There are several compelling reasons for travel agents to pay attention to the nation’s burgeoning Hispanic population, not least its size––currently 17% of the population and growing––together with its purchasing power, projected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2018.
But dig deeper, and the U.S. Hispanic market’s potential for agents and tour operators looks even more attractive.
At the National Tour Association’s (NTA) recent Travel Exchange in New Orleans, Mario X. Carrasco, managing partner of Burbank, Calif.-based ThinkNow Research, presented new research that underscores the opportunities.
Among key findings:
- Upscale and affluent Hispanics take more vacations annually than their non-Hispanic counterparts.
- Hispanics of all income levels are more likely to travel by air and to travel with family members, factors that contribute to their spending more on vacations.
- Hispanics are more likely to use the services of agents and tour operators than non-Hispanics.
ThinkNow Research, which provides market intelligence to Fortune 500 companies, specializes in studying the U.S. Hispanic consumer.
The findings, the firm’s first look at Hispanics’ travel behaviors, were based on monthly surveys with input from NTA.
Traveling more . . .
Overall, U.S. Hispanics and non-Hispanics take about the same number of vacations per year—1.5 on average—but pronounced differences emerge as one moves up the income scale.
Upscale Hispanics, those with annual household incomes of between $50,000 and $99,999, take an average of nearly two vacations a year compared to 1.6 for upscale non-Hispanics.
And affluent Hispanics, with household incomes of $100,000 or more, take nearly three vacations a year, compared to just 2.3 for their non-Hispanic counterparts.
About four in 10 Hispanics fall within the upscale or affluent segments, Carrasco noted.
. . . and spending more
Looking at travelers’ destinations, ThinkNow found that Hispanics are far more likely than non-Hispanics to travel outside the U.S.
Among Hispanics who take at least one vacation a year, 31% said they “usually” travel internationally, compared to just 18% of non-Hispanics. It’s one of the largest differences ThinkNow found in its travel-related research, Carrasco said.
Zeroing in on affluent Hispanics, ThinkNow found that they spend considerably more on international vacations––about 25% more, or $8,754 per international vacation, compared to $6,989 for affluent non-Hispanics.
Hispanics in all income brackets spend more than non-Hispanics when traveling within the U.S., $2,359 compared to $2,006 per trip, about a 17% difference.
More family travel
Carrasco identified two key reasons Hispanics spend more on travel: “One, Hispanics are more likely to fly than to drive for domestic travel and, two, Hispanics have larger families on average.”
The point about family size is significant. Hispanics tend to travel more with family members, including children and grandparents, than non-Hispanics.
The spending gap increases as you go up the income scale, with affluent Hispanics spending an average of 30% more per domestic vacation––$3,643 compared to $2,798 for non-Hispanics.
Consulting a professional
There’s good news for agents and tour operators looking to target the Hispanic market, according to Carrasco.
ThinkNow found that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to book through a “travel professional,” including both travel agents and tour operators.
In the past two years 42% of Hispanics booked a trip through a travel professional, compared to 36% of non-Hispanics, the research found.
What do Hispanic travelers look for when choosing a travel professional?
“What rose to the top for Hispanics, by a pretty large margin, is the travel professional understanding the specific needs and interests of the Hispanic traveler,” Carrasco said.
For more than one in three Hispanics (34%), this was the top factor in selecting a travel professional.