The automotive club giant AAA has forecast that during the upcoming season holiday travel across the USA is set to break all records. An upward-looking economy, lowest prices at the pump since 2009, and Christmas and New Year both falling on a Thursday have created the perfect storm for travelers.
Long weekends at either end have prompted people to strike out on holiday travel up to 50 miles from home to meet friends, family or just enjoy some good old holiday cheer. The federal government and some private companies are generously giving Dec 26 off as a paid holiday.
Megan Saxon, a travel manager with AAA says the holiday travel season this year is expected to extend from Dec. 19, when schools give out, to Jan 4, 2015. Roads are expected to be swarmed by Dec 23. The lean travel days will fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Gas prices are expected to drop by another 10 to 20 cents by Christmas Day. The national average price of a gallon of gas is $2.55, 69 cents less than 2013.
Airlines for America vice-president, John Heimlich, expects 45 million passengers onboard U.S. carriers over the holiday travel season. In preparation for this rush airlines are flying large capacity aircraft to add on extra seats. Average round-trip airfares are expected to fall seven percent across 40 of the top domestic routes.
As holiday travel this season is set to break all records, AAA predicts that up to 99 million vacationers will take off for the holidays. Of these 91 million are expected to take to the roads. Air travel is projected to go up by 4 percent from 2013, in itself a record year. These are the highest numbers AAA has on record since it started maintaining statistics for 2001.
A huge contributing factor is the new generation of millennials who are traveling more than ever before. Business or holiday travel is something they take as a part of life, and attune themselves very easily to it. They are spontaneous, think nothing of instant, flexible plans, multi-destination hops and hotel-stays and arrange it all on their mobile devices.
These projected numbers have big implications for the travel and hospitality companies. The holiday travel rush is an enormous opportunity to engage consumers, drive sales and deliver profitable results. Consumers’ habits and trends in searching for destinations, purchasing tickets and booking flights, give invaluable insight. The data provides a look inside customer demand, interest and intent. This is actionable information for the savvy marketer.
Often a disconnect between what customers are looking for and marketers are offering prevents tangible results. To avoid this loss of effort, time and potential revenues, it is vital for the related industries to understand what is working, and, even more, what is not.
Consumer Demand for Autumn Travel by BrightEdge is a report that studies how travel and hospitality products currently engage and maximize customer demands. It looks at who is succeeding and who is not, and how performance can be improved through three key takeaways.
Understanding and delivering on consumers’ holiday travel desires is paramount. It is not just about the mode and logistics of travel alone. They need expert destination advice, good deals, recommendations for dining, sightseeing, entertainment, shopping, activities etc. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Tripadvisor are hitting the sweet spot. OTAs make up nine of the top 10 players. They outperform individual airlines and retailers in anticipating and providing consumer demand across different travel channels.
The drive should be to meet consumers more than halfway; to go the extra mile and get ahead of their interests. Historical data can help to recognize vital signs that shine focus on these areas. Knowing where and how the targeted audience travels, and understanding seasonal trends and influences gives a competitive edge. Consumers appreciate having things simplified, and tend to gravitate towards full-service agencies.
Understanding the competitive landscape and knowing one’s place within this ecosystem is integral to success. The industry is a crowded field. A company has to be unique to stand out. By finding, studying and filling the gaps that are failing to meet expectations, a company can position itself as a domain expert in that niche and enjoy the success that comes with it.
Holiday Travel for the 2014-2015 season is set to break all records since 2001. How individual travel, hospitality and technology companies fare will depend on their ability to engage consumers and boost revenue. They will need to understand consumer demand and maximize their product offerings.
By Bina Joseph
Photo by Michele Solmi – Flickr License