Exclusive data from Reddit indicates that users have been bitten by the travel bug
New Reddit user trends reveal that consumers are eager to travel – in new and unexpected ways. And from a growing concern for environmentalism to an interest in expatriation, these travel trends present valuable possibilities for brands.
Consumers are itching to get back out there
Exclusive data from Reddit for The Drum suggests that after two years of restricted travel, users are more excited than ever to get back out there and satisfy their wanderlust. But digging more deeply into recent Reddit data indicates that users – and likely consumers at large – are thinking about travel differently, re-evaluating what it can look like and what makes it worthwhile. Activity from US and UK users spell out a few key trends that are defining consumer attitudes toward travel today.
1. It’s full steam ahead on short trips and local exploration
Still facing Covid restrictions and public health concerns, many consumers aren’t quite ready to book a ticket for their dream trip abroad. But they’re itching to get out. So they’re exploring local and domestic travel and quick weekend getaways, and revisiting places they already know and love.
“I call this ‘micro-burst’ tourism,” says Reddit’s director of partner insights Rob Gaige. “People have, essentially, two opposing forces. One is they have a ton of inspiration, because they’ve been sitting on their travel dollars and their wanderlust for forever. But then they also have the disappointment [and worry concerning] canceled trips ... so what they’re doing instead is saying, ‘I’m going to do several short trips or long weekends.’”
In fact, mentions of both long weekends and domestic travel among US and UK users have spiked approximately 60% between February 2021 and January 2022. And a lot of the places that travelers are visiting are places they already know and love: Reddit has seen a 45% year-on-year leap in conversations about ‘favorite places’ to travel. At the same time, there’s been a 33% drop in conversations about ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips, suggesting that consumers don’t want to risk all their travel dollars on one big trip when they could sprinkle smaller and local trips throughout the year.
The micro-burst travel trend presents valuable opportunities for brands. In particular, brands can broaden the definition of mobility to help consumers tap into the local and domestic experiences they’re looking for. It’s understandable then that automotive advertising is surging on Reddit, says Will Cady, who serves as director of Reddit’s creative strategy arm KarmaLab. “There’s never been a more transformational time in the industry in terms of the EVs (electric vehicles) that are coming out and consumers ... reassessing how they’re going to commute to the office again and [take] these short drives to get back out into the places of their childhood.”
Cady points to a Toyota ad that aired last month as a prime example of how automotive brands are speaking to changing consumer behavior. “The Toyota Tundra Super Bowl ad was your classic truck ad – doing donuts in the desert, getting mud all over [the vehicle] – and then the windows come down, and it’s this urbanite millennial couple talking about their dinner reservations. It’s very different from the way that you would see a truck advertised even two years ago.” Auto brands – especially those whose line-ups include hybrid and electric crossover utility vehicles – have the chance to capture new markets in the urban-dwelling consumer who wants access to the outdoors and local travel opportunities.
2. Wanderlust resonates, with fantasy trips on the horizon
A second key trend that Reddit’s insights experts have observed is a cautious optimism for potential future trips to new and remote places.
Right now, Redditors are comfortable taking shorter, domestic trips and exploring their own backyards, but most aren’t quite ready – due to both pandemic-related and financial concerns – for the big life-changing trip. Nearly a third (27%) of Redditors in the US and the UK are factoring potential pandemic restrictions or lockdowns into their travel plans, and the platform has seen a 134% spike in discussions about the stress of Covid testing. At the same time, many also feel burned by travel companies from cancellations and dollars flushed on could-have-been trips.
Even amid their wariness, however, consumers are still dreaming about mind-blowing travels. Over the last year, the platform saw visits to r/remoteplaces, r/travelporn and r/europetravel spike by over 100% each among users in the US and the UK, with r/remoteplaces seeing the biggest jump in traffic of 153%.
“It’s the season for essentially planning the 2023 ‘big one,’” says Gaige. “The wanderlust is there, but [users are being] sort of pragmatic and saying, ‘I’m going to do these long weekends [for now].’ So, we’re seeing people looking at 2023 [with the attitude] ‘I’m going to do the really big thing – the life-changing trip that I really wanted, assuming all goes as planned.’”
In particular, searches for and conversations about places that are seeing the most tangible impacts of climate change are especially popular, as travelers hope they’ll be able to see glaciers, coral reefs, rainforests and coastal cities while they still can. Gaige says there’s also “a rising buzz” surrounding species of flora and fauna being negatively impacted by the climate crisis.
As far as how brands are getting in on the action, KarmaLabs’ Cady says that brands of all kinds can tap into consumers’ escapism and love for the environment. “This informs the creative in terms of what kind of stories [brands] want to present to consumers,” he says. “How does your product or your service enable them to bring an activity into their lives that was unavailable to them for the last couple of years? And as far as the climate, how does your brand or service educate people or involve people in having a personal experience with what is happening in these hard-to-reach places?”
3. Workations are taking off
As people across the globe have fully assimilated to work-from-home and hybrid models of working, Reddit is seeing an increased interest in ‘digital nomad’ lifestyles, long-term travel and fusions of working and vacationing.
From 2021 to 2022, the platform witnessed a 211% spike in conversations about ‘workactions’ and a 105% lift in discussions regarding work-life balance. Meanwhile, the r/digitalnomad subreddit has amassed 1.4 million subscribers, and a subreddit for users interested in expatriation called r/iwantout has hit 1.5 million subscribers.
Gaige says that while it seems inherently contradictory to say that people are taking shorter, more local trips while also packing their bags for long-term workactions, both ends of the spectrum make sense considering the degree to which work, living arrangements and social life have evolved in the past couple of years. “We’re starting to see a minority – but a very eager minority – of people who are saying, ‘I am going to take that big trip, but the only way I’m going to enable it is if I’m going to stay for a long time – stay for a month or two months,” says Gaige.
In fact, he says, there are Reddit threads popping up that debate the question of whether or not having a home or a permanent residence is even a necessity. For millennials and gen Zers who are already worried about the economic possibilities of owning property, he says, long-term working holidays offer a lot of appeal.
For brands, new possibilities abound. In the past two years, consumers have seen an explosion of work-from-home-driven products and services ranging from video conferencing software and ergonomic work accessories to new entertainment offerings and food subscriptions. But now, the work-from-anywhere revolution is under way. “This is a workstation – it’s an extension cord; you’re not unplugging,” says Cady. “So, the mobile office is a whole category of opportunity for brands – it’s the backpack, the laptop, the internet connection. How do you make sure that you’ve got your whole setup – your second monitor, your ring light and all that stuff – when you’re in Costa Rica?”
Cady suggests that category incumbents are facing new pressures to innovate for this emergent lifestyle, while challenger brands are rising up with new offerings. Among the most exciting activity, he says, is happening in the 5G space, with major telecoms providers and device makers duking it out with newcomers from China, Canada, Australia and the US.
Ultimately, Reddit’s latest data on consumer sentiment and behavior around travel indicates that brands have at their fingertips countless opportunities to speak to an escapist mentality and growing interest in local travel and experiences, environmentalism and the further hybridization of work and play.