Experiential, purpose among travel trends – American Express

Spending on travel is outpacing pre-pandemic levels, with consumers planning experiential, purpose, family travel – American Express Travel Trends report

People are planning to spend more on travel in 2022 than in previous pre-pandemic years, and booking trips with more purpose than ever.

That’s according to the newly released 2022 Global Trends Report from American Express, which revealed that in Q4 2021, global Card Member bookings made through American Express Travel were up 24% compared to 2019 and have continued to strengthen in 2022.

The report, based on data from the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, India and the UK, shows spending on travel in 2022 is set to outpace pre-pandemic levels. More than four in five (86%) are expecting to spend more or the same on travel this year compared to a typical pre-pandemic year, with consumers prioritising travel over physical purchases – 65% say they would rather take their dream vacation than purchase a new car. When it comes to frequency, tourists plan to travel more, with 62% expecting to take 2-4 trips in 2022.

And when it comes to the motivation for travel and type of travel booked, purpose reigns supreme with consumers saying they are travelling to see the people and places they love, celebrate important life events, embark on wish list trips, and experience in-person events.

“The pandemic has made all of us, including travellers, assess what is truly important,” says Audrey Hendley, President of American Express Travel. “The Global Travel Trends Report shows that tourists are making up for lost time and being thoughtful about who they travel with, the places they visit, the brands they support, and how they spend their money as the travel industry moves forward.”

So, what are the trends that will dominate consumer travel in 2022?

Family travel has become increasingly important

Family togetherness has become more important in travel since the onset of the pandemic, as people reprioritise values and spending time with loves ones is top of the list. Three-quarters of travellers are planning to travel more with family in 2022 than they did in 2021 with more than half (58%) more interested in multi-generational family trips than ever before, as families look to reconnect and reengage.

“Across our hotels, we’re seeing demand for experiences that are educational and entertaining for all ages as families look to make new memories together,” says Chris Gabaldon, SVP, Luxury Brands, Marriott International.

Impact and purpose drive booking decisions – tourists seek brands that give back

Travellers are now spending more time thinking through who and what they are travelling for, with 78% wanting to have a positive impact on the community they are visiting.

Four in five respondents say they want to travel to destinations where they can immerse themselves into the local culture and want the money they spend while travelling to go back to the local community. Among the activities to have a positive impact on the local community, travellers are most keen on eating and shopping at small businesses (55%), visiting a landmark or heritage site (42%), visiting a national park (40%) and visiting a farmer’s market (37%).

Helen Giontsis, president at Kensington Tours says the travel firm is seeing a strong desire for travellers to “rekindle a sense of authentic connection, and a need for their chosen travel partner to be contributing to local communities”.

Dream destinations are becoming a reality

Looking beyond the pandemic, travellers are eager to experience the dream destinations they have not previously visited and are embracing flexibility with their travel plans. More than half (55%) of respondents want to book a once-in-a-lifetime vacation this year; and this is especially true for younger generations – Millennials (67%) and Gen Z (65%). And three quarters are willing to book such a trip this year even if they might have to cancel or modify it later.

For those planning on taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip in 2022, 35% are most excited about visiting Europe, 15% North America, 14% Asia and 11% Oceania. Among some of the most popular once-in-a-lifetime trips recently booked for American Express card members are the Greater Barrier Reed in Australia, wine-tasting in Italy and a safari tour in East Africa.

Experiential travel is increasingly popular

Experiential travel is on the up with an increase in booking trips to celebrate milestone celebrations and/or attend events and festivals. More than half of respondents say they are interested in travelling for personal gatherings such as weddings, birthdays, and graduations, with destination weddings in Italy, anniversary trips to Austria and family reunions in Colorado among the milestone trips American Express travel consultants have recently helped card members book.

“Reunion, reconnection, and experiential travel have been driving forces behind the swell of bookings that we’re seeing this year,” says Frank Passanante, SVP, Global head of sales at Hilton.

As music festivals, sports and cultural events return, there is an uptick in customers booking trips for specific events or experiences with more than half (56%) of respondents stating they held off on travelling for major entertainment events last year, but have plans to return to these events this year. While 43% say they are interested in travelling for entertainment events, 38% say they are interested in travelling for cultural events.  

Read the American Express 2022 Travel Trends report​​​​​​​

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