that the latest advances in technological developments and additional sources of information are increasingly influencing the tourists’ choice of tourism destinations. Apparently, travellers are becoming more frugal in their purchase decisions. They are often making smarter options, seeking better value and good deals in return for their money. Travel shopping sites such as Kayak and Dealbase have gained in popularity and are now used to make travel reservations by 28 percent of travellers. Interestingly, this figure rose from a mere 15 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, six in 10 leisure travellers (58 percent) typically use an online travel agency (OTA) such as Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz to research travel. Yet, at the same time the use of OTAs to make travel reservations is down from 66 percent in 2010 to 58 percent in 2013.

Evidently, the tourism and hospitality enterprises have become cautious in pricing their products (and services) and they often resort to revenue management tactics. This study suggests that travellers are planning to spend slightly more on travel / vacations as 82 percent of the informants have indicated that they are planning to take as many (or even more) trips in 2014 when compared to last year.

Some of the most significant results of this study include:

  • Low Cost versus Legacy Carriers: Since the cost of travel remains a major issue in influencing leisure travel preferences, it follows that half of all leisure travellers (47%) prefer travelling on a low-cost carrier. Only three in ten (30%) prefer to fly on a full-service carrier. However, one-quarter (23%) have no preference. And it should be noted that leisure travellers are significantly more likely to prefer a low-cost carrier today than in previous years – in 2010 only 42% favoured such carriers.
  • Digital Marketing: More than eight in ten leisure travellers use the internet to either obtain travel information (87%) or make travel reservations (83%). 54 percent have downloaded airline branded apps, followed by hotel branded apps (38 percent), and destination guides (27 percent).
  • E-Commerce: More leisure travellers now access the internet via a smartphone (62%) than from the office (59%). Four in ten (43%) also now access the internet from a tablet. Access to the internet via tablets jumped from 7% of all leisure travellers in 2011 to 43% in 2013.
  • Mobile E-Commerce: Smartphone usage among travellers has nearly tripled since 2010, and the act of downloading travel-related applications has also increased dramatically – from 19 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2013. Among travellers who have downloaded travel related apps,
  • Social Media: Only 17% of leisure travellers with household incomes over $250,000 have confidence in the information read or seen on a social media site about potential travel destinations. This is significantly lower than the percentage of those with lower household incomes; 25% of leisure travellers with household incomes of $50,000–$124,999 and 21% with household incomes of $125,000–$249,999 have confidence in social media when considering vacation destinations.
  • Word of Mouth. Eight out of ten travellers (82 percent) expressed confidence in the recommendations of friends and family members when considering vacation destinations, while six in ten (58 percent) turned to online advisory sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.com. Approximately four in ten travellers (41 percent) are confident in consumer reviews read on a blog, while slightly less (39 percent) are confident in articles found in newspapers, magazines, TV and radio.
  • Going Green for Green. Though eight out of 10 leisure travellers (79 percent) describe themselves as environmentally conscious, just 10 percent are willing to pay higher rates/fares for environmentally-friendly travel services, and only one in 10 (11 percent) has selected an environmentally-friendly travel service supplier who demonstrates environmental responsibility. Four in 10 (44 percent) indicated that they would probably choose an environmentally-friendly travel supplier who expresses concern about the environment over one who does not.
  • Consumer Outlook: Three-fourths of leisure travellers (73%) are optimistic about their own future and the future of their children (73%), while six in ten are optimistic about the future of their job (62%) or company (61%).

For more information about these latest travel and tourism industry insights are also available on MMG Worldwide.

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