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Unpacking Travel Insights for Future Tour Operations

A traveler looking at the clouds

Understanding the preferences and behaviors of holiday travelers is crucial for tour operators to align their strategies with the changing preferences and expectations of their travelers. The 2023 Deloitte Holiday Travel Survey, conducted online and encompassing a diverse sample of 5,281 Americans, offers valuable insights into the upcoming travel trends. In this article, we delve into key takeaways that can guide tour operators in crafting memorable and tailored experiences for travelers in the upcoming seasons. 

Surge in Holiday Travel Aspirations

A striking 48% of travelers express a desire to embark on a journey, marking a significant uptake from the 31% recorded in 2022. This trend mirrors the increasing travel enthusiasm observed during the summer of 2023, indicating a sustained pattern. 

One noteworthy revelation is the substantial decline in barriers to travel. Health concerns and worries about delays and cancellations, cited by one in five nontravelers in 2022, have now reduced to just one in 10. This newfound confidence is poised to impact the travel industry positively. 

Intent to travel is not only up across the board but is particularly evident in the hotel sector, where 56% of travelers plan to stay during the holiday season. The skies are also set to be busier, with increased intent to fly, albeit with a notable shift toward more domestic destinations compared to 2022. 

Boomers Reshape the Landscape of Holiday Travel

Boomers, often associated with a more conservative approach to travel, are emerging as unexpected catalysts for the surge in holiday travel. In 2022, they constituted only one-fifth of the holiday traveling public; however, this year, their presence is set to grow to close to one-third. While their planned spending and trip frequency reflect a cautious approach, the fact that boomers are embracing travel is a positive sign for the industry. 

What makes this trend even more interesting is the revelation that many boomers are intentionally delaying their holiday spending to prioritize travel at a different time. This strategic approach signifies not only an eagerness to explore but also a recognition of the flexibility that travel offers in shaping one's lifestyle.   

Gen Z Travel Dynamics: A Closer Look at Influence, Intent, and Innovation

As the torchbearers of change, Gen Z continues to make its mark on travel trends. While they still represent a modest 8% of holiday travelers in 2023, their influence extends beyond their numbers. Gen Z travelers, on average, plan 2.1 trips over the holidays, a close second to millennials at 2.2. One in four Gen Z travelers intends to significantly increase their budgets compared to 2022, the highest among all generations. 

Gen Z is not just following existing travel trends; they are reshaping the way trips are planned. A notable 42% of Gen Z travelers express their intention to use short social video apps for trip planning, a stark contrast to the 14% of travelers in older generations who opt for this approach. This inclination toward visually driven, concise content reflects a broader shift in how the younger generation engages with travel information. 

Post-Pandemic Travel Emerging Trends and Fading Phenomena

As the world navigates through the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey sheds light on which travel trends are here to stay and which are gradually fading into the background. 

The notion of "revenge travel," wherein individuals sought to make up for missed trips during the pandemic, appears to be waning. Fewer Americans cite this as a primary travel motivator, signaling a shift in the psychological and emotional underpinnings of travel decisions. However, this doesn't imply a decrease in enthusiasm for travel. Intent to stay in hotels is on the rise, and the allure of international destinations is regaining momentum. 

A persistent trend is the prevalence of "laptop lugging." Approximately one-third of travelers plan to work at least partially during their trips. Contrary to the stereotypical image of business travelers, these individuals span across age groups and income brackets, expressing not just a commitment to work but also a high intent to engage with their travel destinations. 

Other Valuable Key Insights and Travel Trends of 2023

  • Increased Paid Lodging Intent: Intent to stay in paid lodging has more than doubled since 2021, especially prominent among Gen Z and millennials.

  • Healthy Budgets: The average holiday travel budget is $2,725, with a 15% higher leisure travel spending intent compared to 2022.

  • Dip in Trip Length: Average trips decreased from 2.01 in 2022 to 1.88 in 2023, with 75% planning getaways of one week or less.

  • Budget Adjustments: 18% plan significantly less spending due to financial concerns, while 18% plan significantly more spending driven by higher travel prices and changing needs.

  • Booking Preferences: Most plan to book flights and hotels directly through supplier sites and apps, and word-of-mouth tops trip planning resources.

  • Generative AI Usage: Less than 10% use generative AI tools for trip planning, primarily for finding in-destination activities, hotel options, and aiding in destination selection.

  • Reasons for Increased Budgets: 20% are increasing the budget for special bucket-list trips, and 38% for a special event/trip.

  • Increased Budget in Activity Participation: Participation in all in-destination activity types is at or above 2021 levels, with three in 10 increasing budgets, planning to spend more on these activities.

The insights gleaned from the 2023 holiday travel trends are a roadmap for tour operators to align their strategies with the changing preferences and expectations of travelers. 

Unlock the full potential of your tour operations with WolfPack's exclusive SaaS Platform, tailored specifically for Tour Operators - Book a demo today and thrive in the dynamic and competitive travel landscape of 2024 and beyond!



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