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October 7, 2013 / BSP Marketing

SmartPhones, Tablets and 2013’s Rapidly Changing Traveler Habits

Almost nothing stays the same forever. In the hotel business, you have to change if you want to keep up with the competition. In 2013, preferences of travelers may be different over whether it is better to have an Apple or an Android digital device. But, on one point, there is no argument at all. Travelers, all across the world, and right here in the United States, have become increasingly dependent on their mobile digital devices.

Traveler Trends 2013 - Tablets and Smartphones

MMGY Global & Harrison Group profile today’s traveler

According to a combined study recently completed by travel marketing, research and consulting groups MMGY Global and the Harrison Group, the next generation of travelers has arrived. Results of the national survey entitled 2013 Portrait of Digital Travelers were released in August of 2013.


Some 1,258 households in the United States, who identified themselves as being active users of digital devices, were asked questions about how they use modern technology to plan and get the most out of their travel experiences. Households asked to participate had household income of at least $50,000 and took at least one trip of 75 miles or further away from home in 2012. Another common thread shared by these vacation and leisure travelers is that each household owns and use at least two digital devices – namely a smartphone and a tablet – to plan their travel and buy travel services. This new category of travelers is referred to as the Digital Elite.

Key findings of the survey

1. Smartphone usage for planning and purchasing travel services has more than doubled from 23 percent in 2011, to 62 percent in 2013. That is a fractional increase of roughly 270 percent in just 2 years.

2. Tablet usage for planning and purchasing travel services has gone up six-fold from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, only 7 percent of households were using tablets for travel, while in 2013, the number surged to 42 percent.

3. Over 50 percent of the Digital Elite have children in their household, compared to only 37 percent of those who rely on more traditional methods to plan and book travel. This reflects that younger people tend to be more digitally connected, and even children of 10 or 12 years of age, get actively involved, through the internet, to help plan a family vacation.

4. Digital Elite travelers spend and do more than their not-so-well connected brethren of travelers in 2012.

• Total leisure trips: 4.1 vs. 3.8

• Weekend trips: 2.1 vs. 1.8

• Last-minute trips: 31 percent vs. 22 percent

• Spending: $4,988 vs. $3,812

Travelers are searching, but are they taking further action?

As a well-connected traveler, it is very convenient to be able to use an app on your smartphone to book a room, make a dinner reservation or purchase tickets to an event. As a hotel manager or other employee in the travel and hospitality industry, you want them to not only look at your site, but to be inspired to take further action.

In a study released by Google and Nielson, in March of 2013, focusing on the last quarter of 2012, it was found that travelers are among the most likely group of mobile searchers to take further action after doing an online search. The Mobile Search Moments: Understanding How Mobile Drives Conversions showed that U.S. smartphone users took, on average, 2.2 further actions after conducting a search. Only people searching for information in the beauty and automotive segments of the economy took more than 2.2 further actions after their initial search. It follows that a number over 2 indicates a strong interest and greater chance of a conversion (sale) of a hotel room or other travel-related purchases.

Local business searches

If you are managing a hotel or operating another type of travel related business, it is more important to give travelers general ideas about the hotel and the area rather than burdening them down with a lot of details that can take forever to read. According to ComScore, two-thirds of all business searches on mobile devices, conducted in the month of December, 2012, were of a general, rather than specific, nature.

Most people using their mobile device for travel information are not looking for tips on the best place to park in San Francisco when you are visiting Fisherman’s Wharf. Instead, they want to know that Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to go for lunch and you can see the Golden Gate Bridge while you dine.

Using travel appsUsing travel apps

On the go and in the know travelers are more apt to use their favorite trusted apps to get information about sights to see and places to stay. In a January, 2013 survey conducted by Compete Inc., 43 percent of smartphone users in the United States said they had a travel app and 30 percent of those surveyed said they had at least two travel apps downloaded on their smartphone.

What this study suggests is that it may be a smart investment to develop a strong app for a hotel, online travel agency, or other travel-related business, and drive more business toward their site.

The future

Is there any reason to think that the trend of using smartphones and tablets will not continue well into the future? With prices coming down every year as new technology is developed, more people will have access to these digital devices that make for a more convenient and better travel experience.

Today, it is possible to make a hotel reservation with a mobile app while you are an hour away from your destination. Today, you can buy tickets to Disneyland with your tablet. In the future, your smartphone or tablet will become an even more powerful tool. You can be sure that new travel apps are being developed today that will do things that used to be stuff you only read in science fiction novels. Who knows? Someday you may be able to book a flight to the moon with something even smaller than the smart watch you can buy today.


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