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Study anticipates the travel x-factor for the 2020 consumer

Over the next 15 years an increase in consumer confidence coupled with a desire to satisfy individual tastes will significantly reshape vacation aspirations and frequency according to a new report.
‘The World of Travel in 2020’ study, commissioned by global travel giant, Cendant Travel Distribution Services, predicts that travelers, young and old, will challenge traditional vacations as they seek, on average, up to four very different experiences a year. A passion for ‘doing’ rather than ‘having’ will double the number of consumers flying by 2020. Choice of location and activities is expected to vary enormously as future travelers adopt a check-list mentality which entails buying a series of one-off experiential vacations.

Delivered by The Future Foundation, the report explores the attitudinal, social, economic, cultural and technological drivers that will affect consumers in key travel markets and shape the future of the global travel industry. Significant findings include:

‘One size fits all’ approach will no longer work - WTO estimates that by 2020 the average traveler will be taking up to four vacations a year in an expansion of the current trend for more short breaks. According to the study, over the next 15 years people will increasingly want to be differentiated by what they do, not what they buy and this will drive a desire for experience-driven travel.

In their pursuit for individualism, consumers will look for new experiences such as controlled danger, unusual environments and cultures, personal or physical improvement and emotional development. They will not, however, wish to re-visit the same place. Loyalty to a travel supplier will be driven by an intermediary’s ability to deliver a fresh stream of one-off experimental vacations.

Luxury will no longer equate to the most expensive - A trend towards inconspicuous consumption will mean that luxury will equate to the things money can’t buy, such as time to spend with a child or partner, or pursuing a passion. As a result, affluent consumers will increasingly incorporate ‘extremes of value’ into a vacation. They are likely to combine pampering with personal development and purchase vacations based on emotional, not financial values.


In response, travel companies will have to redefine their luxury offers. For example, the study points to an expected increase in authentic cultural encounters, or anthro-tourism, as more consumers look for the opportunity to experience different cultures first hand. 

Taking a bite out of the travel ‘stress sandwich’ - 77 percent of people believe that life moves at a faster pace nowadays.  In this 24/7 society, streamlining the travel process to minimize travel stress will hold much higher appeal to the time-poor traveler of 2020. ‘Seamless travel’ providers will become more important as consumers demand more time-convenient flights, the ability to check-in and have a boarding pass before getting to the airport, better connections, on-line visas and either a waiting private car transfer or a “good to go” rental car without a queue and paperwork at their destination. The study also suggests that personal service will increasingly outweigh price as the key differentiator.

Changing family structures will have important implications on product and cost structure - The changing nature of family life will have significant implications for how and when people travel. Within the next 15 years we can expect to see more flexible travel formats and cost structures to suit different family compositions, for example, a single mother traveling with her friend and her two children, grandparents with a single child etc. The growth of the aspiring ‘3rd Age Traveler’ will also drive a series of new, dynamic travel products for a generation who reject the passive vacations so often targeted at them. As a retired population, which is younger and fitter than ever before, they do not wish to be labeled as old and see this 3rd stage in their life as a ticket to a huge array of affordable, active, exciting travel experiences.

Self improvement of the traditional beach getaway - This is not to say that the package vacation will disappear. There will still be demand for less specialized vacations by families and individuals with lower disposable incomes - and in particular, by a new wave of affluent middle class consumers from China, Brazil, Russia and India. However, the study also predicts that even the low-key beach vacation will need to incorporate exciting, self-improving, educational or cultural elements to meet the new aspirations of the 2020 tourist.

Commenting on the findings, Ken Esterow, president and CEO, Cendant Travel Distribution Services, Americas, said, “In the future, travel will be viewed not just as a vacation but a way of culturally differentiating yourself. Customers no longer want just a trip, they want a memorable, custom-designed travel experience, whether it is for business or leisure.  ‘The World of Travel 2020’ study demonstrates that in order to capitalize on this, the industry needs to move from selling travel components to assembling complete end-to-end travel experiences.” 

Esterow added, “The future of selling travel belongs to those bold enough to create it. At Cendant Travel Distribution Services, we see a future vision of ‘selling the world to the world’. We’ve created a true global travel network, linked with a nimble and powerful delivery capability that enables our traditional travel agents and online travel agencies to sell travel in exciting new ways. Without question, travel sellers will need technology that allows them to easily find amenities and local information to deliver a differentiated experience. We believe the future of travel and travel distribution will be in merchandizing lifetime travel experiences.”