Tripadvisor announced the results of the third installment of TripBarometer, the world’s largest accommodation and traveller survey¹. This biannual study, conducted on behalf of TripAdvisor by independent research firm Ipsos, highlights country, regional and global travel trends, according to more than 61,000 travellers and hoteliers around the world, with 890 respondents from India. Revealing changes in consumer spending plans and worldwide travel patterns, the TripBarometer also reports behavioral differences in planning and booking habits of travellers at different life stages.
The results of the latest TripBarometer study paint a positive picture for the global travel industry – overall, travellers are planning to spend more on their holidays in 2014 with the average annual traveller spend rising from US$5,955 in 2013 to US $6,136 this year, an increase of three percent. On average, Indians plan to increase their annual travel spend by 15 percent from US$3,264 in 2013 to US$3,746 in 2014, though this still falls behind the average global travel budget.
Additionally, the proportion of travellers planning to travel more has increased across almost all markets. This year, 90 percent of global travellers are planning to travel domestically (up from 87 percent in 2013) and 77 percent plan to travel internationally, up 12 percent compared to 2013 (65%).
Indians are amongst the most likely to be planning international travel this year, along with South Africans, Chinese and New Zealanders. Ninety-five percent of Indian travellers are planning to travel domestically (down 1% compared to 2013) while 66 percent are planning to travel abroad, up 21 percent compared to last year.
Budgets increasing but travellers still on the hunt for a bargain
South African travellers are planning the biggest increase in their travel budgets this year, up 30 percent from 2013, followed by Indonesians, Australians and Malaysians. Despite relatively low optimism in the economy (only 11 percent of global respondents and 14 percent of Indian respondents report spending more on travel because they feel more confident about the economy), travellers are not willing to give up their holidays, with many opting to hunt for bargains and make sacrifices in other areas of their lives in order to protect their travel spend.
The tendency to do more research in order to find the best bargain is strong amongst travellers. The majority of travellers (Global: 54%; India: 59%) say their choice of holiday is often determined by the availability of a good deal or special offer. In fact, many TripBarometer respondents (Global 95%; India 95%) say that ‘price’ and ‘special offers’ (Global: 44%; India: 56%) are important decision-making factors when booking their accommodation.
Currency fluctuations are more likely to affect travel plans of Indian travellers, with 63 percent indicating that it would impact their holiday plans, compared to 44 percent globally. Despite this, those affected are still planning to travel; of those travellers that say currency fluctuation will impact them, 53 percent global respondents and 44 percent Indian respondents will research more to find the best price.
However, global hoteliers place higher importance on online reviews than price in terms of influencing travellers’ booking decisions. Similarly, Indian hoteliers perceive online reviews (62%) to have the biggest impact when travellers book accommodation, followed by recommendations from friends and family (50%) and price (48%). The results suggest that although hoteliers know price is an important factor, they believe that the room rate combined with a good online reputation will ultimately influence travellers’ booking decisions.
Looking ahead at the next 12 to 24 months, Europe tops the list of places global travellers plan to visit (46%), followed by Asia (39%) and North America (32%). At 33 percent, New Zealand is the ‘dream’ overseas destination for Indians to visit in the next 12 to 24 months, closely followed by France (32%) and Switzerland (31%). Australia and Italy top the list of destinations global travellers would choose to visit if money were no object.
“Exploration is back on the agenda in 2014, with more travellers planning international trips this year,” said Marc Charron, President, TripAdvisor for Business. “TripBarometer offers up insights into the needs and behaviours of consumers in today’s rapidly changing travel marketplace, providing valuable insights for hospitality businesses looking to attract new audiences. Travellers are upping their budgets but they are looking for bargains, expecting their accommodation of choice to deliver on value. Special offers, complimentary amenities and exceptional service are all going to be important factors in swaying potential guests.”
The increase in travel budgets and travel plans is mirrored by business confidence with 70 percent of global hoteliers saying they are optimistic about their profitability in the next year (up from 67% in 2013). Similarly, four in five (83%) Indian hoteliers say they are optimistic about their profitability in the next year (down from 89% in 2013). Over half (55%) of Indian hoteliers are also planning to increase room rates with 51% saying this is due to increased overheads.
Online and offline co-exist for travel planning, but user-generated content reigns
Globally, most travellers (65%) start planning their trip at least three to four months before they intend to go, with just under a third (32%) expecting to book one month ahead of their trip. In contrast, the majority of global hoteliers (65%) estimate that most of their bookings take place within four weeks of the guest’s date of arrival, with the length of time increasing slightly for resorts.
Travellers from Asia are the most likely to book their accommodation relatively last minute, with 23 percent booking up to two weeks before their trip – higher than the global average of 16 percent. In India, nearly six out of ten (57%) travellers book up to three weeks to 2 months before their trip.Brits (20%) and Australians (16%) pre-plan the most, booking seven to 12 months before they trip.
When it comes to travel planning, online dominates, with the majority of respondents using online resources (Global: 98%; India 100%). More than seven out of 10 respondents (Global: 74%; India: 77%) cite ‘TripAdvisor’ as the most commonly used online source for inspiration when researching and planning holidays. Yet online and offline co-exist. Travellers globally report that they like to use both online and offline resources to plan their trip. Eighty-five percent of Indian respondents use offline means to plan their holiday, including word of mouth (56%) and travel guide books (35%).
Mobile booking on the up in Asia, but global uptake still slow
Whilst 91 percent of global travellers are attached to their mobiles; India and China lead the pack with 98 percent of travellers from each country saying they use their smartphones on holiday. Two in five (41%) Indians use their smartphone to find things to do, and over one-third (35%) to search for hotels. Despite the increasing number of travellers using their mobile to plan and research, the trend has not yet crossed over to the booking stage.
Compared to the global average of 66 percent, fewer Indians booked their last trip online (55%). For those who booked their last holiday online, three out of ten (Global: 31%; India: 29%) state ‘better price’ as the reason for choosing this booking method. Thirty-seven percent Indians booked offline, compared to only 24 percent of global travellers. Whilst online bookings are commonplace, mobile bookings are emerging slowly. Just four percent of travellers globally and three percent in India booked the accommodation for their last trip via mobile; however, China is leading the pack with 10 percent of Chinese booking via mobile, followed closely by Thailand (9%), and Indonesia (7%) and Malaysia (7%). This behaviour implies a ‘leapfrogging’ from offline to mobile channels in Asian markets.
Three in four (76%) global hoteliers and eight in ten (81%) Indian hoteliers already have a mobile offering for travellers in place. Out of those who don’t currently offer mobile services, 50 percent of global hoteliers and 64 percent of Indian hoteliers plan to introduce a mobile offering in 2014. Almost half (47%) of Indian hoteliers allow guests to book rooms via their website on a mobile device, and 32 percent have a mobile friendly website. Whilst it seems as though the hospitality industry is prepared for a shift towards mobile booking for travellers, there is still a disconnect.
Commenting on the findings Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India said “It is encouraging to note that the travel sentiment remains strong with Indian travellers looking to up their travel spend by 15 percent, despite only 14 percent of them report spending more on travel because they feel more confident about the economy.”
“What is most exciting is the huge opportunity that mobile booking represents with a significant portion of travellers both globally and in India using their smartphones to find things to do and search for hotels whilst they are travelling. The good news is that the majority of Indian hoteliers already have mobile offering for travellers and of those who don’t, nearly two-thirds plan to introduce it in 2014. It is only a matter of time before this gap is bridged and booking process on mobiles is facilitated to reach more people on the go,” he added.