by Peter J. Bates

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Happening With Today's Traveler? - Fees & Social Media

Last time I wrote, I shared insights about popular/less popular destinations and travel trends of today’s affluent consumer based on a survey Strategic Vision conducted with approximately 50 travel advisors at the owner or manager level. We learned that Italy was one of the most popular destinations for bookings in the last six months, Southeast Asia and the U.S. are trending up destinations, Hawaii and villa rentals in Italy and France continue to grow in popularity for family travel (a burgeoning trend in itself), and much more. We also heard from numerous agencies that are experiencing different trends than those surveyed, so I’d like to thank those who shared their feedback.

Keeping the dialogue going, here I review survey results on the subjects of ancillary fees and social media. 

We’ve been concerned about fees and wanted to follow the conversation.  Respondents overwhelmingly believed in clearly outlining all fees to their clients – whether ancillary fees from hotels and airlines or service charges from travel agencies – so there are no surprises.  One respondent said their agency has a spreadsheet with all ancillary expenses clearly defined, and that travel counselors “are trained to explain each fee along the way.”  Respondents noted that fees are a “sign of the times” and “part of today’s landscape,” and one commented that “it is a way of life but there are ways around it.”

While the fees are not necessarily a “major issue questioned by luxury clients” because most are “used to them” and not “price-sensitive,” clients do demand more transparency so as to understand exactly what they are paying. This desire for transparency goes beyond fees – clients are continuing to require a cost breakdown for all the elements of their trip.

In terms of agency fees, they cover “time, research and expertise” for “customized services beyond the travel components,” and clients tend to be “amiable” if they understand what the charges are for.

How do the affluent use social media?  According to our survey, they primarily use it for research, reviews and recommendations, to verify information agencies provide, to share information, and “to tell their vacation story” – but they aren’t using it for booking travel.

TripAdvisor, other online sites, and Facebook, Twitter, etc. are an “informational resource” but one agency did report seeing “bookings from people contacting them on Yelp.”

According to some agencies, age plays a role when it comes to social media usage.  One agency said that “younger travelers consult social media” while “older travelers use more conventional personal methods.”  Another said they “don’t think luxury clients are putting their trips on Facebook” (for safety reasons and so they aren’t perceived as bragging) “but their children are.”

How are agencies adapting in this social media landscape?  While a few agencies still admit they haven’t acclimated much in the social media realm, the majority are: 
  • Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest
  •  Bolstering their websites with accurate content
  •  Blogging to speak to “the recency of travel advisors’ experiences” for added credibility and authenticity

Agencies are also exploring how to do more with social media, and at least one noted they have a dedicated staff person to handle and engage social media platforms. For one agency, text messages “to communicate are more popular” but they only do this to select customers; it is a not a policy across their entire customer database.

A big thank you to the travel advisors who continue to work closely with us to identify trends.  Their keen insight continues to prove to be of immeasurable value so that luxury marketers can make smart, on-point decisions about their strategic efforts.

This travel advisor research complements Strategic Vision’s two other market research platforms – surveys to affluent consumers, and a panel of more than 20 meeting planners and incentive specialists. .  Contact me for more information.

As always, I welcome your feedback.  Let’s keep the conversation going.


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