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Expedia Media Solutions: Generational differences in digital travel trends of Europeans [REPORT]
25 May 2017 (Edited )
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Expedia Media Solutions has reported results of an online survey designed to identify the current digital travel trends by generation of consumers in the UK, Germany and France.


  • Qualifying criterion: Booked travel online in the past year
  • Generational segmentation: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers
  • Sample size: 3003
  • Survey: Quantitative
  • Data collected: 30 March - 7 April 2017

Some key findings:

  • Respondents reported having taken an average of 2.6 leisure trips in the past year, with only slight variations among countries (range of 2.4 to 2.7 trips).
  • Most important motivations for trips:
    1. Relaxation
    2. Sightseeing
    3. Visiting family
    4. Family play
    5. Romantic getaway
  • Significant differences among countries:
    • Germans were more likely to take trips for relaxation.
    • British and French respondents were more likely to travel for sightseeing.
    • French respondents were (much) more likely to travel for family play.
  • Average holiday duration reported was more than 9 days - range 7.9 (UK) to 10.2 (FR) days.
  • Air travel predominated (vs. car or train) for all countries - range 54% (FR) to 65% (UK).
  • Hotels were the preferred accommodation for respondents from all countries - range 51% (FR) to 67% (UK).
  • The majority of respondents from all countries reported taking their last trip to another country - range 56% (FR) to 72% (DE).
  • Respondents from all countries tended to say that budget was a significant consideration in trip planning/booking - range 59% (DE) to 77% (FR).
  • Top 3 expense items across countries were:
    1. Lodging
    2. Airfare
    3. Food

Generational differences:

  • Millennials took the most leisure trips (but not by much): 2.8 vs. 2.5-2.6 for the other generations.
  • Significant generational differences in trip motivation:
    • Boomers were most likely to travel for sightseeing (48% vs. 43%-45%).
    • Millennials were most likely to travel for family play (35% vs. 10%-26%) and romantic getaways (33% vs. 18%-24%).
  • Boomers reported taking significantly longer trips (10.5 days vs. 8.5-9.3 days).
  • Most frequently mentioned trip-planning resources (>30% average mention) were:
    • OTAs (42%-54%)
    • Search engines (46% - 51%)
    • Travel Review sites (36% - 41%)
    • Meta search sites (30% - 39%)
  • Boomers and Gen X tended to most prefer OTAs for planning.
  • Most frequently mentioned booking sources (>30% average mention) were:
    • OTAs (43% - 52%)
    • Search engines (30% - 43%)
  • Gen X tended to most prefer OTAs for booking.
  • Boomers were significantly more likely to travel by car (31% vs 21% - 27%).
  • Gen Z were significantly more likely to stay with family/friends (16% vs. 8% - 11%).
  • Across generations, respondents chose international travel over domestic (64% - 67%).
  • Budget was a bigger consideration for Gen Z (79%) and Millennials (73%) vs. Gen X (64%) and Boomers (54%).
  • Top 3 trip expense items across generations were the same as for the population overall.
  • Across generations (79% to 89%), most prevalent attitude toward travel was "I look for the best deal and most value."
  • Significant attitude differences among generations were: Gen Z and Millennials were more likely to agree that "You only live once, so taking risks and crossing things off my bucket list is imperative" and "I'm all about taking a nap on the beach, spa treatments and all-day relaxation."
  • Across the entire sample population, significantly most important considerations in choice of holiday reported were:
    1. Activities
    2. Once-in-a-lifetime experience
    3. Cultural experience
  • Significant generational differences in drivers of holiday choice:
    • Boomers most often named "Activities" and "My food experience."
    • Gen Z most often named "Once-in-a-lifetime experience," "Going somewhere where I can take memorable pictures" and "A place where I can vacation with friends."
  • When first deciding to take a trip:
    • Boomers are most likely to have already decided on a destination - 41% vs. 23%-29%.
    • Millennials are most likely to be deciding among 2 or more destinations (62% vs. 48%-59%).
    • Gen Z are most likely not to have any destination at all in mind initially (18% vs. 11%-15%).
  • Reported need for trip-planning help:
    • 51% of Boomers said they don't need help.
    • 66% of Gen Z and 63% of Millennials said they may need some help and inspiration.
    • 7% of Gen Z and 6% of Millennials said they would need lots of help.
  • Reported most important influences on booking decision (top 3):
    • "I see a deal or promotion" - 42% (Gen Z) - 55% (Boomers), average 47%
    • "Travel pictures posted by my friends" - 29% (Boomers) - 46% (Gen Z), average 42%
    • "Travel pictures posted by experts" - 41% (Gen Z) - 46% (Boomers),average 42%
  • Reported most influential reviews and content (> 70% average):
    • "Reviews from sites like TripAdvisor" - 75% (Boomers) - 85% (Gen X), average 81%
    • "Content from destinations and/or travel brands" - 72% (gen Z) - 80% (Gen X), average 76%
    • "I look for deals before making a decision" - 72% (Boomers) - 79% (Millennials), average 75%.
  • Influence of deals and imagery in ads:
    • "Deal in ad looks appealing": significantly more often mentioned by Gen Z (53%) and Millennials (51%) vs. average 48%
    • "Imagery in ad looks appealing": significantly more often mentioned by Gen Z (53%), Millennials (53%) and Gen X (51%) vs. average 48%. (66% of Boomers aren't impressed.)
    • "Content of ad is informative": significantly more often mentioned by Boomers (49%) vs. average 43%
  • Generational trends in device use were similar at all phases of the planning/booking process:
    • Gen Z most preferred to use smartphones
    • Boomers most preferred to use desktops or laptops.
    • Device preferences of Millennials and Gen X were intermediate.
    • Tablet use was low across both generations and planning/booking phases (max 36% by Boomers during trip).

So: what useful things can we do with these data?

Let's identify some actionable pieces of information:

  • Europeans (UK, DE, FR) take a lot of long leisure trips (2.6 trips/year and duration of more than 9 days on average).
  • Any destination with airline connections has the potential to enter the market for European leisure travelers.
  • Unsurprisingly, budget is an important consideration in Europeans' trip planning, so you need to demonstrate value.
  • Depending on your business sector, you need a (favorable) online presence in OTA, search-engine. travel-review and/or meta-search sites.
  • Getting the best deal trumps all other considerations across countries and generations.
  • Since 41% of Boomers have already decided on a destination before beginning to plan a trip, and 51% of them say they need no planning help, to get those people airlines and hotels need to be top-of-mind at that point in the planning process; it's too late for competing destinations.
  • When just beginning to plan a trip, most Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X are susceptible to persuasion in choosing a destination, and tend to be in need of planning help or inspiration, making them the markets of greatest potential for destinations.
  • Gen Z is strongly influenced by travel pictures posted by friends - so if you have a product that appeals to this segment - and they can afford it - you need a strong presence in social media. The same is true for Millennials, of which there are more. Don't outsource this - young people aren't stupid.
  • Across generations, you'll benefit from competent professional photography on your Web site and in ads.
  • Also across generations, you needs lots of favorable reviews - on TripAdvisor, Google, etc. - as well as informative content in all your marketing collateral. Don't do bogus reviews - you'll get caught.
  • You need to be visible and reachable in mobile devices, especially for younger prospects. If you're a restaurant, attraction, retail store or local tour, this is key for reaching prospects already at your destination.
  • Everyone is influenced by deals in ads, but Boomers (55%) more than most - significant especially for airlines and hotels, and at the destination.
  • Europeans of Gen X and younger are influenced by appealing imagery in ads. That means the subjects of the imagery, not just the photographic quality. Subject matter needs to appeal to your target demographic(s).
  • Boomers, on the other hand, are a lot more interested in the content of ads - aka well-written copy - than in pretty pictures. Don't disappoint them.
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