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A February 2007 Hitwise study found that slightly more women than men visit online travel sites, and that nearly a quarter of visitors are ages 55 and older.
The age distribution is worth noting because lifestyle trends are altering the types of trips people take and the way they plan and book travel. Those 55 and older will increase substantially as a percentage of the population during the next 10 years. Yet Web-based resources tailored specifically for that group have been lacking.
Don Birch of Abacus International said in the June 2006 EyeforTravel newsletter that "we're seeing the emergence of a new generation of older travelers who are healthy, active, street-wise and have unprecedented spending power. This is a lucrative segment but one which has specific needs."
Another online travel study conducted in February 2007 by Nielsen//NetRatings also tracked about a quarter of visits as coming from those ages 55 and older. Nearly half of visitors were ages 45 and older, pointing toward even more growth in the 55-and-older group during the next 10 years.
Youth travelers ages 16 to 24 are another large but underserved market. They now represent more than 20% of all international visitors, according to a study by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Youth & Student Educational Travel Confederation (WYSETC).
The study, cited in March 2007 by TravelMole, stated that "compared with average tourists, adventurous young backpackers stay longer, spend more, seek out alternative destinations and enjoy a wider mix of travel experiences."
Over $700 billion was spent on travel in the US in 2006, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). Travel spending is expected to rise through 2009, but at decreasing annual rates. The TIA said the slowdown will come from the stabilization of travel prices, softer demand and a general slowdown in consumer spending.
Make sure you're ready for the summer travel season. Read the eMarketer US Online Travel: The Threat of Commoditization report.
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