Americans Are Ready to Travel: Get Insight into the “Perfect Trip” for Different Customer Segments
With many Americans immunized, and travel restrictions lifting, vacation plans are top of mind for many households.
The family’s chief vacation planning officer is often the female head of household. In the 63 million US households with children under 18 living at home, moms are particularly likely to be in the lead for vacation research and planning.
In total, an estimated 132 million adults will “travel” (defined as taking trip with a flight and/or paid lodging) in summer 2021, and approximately 21 million family households with children under 18 will take a road trip.
Deloitte asked travelers about the longest trip they plan to take this summer. For travel destinations, the beach tops the summer vacation planning list with 34% of adult travelers, and the beach is also the most popular planned activity for parents. Other popular travel destinations for the longest summer trip for adults are:
- 27% – cities
- 18% – outdoors
- 8% – national or state parks
- 6% – theme parks
Trends in travel bookings include earlier bookings and longer bookings. For instance, VRBO reported earlier summer bookings starting in February, and a trend towards longer bookings. Similarly, RV and camping industry surveys report longer vacations. Recognizing this opportunity, VRBO appears to be focused on capturing the upscale family vacation market.
Vacation isn’t synonymous with air and hotel or vacation rental travel for all consumers.
There are distinct consumer segments of adult vacationers, some of whom will travel over the summer for vacation, and others who will not. Approximately 40% expect to take a trip with a flight and/or paid lodging this summer, while 42% don’t expect to travel this summer because of health concerns, and 31% won’t travel with a flight or paid lodging for financial reasons.
Vacation Trend: Camping Attracting New Consumer Segments and Frequent Campers Increasing
Camping is a popular activity for summer vacations, with an estimated 48.2 million households camping at least once in 2020. COVID drove increased popularity, with a 20% total increase of 10.1 million new camping households from 2019 levels. Of these 10.1 million new households, nearly 80% were attributed to COVID-19. While some of these new campers are experimenting, the number of “frequent campers” who camp three or more times per year increased 17%, by four million households, to 23 million.
Gen X (31%), Millennials (37%), and Gen Z (11%) make up the vast majority of campers, and are overdeveloped. By comparison, Baby Boomers are at 18%, and Silent/Mature generation make up 11%. Families with children under 18 make up 54% of campers. Camping trends to middle income demographics, with 39% having income levels less than $50,000. In 2020, 29% of campers were $100,000+ income households.
Of note, consumers who used camping to digitally detox were much more likely to have a “great” first-time campaign experience (76%), compared with those who worked while camping (53%). Camping as part of a group was also associated with a great experience (78%).
Vacation Trend Among Parents: Outdoor Activities like the Beach, Barbeque and Camping
Among parents, there are also distinct segments. This summer, approximately a third each are planning:
- a family road trip
- to safely visit family
- activities close to home, such as barbecues (38%), backyard camping (33%), picnics (20%) and water games with water balloons and sprinklers (26%)
Whether traveling or not, outdoor activities are preferred, with 63% of parents agreeing that a “second spent indoors this summer would be a second wasted” and 68% planning “on making up for time lost during the pandemic.”
Moms of children ages 6-12 who go on at least one camping or glamping trip per year are enthusiastic about quality time spent in nature, unplugging and connecting as a family.
While camping and glamping isn’t for everyone (another segmentation), camping moms perceive that some of the best family memories are made while camping.
“Because my family is out in nature far from the city and we do beautiful activities like barbecues, sitting around the fire and talking to each other.”– age 38, mother of 10-year-old girl
“Because we unplug. Camping/glamping is the destination so there is no running around from point to point. No busy theme parks or tours.”– age 39, mother of 10-year-old boy
“It’s so much more than when you were little and putting up a tent and being uncomfortable. You can have a trip like this now and still be afforded all the modern luxuries but get the benefit of being outside and around nature.”– age 44, mother of 12-year-old girl
In addition to the emotional connections and fulfilling activities, camping moms cite three additional benefits from camping and glamping:
- opportunity for my child/children to learn new life skills
- controls who is around my child/children or the ability to control my family’s environment
- saves money when compared to eating out
Vacation Trend: RVs and Distinct RV Consumer Segments
With COVID restrictions, RV travel gained popularity in 2020. Total units shipped in 2020 exceed 430,000, up 6% from 2019, and on par with 2018. While final statistics are not yet published, it’s likely that RV retail value exceeds $20 billion, or around $41,000 per unit.
There are approximately 13 million households who own RVs, most of whom are not full-time residents.
A consumer segmentation study of RV Owners found seven distinct segments in 2020. These vary widely in their use of RVs, how much of their vacation time they give to RVs, and their underlying demographics.
The first two segments, Family Campers and Casual Campers, represent around 72% of all RV owners and are less frequent users of their RVs, ranging from 16 to 30 days per year on average.
- Family Campers – At 33% of all RVers, these are one of the largest segments. Nearly 2/3rds of them live in households with children present, and 2/3rds are full-time employed. Their average number of days used per year is 30 (compared with overall days of 13), and RV’s occupy 49% of their vacation time.
- Casual Campers – This large segment of 39% of RVers have lower usage than other groups, averaging 16 days per year. They are very satisfied with RVs, and give the RV around 50% of their vacation time. Most of them have no children at home (90%), and 55% of them are retired. They skew older, with 82% over age 55.
The next five segments are much more frequent users of RVs, ranging from 55 to 365 days per year of usage.
- Escapists – This moderately-sized group of 16% of RVers are enthusiastic nature lovers who “enjoy the freedom of exploration camping provides.” They average 55 days per year of RV use, and RV’s capture 67% of their vacation time. Demographically, they are a mix of full-time employed (40%) and retired (40%), and around 31% have children at home.
- Avid RVers – This is an enthusiastic but small segment, at 6% of RVers. They average 111 days of RV use per year, and RVs occupy 73% of their vacation time. They enjoy weeklong and destination trips in their RV. Most of them do not have children at home (78%), and nearly half of them are retired, while a subgroup of 28% work full-time.
- Happy Campers – This small segment (3%) of RVers spends around 180 days a year in the RV, and the RV captures 75% of their vacation time. Most of them (84%) don’t have children present and around half are retired. Many of them are snowbirds.
- Adventure Seekers – This is a very small segment, at 1% of RVers. They are heavy users, using their RVs on average 200 days per year, and the RV captures 71% of their vacation time. Demographically, 50% are retired, and around 19% have children at home.
- Full Timers – This small segment represents 1.5% of all RV owners. They skew to lower income (72% have household income under $65,000), a bit older (35% are above age 55), and 43% are retired. Since they are full timers, they spend 365 days/year with the RV, and the RV occupies 90% of their vacation time.
With the exception of the full timers, the more involved segments likely spend more on their RV equipment and overall RV lifestyle. The Escapists, in particular, may be a group that grows with the interest in camping and outdoors found among campers, Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X consumers.
Vacation Trend: International Destinations
In 2020, less than 10 million Americans traveled overseas, down substantially from 45 million in 2019 or 42 million in 2018. With COVID restrictions, overseas travel was not possible in many cases.
Now in 2021, some 60% of those who have previously traveled globally plan to travel again, 20% plan to hold off, and 20% are considering it. The average of the past five years, including 2020, is 34 million travelers. 60% of that number would suggest 20 million US citizens planning to travel overseas in 2021.
In addition to overseas travel, consumers also regularly travel within North America. For instance, in 2018, around 51 million Americans traveled to Mexico (37 million) or Canada (14 million) by car or air. In 2020, around 22 million US citizens traveled to Mexico, down from 40 million in 2019.
When considering where to travel, COVID restrictions are one consideration. The “wish list” for family destinations in 2021 compiled by Our Globetrotters in the answer to the question, “If we can travel freely around the world in the next 12 months, where would be the top of your list?” still shows some perennial favorites:
- Italy (in the top 10 in each year from 2019 to 2021)
- Japan (in the top 10 in 2021 and 2019)
- Iceland (in the top 10 in 2021 and 2019)
- Greece (in the top 10 in 2021 and 2020)
In 2021, the closer-to-home destinations of Florida and Canada also rose into the top 10. And, for travel in the USA, families indicated interest in:
- New York
- Dallas, Texas
- Seattle, Washington
- Route 66
Vacation trends are always an interesting topic. In my Los Angeles Vistage peer advisory group, we celebrate when busy executives make the time to go on vacation with their families and friends. With the changing COVID situation, many vacation plans were put on hold or cancelled along with other life events that normally required travel to social gatherings, e.g., graduations, weddings and funerals. We will watch to see how some of the new vacation behaviors extend into 2021 when there are more choices for US consumers.