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    Research Digest

    Consumers Are Seeking Out Experiential Travel

    Abstract

    • The majority of consumers said that they are interested in cultural immersion and taking a tour on future trips.
    • Consumers have a positive view of brands who put time and resources into experiential travel messaging.
    • Despite the world beginning to open back up, many travelers are opting to partake in cultural immersion experiences close to home.

    Experiential travel is booming.

    Over the last few years, the popularity of experiential travel has increased significantly. After a pause in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are now, more than ever, seeking unique experiences where they can fully immerse themselves in the culture of the area they’re visiting. No matter the type of trip or time of year, consumers are searching for these one-of-a-kind travel opportunities.

    The majority of consumers (70%)¹ said that they are interested in cultural immersion and taking a tour on future trips. Cultural immersion experiences can range from cooking classes to volunteer work, visiting animal sanctuaries to historic walking tours. Outside of these activities though, people are also traveling for another form of experiential travel—entertainment. 43% of consumers reported that they are interested in traveling for entertainment events (concerts, music festivals, sporting events, etc.).

    With consumers actively seeking experiential travel, there is a huge opportunity for brands to develop their messaging to reach this eager audience. Especially considering this finding from the Mastercard Economics Institute²: “Tourism spending on “experiences” like restaurants and concerts is roughly 34% above 2019 levels and has been outpacing spending on “things” since July 2021.”

    Consumers Respond Well to Experiential Travel Messaging

    Many big name brands in the industry have already taken note of the uptick in interest in experiential travel and are happy to oblige consumers, putting time and resources into messaging around the topic.

    For instance, one of Expedia’s most popular ads in 2021 depicted a solo traveler finding joy (with the help of special guest Rashida Jones) wandering around a lively city eating street food and in the next scene, biking through a vineyard on a sunny day. The travel brand continued to promote experiential travel this year—in Expedia’s 2022 Super Bowl ad, actor Ewan McGregor encouraged viewers to choose experiences over “stuff”.

    Airbnb went so far as to redesign its app to help its customers go on the experiential trips of their dreams. Now, when you open the app, you can pick from unique stay categories that include: national parks, surfing, castles, historical homes, windmills, vineyards and more.

    This experience-first focused messaging is paying off for travel brands—Expedia and Airbnb made the top 10 in a Statista poll³ which asked respondents which travel apps and websites they view the most positively. Expedia and AirBnb were joined on the list by other travel heavyweights TripAdvisor, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Booking.com and Orbitz.

    Connected TV (CTV) audience targeting capabilities contributes to the success of experiential travel messaging. Travel brands are able to deliver ads to in-market consumers who are more likely to engage with their content and convert. We already see the effects of this when comparing to other verticals—in 2021, the travel industry experienced the highest share of CTV in video advertising impressions⁴.

    Staycations Continue to Thrive

    Experiential travel doesn’t have to mean flying to the other side of the world to eat a local delicacy—travelers can experience unique cultural activities in their own backyards. In various forms of lockdown for two-ish years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people had to get creative with the way they traveled. Naturally, staycations and exploring one’s own city/state saw an uptick during this time. And despite the world beginning to open back up in 2021 and 2022, many travelers are still opting to stay close to home.

    Nearly half (48%) of Americans said they sought out closer, more local experiences in the past year… In fact, all 10 of the fastest growing experiences by bookings—over pre-pandemic 2019 demand—are US-based experiences. From a San Diego Harbor Cruise to Boston’s Ghosts & Gravestones Night-Time Trolley Tour, those experiences all grew by more than 700%.

    – Viator (a Tripadvisor company), 2022 Travel Trends Report⁵

    Conclusion

    Experiential travel, whether in a foreign country or in one’s own city, appears to be here to stay. Consumers are not only seeking out unique travel excursions, but they are also responding positively to messaging that speaks directly to these types of experiences. This provides a huge opportunity for advertisers in the travel space, especially on Connected TV (CTV). Seeing as the travel industry had the highest share of CTV in video advertising impressions in 2021, brands should customize messaging for and target to captive travel audiences who are hungry for cultural immersion experiences.

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