By having a true picture of what truly motivates travelers, hospitality providers can develop innovations that further meet guests’ needs and drive additional revenue growth.

Though, in an ideal world, the right market research, which is often a significant investment, can help provide the guest insights that will help drive both technology developments and marketing strategies.

In the meantime, Peter Yesawich, Vice Chairman of MMGY Global, one of the largest integrated travel marketing firms, recently shared some compelling insights and market intelligence during a panel titled, “Spectator Trends: Challenges and Opportunities” at the recent International Society of Hospitality Consultants’ 2012 Annual Conference.

Specifically, Yesawich said that three-fourths of Americans agree that taking a vacation is the one event they look forward to the most each year.  And, that keeping one’s finger on the pulse of those changing travel habits could definitely be an advantage for hospitality providers.

Overall, he provided 16 findings during the panel, and here are the top insights:

  • Leisure demand is dominating:  Approximately four out of 10 Americans took at least one business trip during the past year. Roughly eight of 10, however, took at least one leisure trip during the year.
  • Affluent driving demand: The affluent traveler is driving much of the demand. Thirty-two percent of households with more than $250,000 annual income plan to take more leisure trips this year than last, while only 5% said they plan to take less. This compares to the national average of 19% and 13%, respectively.
  • Aging demographics brings new opportunities: More than 20% of active travelers are grandparents. Of those, 40% have taken a trip with a grandchild during the past year. And eight out of 10 times that a grandchild comes along, so does a parent.
  • Not all vacations are created equal: Seven out of 10 Americans have gone on a “celebration vacation,” or those that are tied to specific life events, during the past year. The two most popular events are milestone birthdays and anniversaries.
  • More people are taking last-minute trips: Approximately 30% of Americans have taken one during the past 12 months. That number is up from the “teens” a few years ago. The average advance booking period for last-minute trips was 6.2 days.
  • Mobile usage is going up: During 2010 and 2011, 23% of Americans had a smartphone; today more than half do. Tablet usage is picking up as well. Whereas 7% owned a tablet device during 2011, this year more than 27% do. Basically, one out of five Americans own both devices.
  • Online Travel Agencies Still Dominate:  Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz are the “big dogs” in the world of online travel search. The ones to watch are the meta-search sites such as Kayak in particular.

When hoteliers are building out new programs and other innovations, understanding your target audience is tremendously helpful.  These are definitely key insights that we will keep in mind when helping our hospitality clients develop new innovations.