Spokane Journal of Business

Traveler spending, hoteliers' profitability expected to rise

U.S. establishment owners more optimistic than their counterparts elsewhere

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Forty-two percent of U.S. travelers who participated in a recent survey said they are planning to increase travel spending this year, and 79 percent of U.S. hoteliers said they are optimistic about increased profits this year.

TripAdvisor, which claims to be the world's largest travel site, sponsored the biannual survey, called the TripBarometer by TripAdvisor, and touts it as the world's largest accommodation and traveler survey.

The results of the survey spotlight country level, regional, and global trends within the travel sector and reveal insights into economic outlook, travel planning, booking methods, and traveler expectations, Trip Advisor says.

Specific to the U.S., the report shows strong indicators for increased travel spending and accommodation profitability in 2013. The percentage of U.S. hoteliers optimistic about increased profitability this year ranked ahead of their counterparts in South America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

Perhaps fueled by this optimism, 56 percent of U.S. accommodation providers that participated in the survey said they plan to increase their room rates in the next three months, making them the most bullish about rate hikes of all countries polled.

Looking at hiring trends within the accommodation industry, 19 percent of U.S. hoteliers polled said they plan to add new jobs this year, which matches the global average.

What are U.S. travelers looking for in 2013, and how and when do they plan to book? The TripBarometer offers some insights:

•Beach (21 percent), culture (17 percent), and adventure (15 percent) trips are U.S. travelers' preferred excursions.

•U.S. travelers most often travel with a significant other (60 percent), followed by flying solo (17 percent) and with kids (15 percent).

•For a long trip, 80 percent of U.S. travelers begin planning their vacation two or more months ahead of time. For a short excursion, 77 percent plan their trip within a month of departure.

•Globally, travelers look at an average of seven properties before booking an accommodation, with 55 percent of U.S. travelers considering from one to five options, and 26 percent considering six to 10 options.

•The top three decision-making factors for global travelers are: price (76 percent), location (68 percent), and online reviews (44 percent).

•What deals will motivate U.S. travelers to book in 2013? The survey showed the top motivators to be room discounts (79 percent), a free night's stay with booking (51 percent), and free Wi-Fi (45 percent).

The TripBarometer found that that travel review websites surpass feedback from family and friends as the "most useful" sources of information when researching and planning a trip. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they found such websites to be most helpful, compared with 19 percent for Web-based travel agencies, 14 percent for travel operator websites, 9 percent for friends and family, 3 percent for social media, 2 percent for travel magazines and brochures, and 1 percent for store-front travel agencies.

With travelers going online for their travel research and planning, they also are showing preference for online as the primary booking channel. In the U.S., the majority of travelers are booking via accommodation providers' websites (32 percent), closely followed by Web-based travel agencies (28 percent).

In line with those findings, U.S. hoteliers report their own website as the channel that generates the most bookings (50 percent), followed by the telephone (22 percent).

TripBarometer found that 62 percent of U.S. travelers think it's beneficial that properties allow them to book an accommodation via a mobile device. Similarly, 78 percent of accommodation providers think it is important to allow guests to book their property on a mobile device.

However, despite the perceived importance of mobile booking capabilities and consumer demand for them, only 37 percent of U.S. business respondents currently engage with guests via mobile devices. Of those that do engage with travelers via mobile, 69 percent allow guests to book rooms on mobile devices.

Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business, says, "With travelers choosing digital channels for their travel planning and research, traditional word of mouth has been amplified and online booking has become the norm across the globe. The next logical step is mobile, especially considering that travelers in some emerging markets are bypassing desktops and getting online for the first time using mobile devices."

For the full survey report, visit tripadvisortripbarometer.com. Findings were derived from on an online survey conducted in December and January. A total of more than 35,000 people in 26 countries spanning seven regions participated in the survey.

TripAdvisor claims that its branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, with more than 60 million unique monthly visitors and more than 75 million reviews and opinions. The sites operate in 30 countries worldwide, includingChina underdaodao.com. TripAdvisor also includes TripAdvisor for Business, a dedicated division that provides the tourism industry access to millions of monthly TripAdvisor visitors.

TripAdvisor Inc. manages and operates websites under 19 other travel media brands, and it says together the sites attract more than 75 million unique monthly visitors.

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