College students spend an estimated $14.8 billion annually on travel, according to a recent survey by Future Pages, COLLEGeMEDIA GURUS, and Memolink.com.
For travel marketers trying to reach this prime market, the survey indicates that the Internet is the most promising way to communicate with these students. College students use the Internet more than any other medium to research travel destinations, and to shop for travel deals or discounts.
Students increasingly are using the Internet to research travel and find discounts. According to the survey results:
Nearly 58 percent research travel destinations online
51 percent research destinations through someone they know
About 25 percent research destinations through travel agents or a magazine
About 50 percent learn about travel deals, discounts and programs on the Web or through friends and family
Over 10 percent use the Web exclusively for finding deals
26 percent learn about deals through travel agents
25 percent receive email notice of special offers
The survey found that students take more than 66 million trips a year.Thirty percent of the respondents travel more than 150 miles between three and five times a year, generally by car. More than 72 percent of students surveyed have travelled internationally during college, mostly during their freshman, sophomore or junior years.
Based on the survey, FuturePages estimates that students spend nearly $14.8 billion on domestic and international travel a year. Of those surveyed, about 40 percent said they spent between $201 and $750 during the last year on domestic travel. Over 70 percent of this travel is financed with students` personal funds.
When it comes to purchasing tickets, the survey found:
more than 54 percent of respondents have purchased travel tickets online, over 14 percent purchase travel arrangements exclusively online, 27 percent have purchased travel through a discount travel Web site (Travelocity.com, expedia.com).
Those who haven`t purchased online most frequently cited a desire to speak with a live person when purchasing travel as the reason why they haven`t purchased online.
“The Internet is a powerful tool for travel marketers trying to reach college students,” said Tom Borgerding, vice president and co-founder of FuturePages. “Students are very receptive to online promotions and gathering information independently through Web sites. They rely on the Internet for travel research more than friends recommendations. If students are not purchasing online, their main reason is because they feel more comfortable having the customer service of a live person.”
Broken down further:
More than 21 percent have purchased through an offline travel agency versus 20 percent who have used online travel agencies
14 percent only use a travel agency when purchasing tickets
32 percent said they have contacted a travel provider (airline, bus, train) directly to purchase travel
Almost 10 percent have purchased through a travel company Web site
Over 28 percent use “another source” such as parents or another third party to purchase travel
More than 62 percent of those surveyed said that family was the biggest influence on travel purchases, 58 percent said cost was the largest consideration. When traveling via a commercial service versus by car, almost 64 percent said that cost was the determining factor in purchasing. Yet, nearly 65 percent said they don`t use student discounts when they travel or belong to a travel awards program such as a frequent flier club.Timing also is a big influence on student travel. Seventy-seven percent said they travel during summer break; 59 percent during spring break.
Borgerding said, “The survey suggests that in order to have the biggest impact, travel companies should time travel deals and promotional efforts to students around major school breaks.”