Customer Experience Brand Purpose Creative Works

How brands can leave a lasting impression, just like travel experiences do


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

February 26, 2024 | 6 min read

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Consumer priorities are shifting from material possessions to enriching experiences, evident particularly when it comes to travel – but how can brands go along for the ride?

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Navigating the shift to experiential consumerism in travel

It’s not what you have, but what you do that matters. ‘Experiences over things’ has become the millennial’s mantra, and it’s flowing through to previous and future generations too. Experiences matter more because they have staying power and for brands to create memorable connections and build long-term loyalty, they need look no further than travel experiences.

In a recent Tripadvisor survey of 5,618 travelers across seven markets, two in three say they now place more value on experiences over things than they did in the past; on average allocating more than half (54%) of their discretionary income to experiences; 34% spending more than in the past.

Making memories

Travel, in particular, is a top priority for nearly three quarters; so much so, that 95% of them would decrease their discretionary spending in other categories to save for their next vacation.

What’s driving this decision making is that travel, at its core, is a collection of moments with staying power – fulfilment stemming from defining moments that make lifelong memories. Nine in 10 respondents say a fulfilling trip provided lasting memories and 69% said they found personal growth.

Besides lodging and dining, the top contributor to making a memorable trip memorable is the activities travelers do when they are there – ranked by 46% of all respondents – including tours to attractions, events and activities. This also plays a key role in influencing travel choices right from the outset, behind cost considerations, guiding decisions on where to go.

Informed experiences

“It’s clear that travel is a meaningful purchase - one that has a lot riding on it – making it a high-stakes investment,” says Hilary Fischer-Groban, senior director of global brand & insights at Tripadvisor. “While ‘experiences, not things’ has become the popular mindset, purchasing experiences is not as straightforward as things.

“Unlike tangible purchases, travel choice requires committing to an experience without examining it first-hand, which increases risk of dissatisfaction at the end. Trust and ample due diligence to confidently make decisions become even more critical.”

Second only to general search engines, travelers are relying on word-of-mouth reviews from fellow travelers, family and friends, to make informed decisions that result in meaningful trips. 36% are turning to travel review sites and 35% to recommendations from family and friends.

These positive travel experiences are changing the mindset on what matters most: travelers who have recently experienced a fulfilling trip regard travel in the year to come as a higher priority than those who haven’t (78% vs. 55%). In favor of this, they are cutting back other experiential spending like dining out (44%) or entertainment and events (33%) in exchange for trips. Travelers are also more inclined to cut back on conveniences like food delivery (42%) and rideshares (33%), or material goods like clothing (36%) and tech devices (32%) than leisure activities and experiences (25%).

“This level of enthusiasm is good news for travel marketers that are looking to repeat – or exceed – some of their strongest years,” says Fischer-Groban. “Travelers’ tastes vary widely, but their motives are similar. They want to relax and unwind, but also engage in activities that add interest and excitement to the trip. And while travelers have their favorites, each trip leaves its own lasting imprint, so long as there are memorable moments associated with them.”

Staying power

With these fresh traveler insights in mind, here are five key learnings for marketers:

  1. Leave a lasting impression: Trips don’t need to always push the limits to carry weight with travelers. Travel marketers have an equal opportunity to leave a lasting impression, regardless of trip type, length, distance, or activity.
  2. Deliver on the promise: Fulfilling trips are filled with experiences that are shared and often repeated. Delivering on expectations can create a cycle of new and repeat business. As travel marketers, providing memorable tours, activities and attractions is a way to bond with travelers for years after their trip.
  3. Speedy boarding: Activities are often the driver of destination choice though many are booked much later in the process. Activity providers should aim to reach travelers early in the trip planning process to foster ideas, and then throughout the journey for booking.
  4. Diversity of offerings: Travel intention is high, and most consumers are willing to make financial sacrifices to take their trips in 2024. Travelers are looking for unique experiences that fit into their budgets, so make sure to attract them with a diversity of offerings.
  5. Prioritize customer experience: A fulfilling trip is the sum of its parts: activities, accommodation, restaurants, and transportation all play a collective role. By ensuring every customer experience has the best possible outcome, all travel providers have the opportunity to build lasting relationships, to drive repeat or referral business.

For more insights on the travel imperative, why travel is so much more than a trip, and leaving a lasting impression, download Tripadvisor’s The Experience of Travel report, here.

Customer Experience Brand Purpose Creative Works

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