Brand devotees could embark on a Lay’s Flavor Trip by tweeting their selection from a choice of global destinations. The brand responded by sending out a bag of chips offering a “taste of” the selected country.
The marketing stunt aimed to satiate consumer travel urges. A year on, travel companies are exploring how to satisfy those urges for real. The challenge is how to appeal to constantly evolving tastes.
Identifying a new traveler
Travelers are often traditionally defined across tiers or overarching travel purposes. Analysts outside of card programs may use consumer profiles, such as affluence and frequency or fun seeking versus self seeking, in addition to loyalty tiers.
Tiers and consumer profiling work fine from a product perspective. But travel has always been personal. One person’s quest for unspoiled solitude is another’s recipe for boredom. The underlying purpose of a self-seeking traveler’s journey could have been cultural enrichment or luxury shopping and may or may not have been tagged onto a business trip.
When the travel sector was booming, such perspectives were but details. Now, traveling is no longer a given, and those details matter.
Mastercard’s recent report Ready for Takeoff? highlights eight new or modified travel segments. Two are business oriented:
- workation travelers taking work-from-home arrangements on vacation
- essential business travelers
Six are pleasure oriented:
- budget deal seekers
- escapists wanting short getaways close to home in less crowded locations
- rejuvenators taking dining and beauty spend habits on vacation
- adventurers taking outdoor spend habits on vacation
- international VFR (visiting family and relatives) travelers
- luxury aficionados
Success in a volatile sector comes from identifying those segments and then catering to them with appropriate flavors.
Pairing with regions
Just as Lay’s chose beer and brats to represent Germany and lime & sea salt to represent Mexico, some segments are more representative of regions than others.
Latin American (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru) and Japanese travelers weren’t that partial to workations as a share of travel in 2019. Their 2020 habits show an even greater aversion. That contrasts with a growth in share in many other regions.
Australians and New Zealanders are bucking the stagnancy in essential business travel across most regions. When it does occur, travelers tend to stay longer than in 2019 and often incorporate an element of bleisure or business plus leisure.
Travelers from countries in the Americas (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, USA) mostly used online travel agents to contribute to a slight growth in share of budget deal seekers there in 2020. Outside of consistent levels in the two key African markets, Nigeria and South Africa, share declined in many other regions.
Reduced demand hasn’t precipitated as many deals as might have been expected. Hotels may be reluctant to reduce prices because of the time needed to increase them again at a rate tolerable to consumers. Airlines usually profit more from a few high-paying business travelers than from many low-paying economy travelers.
Middle Eastern (Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) predilections contributed to a slight growth in share of escapist travelers and a fairly significant net increase over 2019 in cardholder use for such escapism. Japanese travelers showed similar levels, although they demonstrated an even greater preference for rejuvenation. Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong and Singaporean travelers paralleled Japanese enthusiasm for rejuvenation but replaced escapism with adventurism.
The two other pleasure segments, international VFR travelers and luxury aficionados, generally lost share worldwide. The situation is poised to change across regions with high vaccination rates. People want to see family or are simply eager to use any pent-up savings. But the nuances have changed.
VFR travelers stay longer and want flexible return dates, and the focus of luxury aficionados is more on traveling in style than on high-end shopping.
Catering to tastes
It’s unclear which of the new travel segments will reflect a limited-run beer & brats flavor or become a salt and vinegar staple.
What is clear is that consumer perspectives will remain an essential ingredient that takes traveler segments beyond product-driven tiers and consumer profiling. That’s where data can help.
Regardless of travel’s volatility, data can help identify tastes and guide how to best cater to them.