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4 Lessons You Need to Know from Google's Affluent Traveler Report (Travel Tuesday)

Young affluent couple at cafeTwo interesting, and highly related things happened this week in the world of luxury travel. First, Google released its 2013 Affluent Traveler “Road to Decision” data [PDF link], which breaks out details for affluent travelers from the company’s regular “Road to Decision” presentation (covered here).

Second, Thibault Lécuyer of Fastbooking wrote a piece on Tnooz asking whether luxury hotels should focus more on e-commerce. Like Thibault, I say “yes.” (Well, more like “hell, yes!”) And Google’s data simply underscores that view.


Well, here are 4 key takeaways from the data you should know if you’re targeting luxury travelers:

  1. Affluent travelers comparison shop for travel. While many people assume that money is no object for affluent and wealthy travelers, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in value. Most affluent individuals didn’t get there by wasting money. The “price, proximity, quality” model I’ve discussed before applies just as much to affluent and wealthy travelers as it does to guests in the economy and midscale tiers. The Internet creates immense transparency for guests to know everything about your product and your prices. Now savvy luxury hoteliers will focus on up-selling instead of just competing on price. But you still need to ensure customers understand the value behind the rates they’re paying.
  2. Affluent travelers use the Internet to research. A lot. Again, this isn’t much different from most other segments. But it underscores the point of Thibault’s post on Tnooz, that luxury hoteliers must offer a compelling online experience. At this point, there’s simply no such thing as an “offline traveler”, no matter what segment your guests prefer.
  3. More than half of affluent travelers plan their trips on mobile devices. Of course, mobile is one of the major contributors to the death of “offline.” Luxury guests over-index for ownership and use of mobile devices (well, they’ve got to spend their money on something). And luxury guests increasingly spend plenty of time on their smartphones planning their next trip. Which leads to…
  4. A healthy percentage of affluent travelers book on mobile. Roughly 16% of those researching on smartphones have booked using their phones (211 out of 1,357) or about 8.6% of luxury guests overall. Those numbers are low-to-consistent with other segments, though likely lower because a.) luxury trips tend to be more complex overall and b.) most mobile booking experiences suck. But, as I’ve argued in the past, it’s time for hotels to get on board with improving those experiences.

Again these findings align pretty consistently with the trends outlined in my 2014 Digital Marketing Directions Presentation (featured below) and most hotel marketers can apply the 4 New Year’s Resolutions for Hotel Marketers I talked about a few weeks back.

What the data suggests is that “the Transparent Web,” as I’ve long called it, matters to affluent travelers as much as it long has in the economy and midscale segments. I worked for a major luxury hotel company during the downturn and we recognized how important it was to sell value in a rough economy. This demonstrates that guests continue to seek value even as the economy improves.

Luxury hoteliers that learn and apply this information in their own operations stand to improve revenues and nights increase room nights without sacrificing rate. Guests are out there. They’re shopping, online and on mobile, and they’re ready to book.

The real question is: Are you ready to help them?

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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