Long Haul vs Short Haul Vacation…

Long Haul vs Short Haul Vacation Planning

As consumers turn their attention away from gift giving and towards 2017 vacation planning, travel brands should identify key destinations and behaviors that define travel searchers this year. In their latest report, Hitwise looks at two types of vacation planning searchers:

  • Short haul travelers taking shorter-distance trips within the United States, and
  • Long haul travelers taking a long international trip.

Unsurprisingly, the demographics and search behaviors of these two segments are quite different. By understanding these two audiences (and the destinations that they are most excited about in 2017), airlines, resorts, hotels, car rental companies and online reservation sites can tailor their marketing strategy to capture a greater share of the US vacation planning travel market in the coming year.

Staycationers Remain Steady

“Staycations” are a growing trend that will only become more popular in 2017. Interestingly, searches for the actual word “staycation” have dropped precipitously year over year by 63%. However, people searching for variations of the term have increased by nearly 300%; this suggests that consumers are now familiar with the term “staycation,” but are getting more creative with their research and discovery around staycation options.

By taking multiple short trips, travelers can stretch limited vacation time and budgets into multiple short trips. Marketing messages should play off these motivations, for example encouraging Los Angeles residents to consider a quick jaunt to Palm Springs for the price, convenience and ease.

Southern and Midwest Travelers Prefer Short Haul Trips

The below map shows over- and under-indexed states for short haul travelers, meaning the regions are more likely vs. less likely to have populations conducting travel searches within the United States (rather than abroad). The green states—predominantly in the Midwest and South—represent regions where people are more likely to search for short haul vacations when doing their vacation planning for the year.

If the map looks familiar, it may be because it’s not far off from the red vs. blue state split of the recent presidential election. The states won by Republican Donald Trump somewhat mirror the states that over-index for short haul searches – suggesting these consumers prefer to stay in their own state or the continental US. Conversely, consumers from coastal “blue states” (generally characterized dense urban centers) are less likely to conduct short haul travel searches.

Top 10 International Destinations

Search data reveals interesting patterns around consumers who have a passport and a desire to take a foreign trip. The top 10 international destinations are concentrated in two regions:

  • Western Europe (UK, France, Italy) or
  • Warm and sunny Caribbean hot spots (Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic).

Canada is also a rather popular destination, thanks to its proximity to the United States. The map below illustrates the regions that draw in the most international travelers from the US.

International travelers often search based on country in the beginning of their research phase, so SEM campaigns should be optimized based on specific, location-based search variations.

Spending Habits

Short haul vacationers spend an average of $1,105 per trip, and 21% spend less than $300 per trip (these are generally weekend excursions). Without that group, the largest breakout is travelers who spend $1000 or more per trip, representing 17.1% of short haul vacationers.

In contrast, the long haul vacationer will spend an average of $3,253 per trip, with 19% spending over $3,000.

Modes of Transportation

Unsurprisingly, the car dominates the travel plans for the short-stay consumer; over half of their planned trips involve an auto. That being said, over a quarter will fly domestically for their getaways.

Long haul international travelers take a more diverse approach to modes of transportation, since larger budgets and longer trips allow for more variety. While nearly 40% will fly, 21% will use a car followed by ships (12%), buses (10%) and rail (5.7%). There are certainly more diverse opportunities for transportation companies to reach long haul vacationers than short-distance travelers.

For travel marketers finalizing their Q1 planning, understanding the mindset, demographics and search habits of long vs. short-distance travelers can help improve messaging, geo-targeting and inventory to capture the attention of these two segments.