If you want to deliver trips that your constituents like to take, you’d better understand the ways they see the world and what they look for in travel. To do that well, it helps to have a handle on traveler demographics. Demographics can refer to any broad way of classifying people according to common traits. Age, geography, race, income and education levels all play a role in shaping people’s perceptions of the world, and they also influence how people travel.
Here are some demographic keys to consider as you develop travel offerings that will thrill and delight the customers, clients, alumni and other members your program serves.
Perhaps more than any other factor, the age and generation of your travelers will influence how they travel. Much of what we take for granted in group travel was developed for seniors of the World War II generation when they dominated the market. But that generation is rapidly aging out of relevance in travel and is being replaced by baby boomers, who value independence much more than their parents did. They are followed by Generation X and the millennials, generations that embrace technology and social progress. Forward-thinking travel planners should focus on creating experiences that will resonate with boomers, as well as trips that have multigenerational appeal.
Race may be taboo when it comes to politics, but it can be an important factor in travel, especially group travel. Studies have found that African-Americans are more likely than other ethnic groups to travel in groups, and those groups also include more diverse age ranges. Hispanic culture experts have reported that as Hispanics are reaching higher levels of economic success in the United States, they have a strong desire to travel, and they are likely to bring sizable groups of extended family on their trips. These trends represent great opportunities for group travel planners to reach out and to bring ascendant ethnic groups into the tourism fold.
The difference between a bargain-basement tour and a luxury vacation is vast, and products priced at different levels are likely to attract travelers with different incomes. Average-income earners are likely to be looking primarily for value when they travel and will be happy to use midmarket hotels and restaurants to save money. High-income earners tend to seek convenience and experience more than value in trips and are happy to pay more for luxurious accommodations and meals in prime locations. Average-income earners will brag about having visited a place; high-income earners will brag about what they did while they were there.
Education levels tend to impact lifetime income, and they also make a difference in the kinds of experiences people want to have on the road. More educated travelers are more likely to have traveled a lot on their own, and when it comes to group trips, they are willing to go to more exotic locations, especially abroad. When traveling, they tend to gravitate more toward sophisticated cultural activities — fine-arts performances, museum visits, people-to-people experiences — and they look for insightful commentary and analysis from guides along the way.
Geography affects people’s travel in ways both obvious and subtle. Travelers from Northern locations may be more interested in visiting a warm destination during winter than their counterparts from the Deep South, for instance. But geography also affects people’s attitudes: People from busy Northeastern cities often have different expectations than travelers from farming communities in the Midwest. And groups originating from high-cost-of-living areas may be able to spend more money on tours than their peers from more affordable parts of the country, where salaries are lower.