Why does everybody still desire what everybody can easily get? Travel has become far more accessible very quickly and in most parts of the world. Yet it retains all of its emotional, aspirational attributes. Why did the travel lifestyle not get old?
By Oli Dervey
You’d be hard pressed to find a growth story as successful as the one the global travel industry can offer. In less than a generation, jetting about has gone from the realm of businessmen, rock stars and spies to that of school groups, weekend escapists and long-distance daters. The numbers are stunning:
- Flying has become ever more affordable. While a transatlantic round-trip flight cost an average of 3 monthly salaries in 1970 (yes, that’s in Economy Class), it could be had for about 4 daily salaries in 2010.
- It has become ever more available. New airlines fly new routes to new or, bye bye Cold War, converted airfields. The number of unique city pairs offered skyrocketed from 11’000 in 2000 to well over 20’000 today.
- And it has become ever more frequently used. Commercial air passenger numbers are on track to double from 2.2bn in 2008 to about 4.4bn in 2018.
Hotels, AirBnBs, tour operators and attractions have grown apace, collectively making up a gigantic global industry of welcoming people elsewhere.
But something interesting is happening. When other industries underwent similar rapid change from luxury item to everyday tool, they typically became mundane commodities. Think of “car phones” installed in fancy 1980s Mercedes, or air conditioning, or personal computers. Not many people get excited about such trivialities today.
Travel is different. But why?
Essentially, traveling has become a way of life. Facilitated by technologies that have eliminated the cost and time involved in communicating over great distances, we have begun to live highly connected, globalized lives. Constant streams of effortless communication hold together businesses, families and friendships around the globe. These connections give us ever more reason to go traveling and meet our faraway friends and loved ones in person.
Technology has also taken much of the effort out of traveling. When your author first went to London 20 years ago, he booked his flight in a high street travel agency, was issued a paper ticket and given a guidebook. He then proceeded to the bank to pick up his pre-ordered Pound Sterling, and mailed in an order for pre-arranged London Travel Cards.
On his most recent visit on the Thames last month, flights and hotels were booked online with a few clicks, the map was on the smartphone, a ride-sharing app took care of getting about, and not a single penny was spent in cash: Credit cards can be tapped anywhere now. Painstaking planning has been replaced with easy and accessible on-demand tools.
With travel having become so stress-free, fun and affordable, it is no wonder that people crave ever more of it, to ever new and exciting destinations.
Finally, and crucially, younger generations tend to define themselves much more by what they experience than by what they own. Ubiquitous social media such as Facebook and, especially, Instagram, are reinforcing the desire to roam and find the best selfie spots in ever more far-flung corners of the world. Thus, they condition people to focus on the aspirational, inspiring qualities of travel. The unpleasant side-effects of mass mobility, such as endless airport security lines and 29” middle seats, are actively ignored.
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”70%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Younger generations tend to define themselves much more by what they experience than by what they own[/dropshadowbox]
For loyalty marketers, this is pure bliss: Consumers keep irrationally craving a reward category that becomes ever more affordable. While travel rewards have been at the core of airline and hotel loyalty programs from the beginning, today they are also an indispensable offering for programs centered around retail, consumer goods, financial services or entertainment.
And while the category, with its global and dispersed content, can be a challenge for non-travel programs to manage, there are fortunately providers which offer turn-key travel earn and burn modules to quickly integrate into most loyalty platforms.
Even for programs which won’t see a major part of their members’ transactions suddenly shift to travel, adding experiential travel rewards to the marketing mix will boost engagement and emotional attachment – creating more customer loyalty.
And where are you off to this weekend?
If you are looking for travel content to boost the attractiveness and performance of your loyalty program, speak to Loylogic.
Oli Dervey is Head of Strategy at Loylogic.