Traveler Behavior Study Part 1: Multiday Tourism’s Grim Outlook

PathWrangler has been reimagined and is in the process of completing rebuilding and releasing it.  But why?

Unlike Moses, there was no burning bush that told us to go up to a mountain, retrieve a completed product and then commanded to market it to the people.  Also, our product manager didn’t part the Red Sea on the way there.

So, we did it the old fashioned way.  We’ve collected a lot of user stories, anecdotes and had some intuition.  But, we also needed some data.  We’re going to share that with you here today.

Earlier this year, I created a fake marketing company called “LookupHere Marketing.”  We created a number of surveys and went right to the consumers about their travel habits.  What we found astounded us.  Not in that it confirmed some intuitions that we had, but primarily because of the scale of how deeply the travel industry is incorrectly aligned to meet the needs of these respondents.

Note: we’ll put this data in just a simple format.

We interviewed 4,113 people.  That’s a nice solid sample.  Here’s the breakdown:

Gender:

Gender Percentage
Women 52%
Men 48%

 

Income Level ($USD):

Income Percentage
Less than 10k 6%
10k-49k 16%
50k-99k 36%
100k – 149k 26%
150k – 250k 13%
250k – 500k 2%
More than 500k 1%

 

Age:

Age Group Responded to Survey
18-24 17%
25- 30 16%
31-40 22%
41 – 49 21%
50-60 17%
60 – 70 4%
Over 70 3%

 

Our analysis for this post will follow this age breakdown.

The following data will show that the consumer behavior across the board supports DIY (Do It Yourself) versus paying tour companies for trip experiences.  That brings good news and bad news for travel professionals as they align themselves to serve travelers in the future.

The Good News: people are traveling a lot and they’re spending money to do so. They are also buying activity services across all age demographics.

The Bad News: multiday tours are not very popular and the drop off amongst age demographics is a cliff.  However, purchases are going to guides and services if they offer hard type adventures like climbing and scuba diving where the guide brings a skill set beyond just knowledge of a local area. African safaris are also still widely purchased, as there you are paying for access, safety and logistics.

Let’s take a look at results of people doing and paying for activities.  Activities are anything that include services for 1 overnight or less:

 

Age Group Paid for an activity How many trips did you go on (no more than 1 over night) last year Ave Budget for activities
18-24 45% 22 $79
25- 30 42% 26 $180
31-40 57% 25 $212
41 – 49 53% 20 $179
50-60 56% 14 $168
60 – 70 49% 13 $120
Over 70 43% 13 $114

Good news for activity providers.  Just about half the respondents purchased some kind of activity across the age spectrum.  This is anything from physical adventures like hang-gliding, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking to soft adventures things like culinary classes, boat cruises (not big cruise liners) and hot-air balloon rides.

Ok, now let’s look at the multiday carnage:

Age Group Paid for multiday tour in past 5 years How many days did you spend on a multiday trip (2 overnights or greater) last year? Ave Budget for multiday tours
18-24 1% 1 $1,134
25- 30 1% 26 $3,122
31-40 12% 25 $6,110
41 – 49 14% 28 $7,132
50-60 43% 31 $7,922
60 – 70 68% 31 $8,342
Over 70 72% 28 $8,992

Yikes.  People across the age spectrum are actively traveling and spending money to do so.  However, the market for paid multiday tours is heavily weighted towards baby-boomers and older.  There could be a couple of reasons for this.  Are younger generations shying away from purchases of multiday tours due to budget only?

We anticipated this, so we asked them, “If you were given $15k that could only be spent on travel, what would you spend it on?”  In the 18 – 49 group, 73% said they would take longer and extend a DIY (Do It Yourself) trip and buy some more daily activities.  5% said they would buy a packaged multiday tour that didn’t involve a hard adventure like climbing or an African safari.

So, budget is not the reason.  Many younger to middle-age demo are people consider themselves “experienced travelers.”  They pride themselves in finding out what they want to do.  It isn’t enough just to go to a place anymore, it is a source of pride to figure out getting there and doing it themselves.  Access to more information is plentiful, however there are many issues in finding and collecting it.

We’ll share some user stories from our own customers in future posts, but I felt that one was telling in terms of the sentiment behind the multiday responses.  Here’s a quote from a 34 yo, female in the 100k – 150k demo:

“I bought a multiday tour with my then boyfriend last year.  We did it because we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of planning a trip.  We had an idea of where we wanted to go, but didn’t know much about the place other than just some very basic knowledge.  As we started the process with this tour operator, we found the process very clunky.  Also, we became interested in doing our own research and found that of all the things that we were really excited about doing were things that we found ourselves, or that others told us about who had been there.  So, we decided we would go on a trip that was 50% the tour operator and 50% on our own.

I cannot tell you the vast difference between the two. Coordinating with the tour operator planning the trip was pretty awful, even though they tried hard. We had fun on our tour, but it was fairly contrived and predictable.  We didn’t engage with a lot of local people because in our group, we felt like a large pack of animals and we stuck out like a sore thumb.  But, once we were on our own, we blended in much better and our trip took on a life of it’s own.  The language barrier was scary at first.  We definitely had more hiccups, but we figured out how to get along and that became our favorite part of the trip.  We discovered a lot of neat things to do that either came from our own research beforehand or something we discovered by just being there and blending in.  We’ll never buy a multiday tour again.  It wasn’t a bad experience, it just wasn’t worth it.

Now, before we tell everyone who is involved in multiday tours to go back to working in a cubicle or a salt mine, there is hope.  In fact, those who are service providers in this sector may find the hope they’ve been looking for for a long time.  There is some fantastic news in those results.

To be continued…

1 Comment

  1. Hi Doug, As an active traveler who is also a senior citizen, I totally agree with the above statement and research. We travel with an organization that specializes in finding activities we would have difficulty finding entrance to, such as visiting schools, having a meal in a private home, having a private talk with a Buddhist monk, etc. We also prefer this organization because they cap it at 16 of like spirited people. I hate the bus load of 45 type tour. We particularly book with them when visiting Asia. On the other hand, when visiting Europe I would feel very comfortable not on a tour. I agree…there is a thrill of putting it altogether yourself, but sometimes that comes with travel confidence. Plus you need to have the time as well as the desire.

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