||Research Shows U.S. Travelers Are Pressed for Time, Eager to Relax
The latest snapshot of U.S. travelers reveals them to be a stressed-out bunch who remain sensitive to price and continue to suffer from a syndrome known as "time poverty."
That could prove to be a challenge for the tourism industry in many parts of the country, but there is good news as well in the newest research by the travel research-and-marketing firm Ypartnership. For one thing, the number of people who say they are planning to take a leisure trip in the near future is rising, a sign that demand is returning.
When asked about their travel intentions, 61 percent of those surveyed said they planned to take a vacation by October, up from 56 percent at this time last year. About 14 percent of travelers said they plan to take at least one business trip during the same period, on par with a year ago.
"It's pretty obvious that the destiny of the travel industry is listing toward leisure," Peter Yesawich, the company's chief executive officer, told hoteliers recently during a gathering of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.
Yesawich drew his conclusions from two sets of data: the Ypartnership/Harrison Group 2011 Portrait of American Travelers and a quarterly poll of traveler intentions.
When it comes to finances, travelers say they're more concerned this year about just about everything: the cost of gas, the cost of airline tickets, the economy in general. More than a third say they're using coupons more often, and 31 percent say they're waiting for sales more frequently.
"We're still seeing people looking for the best deal," said Scott Tripoli, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal. "A lot of shopping going on out there, a lot of third-party bookings."
To lure price-sensitive travelers, some in the industry have turned to time-sensitive discounts -- also known as flash sales -- that encourage consumers to make quick decisions when booking.
A full 20 percent of leisure travelers said they have purchased a travel service through a flash-sale email, up from 14 percent last year, according to Ypartnership. Private sales and collective buying, on websites such as Sniqueaway.com or via companies like Groupon and LivingSocial, are also catching on.
At the Mona Lisa Suite Hotel in Celebration, Fla., flash sales are a part of the marketing plan, used to drive demand during slower months such as August and September. The hotel recently offered a two-night stay in a suite, with complimentary breakfast, for $184.99 a person on Overstock.com's vacations website.
The short-term sales, generally good for a few hours to a few days, create a sense of urgency and are effective in helping consumers focus on a purchase decision, said Deborah Farish, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.
"As long as you have a wonderful offer, something that is intriguing, something the consumer perceives as added value, you can get great success," she said. "If you put the flash up, you often see immediate results."
While flash sales are gaining speed, Yesawich says the "long-form vacation" is losing ground. Pressed for time -- something Yesawich terms "time poverty" -- travelers are abandoning the weeklong escape and looking instead for close, quick getaways.
And when they do arrive at their quick getaway, travelers want to be able to relax as soon as possible. That's one reason the hotel spa is one of the hottest amenities in the industry, Yesawich said.
And with no time to spare, even during a vacation, consumers expect to have their expectations met.
"Tolerance for anything going wrong today is zero," Yesawich said.
(Source: Orlando Sentinel, 07/25/11)
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