Are Consumers Moving Away From 'Authentic Travel?'

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Are Consumers Moving Away From 'Authentic Travel?'

A local bazar in Budapest.


The travel industry for years has been promoting the concept that travelers want to immerse themselves in local cultures and festivals, family-owned small restaurants and other authentic experiences.  

But according to this year’s American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) “How America Travels” national survey, consumers may literally be looking to take a break. When asked to name the most important reason to travel for leisure, 64% of the survey’s 1,522 respondents said “relaxing,” followed by “quality time” with family (59%), seeing natural sights (38%), seeing historic sites (34%) and going to the beach (29%). Experiencing different foods was sixth (25%) and exploring other cultures was eighth (21%). 

“Consumers still want an authentic and local experience, but what shot to the top as the primary reason to travel is to relax, and find time with friends and family,” said ASTA president Zane Kerby. 

Still, Kerby said ASTA isn’t sure if this is “a huge shift or a blip.” 

While behaviors may be changing, ASTA members are still the best suited to advise travelers on immersive experiences. Kerby said the average ASTA travel agent has traveled to more than 73 countries and been in business more than 25 years. 

Other good news for travel agents is that 32% of Millennials have taken at least one cruise in the past five years, and 61% of them enjoyed it. According to ASTA’s survey, 20% of GenXers have taken a cruise in the past five years, while 18% of Baby Boomers have as well. ASTA’s survey showed that 45% of GenXers said they enjoyed their cruise experience, while 56% of Baby Boomers said the same. 

Of all who have taken a cruise, travelers find onboard food and beverage appealing (57%), followed by relaxing (54%), ports of call (43%), shows and entertainment and the convenience of seeing multiple ports of call (tied at 39%). Excursions came in at seventh, appealing to 37% of cruisers. 

ASTA did break out cruise appeal by age group, and found that 57% of Baby Boomers find an itinerary’s ports of call appealing, much higher than Gen Xers (40%) and Millennials (31%). Millennials felt onboard social activities were the most appealing, at 32%. 

One disturbing finding is that 27% of Americans did not take a vacation in 2016. The behavior appears to be based on income and price, as 41% of Americans earning less than $50,000 didn’t take a vacation, while 19% of Americans earning $50,000-99,000 didn’t, 13% of those earning $100,000-149,000 didn’t, and 8% of those earning more than $150,000 didn’t.

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