Travelport has published research into digital traveler behaviour with spotlights on various regional differences and highlighting priorities and pain points for travelers.
The distribution giant has put together a “digital traveler league” table, which ranks nineteen countries surveyed based on the main indicators of digital platform usage by travelers, reflecting the overall smartphone, fixed-line and mobile internet penetration levels in each country.
Highlights from the report include that travelers—even those who have a strong preference for digital travel tools—may feel overwhelmed by information from time to time.
According to Travelport this “can lead to confusion and indecision.”
On average, travelers access 16 categories of apps for every journey they take, and 75% will leave reviews of their travels on websites.
But they also have a high degree of skepticism around travel reviews, and are looking for “trusted voices.”
This dialectic is especially marked for younger travelers who actively use social media and review websites as part of their travel research.
79% of 18-24 year olds will check out videos and photos posted by their friends on social media to help inform their travel plans.
44% of 18-24 year olds expressed doubts over whether reviews posted on sites were genuine.
The report says:
“Young travelers realize that sometimes, less is more.
“If they can get expert advice from one source, there is no need to spend so much time researching on multiple sites.
“What would really help is a simplified process with a travel professional supplying personalized advice. Then they would feel comfortable that they were making the right decisions for them.”
As might be expected, habits differ by demographics, but there are many common threads which set Asia Pacific travelers apart from global counterparts.
Asia-Pacific nations are in the top three spots, with India at the lead, followed by China and Indonesia.
However, Japan ranks 18th between the UK and Germany and Australia ranks 16th.
87% of Japanese travelers and 80% of Australian travelers are more likely to use a computer for their bookings than a smartphone.
Asia Pacific travelers have dealt with the confusion by turning to peer-to-peer sites (82%) as their first stop when researching their travel plans; 86% use travel booking sites for research, and 46% use similar sites which include personalized recommendations based on past travel.
Despite their digital habits, 80% of Asia Pacific travelers will rely on travel professionals as part of their travel planning. 88% of Chinese travelers rely on agents as their first point of contact for booking and travel arrangements.
About 90% of Chinese, Indian and Indonesian travelers use videos and photos posted by their friends as part of their travel research.
In the top digital travel nation of India, smartphones are the preferred digital device, and consumers will use them throughout the trip from booking to boarding; 82% of Indian travelers believe mobile boarding passes make travel easier.
China tops the world in embracing voice search. 72% of travelers use voice search where available.
By comparison, only 33% of travelers in the UK do so. At the end of 2016, China had 43 million digital assistants in use.
But Travelport says it is the least influential of all the sources for Asia Pacific travelers, because the technology is still new.
Chinese travelers are also keen to collect travel apps, with 20 categories of apps, on average, used during each trip.
46% of Chinese travelers expressed a degree of frustration at not being able to talk to a human.
Travelport suggests there may be an opportunity to address this though a human-hybrid chat-bot interface.
Because of their digital habits, it’s no surprise that Asia Pacific travelers will judge the quality of their travel services providers by the availability of Wi-Fi; 61% avoid hotels that charge for Wi-Fi.
Trends in the Americas include insights from travelers in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the U.S.
Travel booking sites and travel inspiration sites are the top preferrence for these travelers (80%) and 42% use voice search when researching. Even so, 72% rely on travel professionals to help in their travel planning.
By and large (74%) travelers in the Americas consider travel planning a fun activity, and enjoy the time they spend looking for destination inspiration and good deals.
Social media influences travel decisions for travelers in the Americas with nearly equal trust put on video and photos posted by friends and family (70%) as content published by travel companies (69%).
81% of American travelers still rely on their computers, but 34% now use their smartphone. Despite digital tools available, 38% of American travelers express frustration at not being able to talk to a human.
44% will use smartphones to manage travel at their destination. This figure is higher for US travelers (50%).
67% of travelers in the Americas will avoid hotels which charge for wifi.
Travelers from the Americas are also picking up on the bleisure trend, with 70% making time to see the local area as time allows and 56% extending their trips for a few days so that they can enjoy some leisure time at the destination.
42% of American business travelers use a travel management company and 49% express frustration that their corporate travel policies are too restrictive.
Gordon Wilson, president and CEO, Travelport says of the study:
“The findings demonstrate the significance of digital tools for travelers before, during and even after their journeys.
“They highlight the need for our $7.6 trillion global travel and hospitality industry to adapt continually to provide responsive, relevant and timely services for customers.
“Whether young or old, and in whichever continent, providing such digital tools and content is no longer an accessory but an essential means of reaching and engaging with the modern traveler from the moment they search to the moment they return from their trip.”
Travelport’s ‘The Global Digital Traveler Research’ was an online survey using Toluna Research’s sample of travelers in August 2017. It compiles feedback from 11,000 respondents in 19 countries globally who had taken at least one return flight last year.