Just As You Thought: Consumers Keep Traveling

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A new study from Ypartnership and Harrison Group confirms what most hoteliers have known since the beginning of the recession: no matter what, American consumers are still going to travel. The trick, of course, is to capture more than your fair share of that business. And, according to the study, that's done through value, deals and, I hate to say it, lower rates.

The survey of 2,500 households with annual incomes of more than $50,000 showed the group averaged four leisure trips in the past 12 months; 16 percent say they'll take more trips this year than last; and two-thirds will take the same number as last year.

And since most of those surveyed say the economy is forcing them to moderate their shopping and consumption behavior, they're all looking for deals and special offers or to trade down in their travel choices. More than a third say they're more interested in coupons of direct offers this year than last. An equal number look for sales. And it logically follows that these travelers turn to the Internet to plan and shop their travel.

However, in what should be a jolting data point for hotel marketers, 66 percent of the group say they use online travel agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz) to book travel, versus 48 percent who use branded sites (Hilton.com, Hertz.com). Just a few (15 percent) turn to meta search sites such as Kayak or Dealbase.

The bottom line is that Americans still consider travel a birthright and they're not willing to give it up. However, at the same time, no one wants to pay retail anymore, so you'd better be creative in your marketing, i.e., produce value as cleverly as you can, in order to beat your competitors.

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