MMGY: 2016 shaping up to be ‘remarkably positive’ year for travel

NEW YORK — MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers, unveiled Wednesday evening, suggests 2016 will be a record year for travel, barring any unpredictable disruptors.

MMGY executives presented some key data findings during an event at the New York Times building here.

Two-thirds of U.S. travelers are planning at least one leisure trip this year that requires overnight lodging, said Peter Yesawich, MMGY’s partner, industry insights; on average, they are planning four trips.

While that number remains the same from last year, the number of people traveling for business has increased by 12%.

“The outlook is incredibly positive, because you’ve got very robust demand from leisure travelers; you’ve got remarkable growth in demand from business travelers,” Yesawich said.

The data was from MMGY’s quarterly “travelhorizons” survey, which studies travelers’ intentions, using a sample of 2,300 households of active travelers that are 18 years old and older.

Steve Cohen, vice president of research and insights, said that a separate, annual study, which surveys travelers with household income level over $50,000, showed that the amount travelers are spending is also up.

The average amount travelers plan to spend on vacations this year was $5,048, compared with $4,526 spent in 2015 and $3,874 in 2010.

Additionally, Cohen said, the annual data shows the number of travelers who intend to travel more is on the rise. According to the study’s summary, 28% of travelers said they intend to take more vacations, and 14% said they plan to take fewer vacations.

“This means there is a 14-point positive variance in the market’s intention to vacation during the next 12 months, representing a 10-year high that surpasses the previous record, a pre-recession 11-point increase in travel intentions reported in 2007 and 2008,” the summary states.

The data, Cohen said, suggests a “record year” for travel.

Yesawich said that only a major, unpredictable disruptor, like an act of domestic terrorism, could shift the tide; barring that, he said 2016 was shaping up to be a “remarkably positive” year for travel.

UK travellers most likely to suffer from ‘app-nesia’ finds Google study

By Travolution

By Travolution

Travel apps, while popular in the UK, are among the most forgotten once they have been downloaded according to latest research from Google.The study, conducted with independent research firm Ipso, looked at the behaviour 1,200 UK app users in three business verticals; shopping, restaurants and takeaways and travel and holidays.

It found that one in five installed apps are then forgotten, yet in travel that figure was one in three (33%) – a phenomenon dubbed ‘app-nesia’.

Nearly half of respondents said they use an app when they want information quickly, compared to 17% who prefer a mobile site.

People tend to turn to mobile websites when they want more in-depth information, with 49% of those surveyed admitting they prefer a mobile site for this reason.

Apps were seen as simpler, quicker, more personalised and useful for fast transactional tasks:

The study found:

• For simplicity of navigation, 50% prefer an app, but 31% prefer a mobile website.
• In terms of speed of loading, 46% believe an app is quicker, while 29% say a mobile site would win.
• When it comes to ease of use, 51% prefer installed apps because logins are pre-entered.

Max Macintosh, agency head of Google UK, said: “A great app encourages brand interaction, is easy to navigate and is quick to load.

“But as our research shows, this won’t necessarily guarantee that customers will keep coming back.

“For successful ongoing app engagement, businesses can use push notifications, ensure apps appear in organic search results and link search ads and results to relevant pages in apps.

“Of course an app is a complement to, and not a substitute for, an optimised mobile site. When users want to compare options, gather information or go into greater depth, a mobile website comes into its own and should remain a top priority.”

Google’s tips to cure ‘app-nesia’?

Make the app engaging in the first place.
A good app mirrors or exceeds the best features of a brand’s mobile website – or even desktop site. Marketers should think about what the app is there to do – and then make sure it does it exceptionally well.

If the forgotten app is already a good one, brands have an opportunity to remind people about their relevance as nine in ten of those who have forgotten about their travel and holiday and shopping apps said they’d use them again.

Use push notifications intelligently. 
Push notifications can bring users back – as long as they’re employed shrewdly. Push notifications which send a very specific reminder or incentive get the best results. To do this, brands and agencies need to track in-app activities, create segments and target accordingly.

Advertise using rich media, search and display.
Advertising shouldn’t just focus on driving downloads; it also has a big role to play in re-engagement and ideally should send users straight to the most exciting or relevant page. As with notifications, tailoring the message to the audience is key.

It’s now possible to target people who already have an app versus those who don’t, as well as to provide different messaging when someone engages with ad content.

Measure, test, iterate and be prepared to start again.
Apps provide an exceptional opportunity to harvest data points – but only if customer event and third-party tracker tags are in place. Then it’s essential to find the right key performance indicators for the brand and its audience. Then use insights to adjust or even overhaul the offering.

Traveling solo

Traveling solo

By Donna Tunney

Snapshot: Solo trends

Travel insurance provider Travel Guard took a “pulse poll” earlier this year to identify solo travel trends. Some 450 U.S. travel agents responded to its email survey. Key findings:

• Flying solo: Nearly 60% of agents said more of their clients are flying alone now compared with 10 years ago, and 43% said they are doing so because they are widowed or divorced.

• Gender gap: The majority, 73%, of responding agents said that more female travelers than males embark on solo trips.

• Golden years: According to 44% of respondents, most clients taking solo trips are 55 or older, followed by those 45 to 55 (29%); 35 to 45 (18%); 25 to 34 (9%); and 18 to 24 (0.4%).

• Across the pond: Forty-five percent of agents identified Europe as the most popular destination for clients booking solo travel, followed by Mexico/Caribbean (33%) and the U.S./Canada (15%).

• Favorite products: Respondents said the most common types of accommodations for solo travelers are resorts or full-service hotels (46%) and cruises (40%).

• Budget wise: Most agents (82%) reported that their solo clients spend less than $4,999 on a trip.

• Play it safe: Forty-seven percent of respondents said a solo traveler’s greatest concern is encountering a dangerous situation without a travel companion to help. Additional concerns include medical emergencies (23%) and flight delays or cancellations (24%). — D.T.

The dreaded single supplement has long been an albatross around a solo traveler’s neck, but an increasing number of land and cruise suppliers are coming around to the notion that a customer vacationing alone deserves a fair shake.

To be sure, these suppliers are the exception rather than the rule, as the majority of providers continue to charge a 100% supplement fee, and sometimes more, so that an individual traveler is paying at least the equivalent of two cruise fares or two tour rates.

Solo clients can be a tough sales pitch for retailers. Aside from the single supplement cost, there often are concerns about safety and about feeling like a fifth wheel.

“The single supplement is a big obstacle. Nobody wants to get soaked,” said Marie O’Brien, an agent with Acendas in Mission, Kan. “But it isn’t only the cost. A lot of would-be solo travelers are older women who have the money, but they’re afraid something could go wrong, like missing a flight and becoming stranded somewhere, or becoming ill on a trip, and they’d be all alone.”

Even with the obvious drawbacks, the volume of solo travelers is considerable. They account for 11% of all U.S. adult leisure travelers, and they take 4.3 trips each year, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association.

In recent years, several prestigious travel suppliers who cater to upmarket clients have embraced the potential revenue from solo travelers by revamping their policies to include low or waived single supplements on a wide range of vacation products.

Strategies unfold

Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent is one of them. It decided to realign its policies three years ago with an eye toward actively courting the solo-traveler market. A collaboration among the company’s executives and ground suppliers resulted in its Solo Savings program, where single supplements are either waived or reduced by as much as 75% on dozens of departures.

Since the program launched in 2011, the company’s solo customer bookings have spiked by 27%.

“We did a careful analysis of what solos are looking for,” said Bob Simpson, A&K’s vice president of operations and small ships. “The goal was not necessarily to create a separate product line but rather to present a value for people traveling alone, because they tend to be penalized with single supplements. So we targeted specific programs where we could eliminate the supplement.”

A&K attracts an upscale, professional crowd, which makes them an attractive market.

“Our solo travelers tend to be an older demographic, many of them retired with expendable income, and 70% are female,” Simpson said.

The company, aware that safety and security are important issues for solo travelers, particularly mature women, takes steps to reassure prospective clients.

On its website’s Solo Traveler page, for example, A&K uses marketing phrases such as “Travel on your own — but never alone,” and “Your tour director is both a guide and a companion.”

Grand Circle Travel is another example of an operator that offers a wide range of departures with no single supplement. Its sister company Overseas Adventure Travel waives single supplements on all land and small-ship vacations and on trip extensions.

Traveling SoloBoth firms feature the Solo Traveler Challenge, which promises that if a customer finds a lower solo price on any comparable international trip they will match that price and then deduct $500.

While these supplier examples cater mostly to an older clientele, the solo travel market includes younger people, too.

Contiki, the tour operator for customers 18 to 35, has a growing share of independent travelers. President Melissa da Silva said that 46% of Contiki’s guests last year traveled solo, and of those, 63% were females.

“We have found ourselves to be a great option for that solo young woman traveling abroad, because we provide a sense of security,” da Silva said.

The numbers are higher for certain destinations, such as Asia and Latin America, where Contiki’s solo guests account for 55% and 58%, respectively, of all customers.

Contiki’s single supplement is relatively low compared with most operators. It varies by tour but averages about 25% of the double-occupancy land cost, da Silva said.

Contiki offers to pair up same-sex roommates on all itineraries, and for those who agree to share a room, the single supplement isn’t an issue. Several operators provide this option, which likely appeals more to younger clients than to older ones.

Old and new ideas

Norwegian Cruise Line is the pioneer in bringing single-passenger studio cabins to mainstream lines. Accommodations for 128 solo guests debuted on the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Epic in 2010, and the studio accommodations will also be featured on the Norwegian Breakaway, set to debut this month, and the Norwegian Getaway, entering service next year.

In 2011, Royal Caribbean International said it would install three cabins for solo travelers on the 2,112-passenger Radiance of the Seas. Royal is expanding its single-passenger options aboard the 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, which will enter service next year with 28 studio cabins that will be sold without a single supplement.

“There’s been a fair amount of interest in that recently,” Adam Goldstein, line president, said during a recent press conference.

But while Norwegian and Royal have taken these steps to attract solo guests, the single-supplement policy persists in double-occupancy staterooms.

Norwegian Epic’s studio rates vary by departure, but they are less than what a 100% single supplement would add to a double cabin. A seven-day Aug. 24 cruise from Barcelona, for example, would cost $1,099 in a studio, while an inside cabin costs $899, per person, double occupancy, according to website pricing. The single supplement on that inside cabin would bring the cruise fare for a solo occupant to $1,798, or roughly $700 more than the studio stateroom.

“The cruise industry operates under a very different business model than say, your regular hotel and resort, which may usually have unoccupied rooms and do not offer inclusives beyond bath amenities and in-room coffee,” said Harry Liu, manager of global brand communications for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises.

Crystal Cruises has male dance hosts for ladies traveling solo.“Because food, entertainment and other amenities are standard inclusives across the cruise industry, our industry’s pricing structure is based on at least two paying guests per stateroom,” Liu said. In the case of Royal, he added, it would mean that one guest in one double cabin would pay the price of two guests, a 100% supplement.

Tavia Robb, public relations manager for Celebrity Cruises, said, “Celebrity doesn’t really offer any substantial single supplement program. If a cruise fare is $1,200 per person [double], for example, and someone sails alone, she or he would pay $2,400.”

Come one, come all

In the wider cruise market, it’s the river ship companies and the luxury brands that are most solo-traveler-friendly. Several river cruise companies, including Uniworld, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways, waive supplements on many cruises, and luxury lines such as Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises reach out to solo guests with low fees. (Read related story, “On AmaCerto, one not such a lonely number.”)

Silversea typically offers select sailings with a 10% single supplement, and Crystal this year added a dozen itineraries with a 10% supplement, offering 26 cruises with reduced single fares.

Jack Anderson, Crystal’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, explained that “because we’re a luxury brand, we do not plan to operate at 100% berth occupancy. We budget to operate at a 96% or 97% stateroom occupancy, and that gives us the flexibility to accommodate 50 to 60 singles per sailing. So it’s part of our business plan that we want singles, and we will price attractively for singles.”

Crystal accommodates singles in other ways.

“A lot of our onboard activities are designed to be considerate of solos, Anderson said. “We have the ‘Table of Eight,’ for example, in our alternative restaurants Silk Road and Prego, where solo travelers can dine with other solos. And we have dance hosts on every cruise.

Besides, Anderson said, the solo market is only going to grow.

“We believe the number of people healthy, wealthy and able to travel is increasing, and it’s a demographic opportunity,” he said. “My prediction is that [the solo market] will be strong and viable, and it will increase.”

He said that would be particularly true as the 79-million-strong baby boomer generation retires during the next 20 years. Presumably, some percentage of them will travel alone as widows or widowers, or as divorcees.

“We want to be out in front with the solo market and capitalize on it,” he said. “But we have to be careful not to stereotype solo travelers. Many are married and choose not to travel as a couple: He wanted to go to a golf resort, and she wanted to go to Asia.”

Anderson said the line decided about a year ago, when it still had a 25% single supplement, that it would offer a lower supplement of 10% on a capacity-controlled basis.

“We designated those sailings based on the diversity of itinerary, the time of year, etc., so that our guests would have a wide menu to choose from,” he said. “If we reach certain numbers that conflict with reaching budget goals, then the 10% would have to go away, and we’d go back to 25%.”