Summer Travelers Take to the ‘Net and the Road

For many Americans, “summer” and “vacation” are synonymous and Accenture is predicting that nearly as many consumers are planning leisure travel activities this year as they did last year.

The research, conducted among more than 950 consumers in the U.S., indicates that 70 percent of consumers (versus 71 percent last year) plan to take a vacation, and the vast majority (79 percent) will travel as much as or more than they did in the last year.

Accenture finds that 44 percent will travel by air – an increase of 26 percent over last year. Additionally, 38 percent plan to visit mid-priced chain hotels – an increase of 30 percent over last year. A large portion of leisure travelers cited location and price as the most important factors when selecting accommodations – 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

“Traffic is definitely rebounding, but the industry will continue to face the challenge of creating long-term cost efficiencies while simultaneously targeting consumers with the right services and amenities,” said Ron Stewart, global managing partner, Accenture Travel Services industry group.

The Internet is instrumental to consumer travel with 63 percent of consumers booking their air travel electronically, such as an online travel service or an airline’s Web site. Fewer than one-quarter (22 percent) will use a travel agent.

Other findings include:

  • 20 percent of consumers will stay at economy chain hotels – an increase of 49 percent over 2001.
  • 20 percent will go camping, 15 percent will stay at bed & breakfasts and 39 percent will visit friends or family
  • 77 percent plan to drive during some part(s) of their trip – an increase of 22 percent over 2001.
  • 58 percent reported that frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs do not affect their decisions concerning hotel and airline carriers.

Comprehensive research from Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich Partners (YP&D) supports Accenture’s findings, indicating that the travel industry may be rebounding from last year’s events and a troubled economy.

“The results of this year’s survey [of more than 1,351 leisure and 1,200 business travelers taken during the first quarter of 2002] indicate clearly that the industry is poised for a recovery,” said Peter C. Yesawich, president and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown. “There is still a small minority of travelers hesitant to travel too far from home, but there are far more people who are ready to reclaim their vacations from the fear and emotional trauma that devastated the industry in the aftermath of September 11th. The numbers bode well for the forthcoming summer travel season.”

YP&D finds that 53 percent obtain information and rates online (up from 47 percent last year). More than half (55 percent) of business travelers consulted the Internet to obtain information, fares and rates during the past 12 months, the same percentage as last year.

Additionally, 39 percent of travelers who go online think the Internet is easier and faster to use for travel planning than a travel agent, and 44 percent of business travelers feel the same way. Thirty-two percent of leisure travelers actually made a reservation online during the past 12 months and almost all (90 percent) of both leisure and business travelers state that the Web site feature they value most is “being able to check the lowest rates for airfare, hotels and car rental companies.”

“Even though Internet usage is higher among leisure travelers today than in 2001, it is important to note that fully three out of every 10 leisure travelers still use the services of a travel agent. This is particularly true among older and more affluent travelers. Contrary to the expectations of some industry analysts, travel agents still play a very important role in directing leisure travel demand,” Yesawich said.

Other interesting facts that came out of YP&D’s study include:

  • 81 percent of travelers choose destinations they have never visited before; 67 percent prefer the sand and surf of the beach; 51 percent visit arts/architectural and historic sites; 46 percent choose destinations that are remote and untouched; and 45 percent go to theme parks.
  • The “dream destinations” for Americans remain similar to those identified last year. Florida (40 percent), California (38 percent), Colorado (19 percent), Hawaii (19 percent) and Arizona (18 percent) top the list of states. The out islands of Hawaii (71 percent), national parks (66 percent), Honolulu (65 percent), Florida Keys (59 percent) and mountain resorts of Colorado (55 percent) top the individual destination list. Western Europe (71 percent), Australia (25 percent) and the Caribbean (18 percent) rank highest for international destinations, while the Middle East (6 percent) was the lowest for any international destination mentioned in the survey.

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