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Travel, Leisure, Tourism: Consumer Trends in Hospitality

How is the conversation around hospitality and travel changing over time? Take a deep dive into the insights and trends in our latest research.

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REPORTTravel, Leisure, Tourism: Consumer Trends in Hospitality
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How is the conversation around hospitality and travel changing over time? Take a deep dive into the insights and trends in our latest research.

The tourism industry ranks among the top 10 biggest industries by revenue, and there are so many different kinds of businesses linked to it: hotels, airlines and other transportation, food and beverages, and, of course, entertainment (The Taylor Swift Effect is real). 

In this research, we explore the current and future trends shaping hospitality and travel. As we dive deeper into the online conversation, we’ll explore how consumer behavior is changing and what that means for brands in the space. 

Keep reading or jump directly to each section. 

How have consumer sentiments towards hospitality shifted? 

Between January 1 and June 15, 2024, we gathered over 77m mentions around travel.  

Positive mentions accounted for 16% of the conversation. In these mentions, consumers discussed what they generally enjoyed about traveling. We spotted mentions of great food and service, safe flights and destinations, and consumer-recommended experiences that are “worth the trip.” 

Many mentioned specialty food, must-try dishes, and dining experiences worth traveling for. 

Mentions of “worth it,” “worth the trip,” and “highly recommend” totaled 680k mentions between January 1 and June 15, 2024, a 10.5% increase compared to the same period in 2023. If there are experiences to be had, consumers are willing to put in the effort to get there.  

Negative mentions just outweighed the positive, representing 19% of the conversation relating to travel and hospitality between January 1 and June 15, 2024.  

People eagerly shared their unsatisfactory experiences relating to travel, such as flight delays, long wait times, and inefficient or poor service quality. 

Poor customer service saw a 13.5% increase in mentions in the first five months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.  

Consumers indicated that poor communication from brands was their main issue. In one example, a customer posted on X that after hours of waiting to take off, the flight crew announced that they didn’t have a pilot. In this thread, the consumer added that they understood that delays can happen for various reasons, but the airline should’ve properly communicated the issue to the customers on board.  

Among other mentions with negative sentiment, we spotted complaints about travel apps. Consumers expressed their frustration with inconsistencies and technical difficulties they encountered while using travel and booking applications. They mentioned issues with booking tickets, including app crashes, unresponsive support, credit card payment failures, unexpected fees, pricing discrepancies, and scams.  

These consumers also actively discouraged others from using specific apps they didn’t have luck with. 

Mentions relating to travel apps clocked in at 361k between January 1 and June 15, 2024.

Of course, some issues that arise in travel are unavoidable. Many frustrated travelers are asking for clearer and more frequent communications, so improving communication strategies would be a win for airlines in particular. Airlines should pay special attention to issues that are emerging that they can swiftly do something about.  

The most discussed vacation types in 2024 

What types of vacations do consumers discuss most online? 

We compared the online conversation around six popular vacation categories between January 1 and June 15, 2024 to the same period in 2023. 

While solo travel clocked in the most mentions out of the six categories, the all-inclusive topic saw the highest increase in conversation within the first five months of 2024 – up 13.3% compared to the same period in 2023.

In all-inclusive travel conversations online, many commenters hinted on their overall state of fatigue and the need for a break from their routine, even a short one.  

When we compared the “need a break” conversation between January 1 and June 15, 2024, to the previous five months (July 18 and December 31, 2023), the volume of mentions grew by 11%. Hospitality brands might do well to tap into this trend in their messaging, offering relaxing experiences to combat the general sense of fatigue.  

The cost of living was another factor contributing to the all-inclusive conversation.   

These two posts gathered large volumes of engagement on X. They compared the cost of living of two individuals in their respective homelands to the cost of living at an all-inclusive resort in a country where goods and services tend to be cheaper. In both cases, the comparison showed that an all-inclusive holiday package might be a more cost-effective solution to paying rent and expenses at home. 

What does the generational breakdown look like? 

Looking at the breakdown of data, solo travel dominated travel-related discussions across all generations, with the highest share of conversation among Gen Z, making up 80.4% of their entire conversation around the categories we studied. 

Besides solo travel, baby boomers and Gen X authors were more likely to discuss eco-friendly travel options than other generations, accounting for 37.5% and 26.7% of their conversations on the topics, respectively. 

Millennials and Gen Z authors were more likely to discuss all-inclusive travel, accounting for 13.4% of all vacation type conversations among millennials and 12.5% among Gen Z. 

Emotions in conversations about vacations 

The topic of travel can bring up all kinds of feelings.

We analyzed emotion-categorized mentions across all six vacation types to uncover consumers’ feelings about each.  

As expected from the topic of vacation, all six categories saw high proportions of mentions classified as joyful. 

Many of the many types of travel we studied brought consumers joy, with themes including cheaper travel options, unique experiences, dining, ambiance, views, helpful customer service, and inclusive destinations. 

The all-inclusive and pet-friendly travel categories gathered higher shares of angry mentions, with 14% and 11%, respectively. This suggests that consumers buying all-inclusive vacations have higher expectations over their experiences regardless of the price. 

Consumers discussing all-inclusive experiences shared concerns about hidden charges or lack of clarity during booking, as well as disappointment over poor amenities, inadequate hotel service, and low-quality food. Some people also mentioned overcrowding of resorts and theme parks affecting their visitor experience.  

In pet-friendly travel conversations, consumers talked about the necessity of having consistent and clear communication around pet policies at hotels to avoid surprise charges. 

Solo travel gathered the highest volume of fearful mentions, accounting for 12% of all emotion-categorized mentions for this category. Safety and privacy were the biggest concerns in solo travel conversations. Solo travelers called out brands for problematic experiences like broken or faulty door locks at hotels and feeling uncomfortable at their premises. 

Many solo travelers warned others about how to behave to promote safety when traveling alone, especially as a female.  

We spotted safety concerns in conversations within the LGBT+-friendly vacations category as well. LGBT+-friendly travel discussions gathered higher volumes of sad mentions, accounting for 18% of all mentions relating to travel and LGBT+. Consumers are seeking inclusive hotels, restaurants, and attractions, and sharing frustrations around venues that aren’t welcoming. 

The changing face of luxury travel 

Luxury vacation mentions were up by 27% between January 1 and June 15, 2024 compared to the same period in 2023, rising from 578k to 734k. 

What does the breakdown of common themes relating to luxury travel look like? 

We also filtered the conversation by locations to create a topic cloud, and Dubai emerged as the most discussed destination in conversations about luxury vacation between January 1 and June 15, 2024.  

Besides Dubai, London, India, and Italy also came up at the top of the list. “Beach” scored the second-highest volume of mentions after Dubai, suggesting that many travelers are interested in luxury coastal vacations. 

Our emotion analysis of the luxury travel conversation revealed a 33.7% increase in 'surprise’ between January 1 and June 15, 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. 

Luxury travelers were left pleasantly surprised by unexpected room upgrades, a personalized approach, friendliness of staff, and additional perks during their stay. 

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"Luxury travel has been around for a while and it will continue to stay. The key difference about how luxury travel is being discussed right now is that consumers want luxury options to be made more available and accessible to the everyday consumer. We see hospitality and travel companies in this space cater to more specific expectations of how pervasive luxury should be in the entire travel journey. Meaning, some customers want to be able to decide what parts of their travel journey should be a luxury experience, whereas other consumers want every aspect of their vacation to be top-notch."
— Christina Wu, Customer Success Director, Travel and Hospitality Sector Lead, Brandwatch

Staycations are in decline 

Staycations have been known as a great way to recharge, treat oneself, have fun, and relax – as well as to save a bit of money on travel.  

We gathered over 225k mentions relating to staycation between January 1 and June 15, 2024. But things seem to be in decline – mentions of staycation decreased 29% compared to January 1 and June 15, 2023.  

According to a recent report by US Travel Association, domestic air passenger growth was up 6% in January 2024 compared to the previous year but lower than the double-digit growth seen through 2023. Traveling abroad increased 24% year-over-year.  

High gas prices, car rentals, and expensive airfare contribute to the total cost of a vacation, and according to a recent report, a weeklong solo vacation in the US can set customers back more than $1,900 per person

For travelers in the UK, unpredictable weather and exorbitant prices have taken a toll on domestic tourism, too. 

The growing costs of staying local compared to traveling abroad could be one of the reasons not to have a staycation for some consumers. 

For those who can afford staycations, we found plenty of consumers spotlighting their ultimate staycation experiences, including luxurious suites, gourmet delights, and spa retreats. 

Between January 1 and June 15, 2024, mentions of retreats in staycation-related conversations were up 8.1% compared to the same period in 2023. 

While conversations around spas are generally down on last year, we spotted a significant increase in the number of unique authors discussing spas in staycation-related conversations in the first five months of 2024 – up 52%, compared to 2023.  

Since not all consumers see staycations as a cheap offering, hospitality companies that rely on staycationers, should be dialing up the luxury element to their offerings to attract consumers who seek premium experiences without traveling far.  

Summer travels 2024 

The 2024 summer season is a busy one, with The Eras Tour and a whole lot of sporting events to enjoy.  

We filtered hospitality and travel mentions based on three major events to see how they are influencing the online conversation.  

Major soccer games gathered the highest volume of travel conversation between January 1 and June 15, 2024, accounting for 42% of mentions relating to the three events. 

Summer breeze makes us feel fine? 

Our emotion analysis showed that major soccer games saw the highest volume of angry mentions. In those conversations, consumers complained about high travel costs, accommodation availability, airline refund requests, public transportation issues, and overall logistics.  

Summer games accumulated the highest volume of joyful mentions. Multiple consumers shared their excitement about the upcoming event in Paris, including preparations, travel recommendations, and plans for the event. Some openly praised travel brands when scoring a good travel deal. 

Taylor Swift’s Eras tour gathered the highest share of sad mentions compared to the other two events, accounting for 24% of all Eras Tour-related emotion-categorized mentions. In sad conversations, Taylor Swift fans often discussed the costs associated with traveling to see their idol. Some people added that it’s cheaper to fly to Europe to see her concert than to stay in North America. This is a trend that’s reminiscent of our staycation data above – for those looking to save money, staying closer to home doesn’t always make sense. 

Despite the significant costs that Taylor Swift indirectly imposes on her fans and local residents, the Taylor Swift effect undeniably provides a boost to local businesses, as seen in Stockholm here. 

The same can be said about major sporting events.  

Studies suggest that the football championship in Germany will bring over 1 billion US dollars from visiting fans

Summer games are projected to generate between 6.7 and 11.1 billion euros for the Paris region. 

Recognizing this potential, many brands are actively joining online discussions, aiming to become a source of joy for consumers. These brands align their tactics with what delights customers, thus positioning themselves as positive contributors to overall customer satisfaction. This is often done in subtle ways, with strict rules around marketing associated with top sporting events.  

To understand this trend better, we looked into mentions of joy relating to the three events shared between January 1 and June 15, 2024. 

The examples below feature happy consumers highlighting thoughtful brands in their online discussions. 

And these brands used the opportunity to reengage their audience online and build stronger and more meaningful relationships with the audience.  

Plenty of brand inspiration if you ask us. 

At the time of writing this research, the major events we looked at haven't finished yet. But what we do know is that during these peak times, brands should be extra vigilant and look for opportunities to delight as well as monitor and solve issues that arise fast. 

Lessons for hospitality brands 

Here are some tips for hospitality brands based on the research we’ve shared: 

  1. Focus on safety. Consumers openly discuss concerns and their negative travel experiences relating to safety. These consumers discourage others from traveling to places and destinations that have made them uncomfortable. Brands that prioritize addressing safety concerns will foster better experiences for their customers, improving brand sentiment in the process and potentially hooking in new business. 
  2. Improve transparency and communication. Providing timely and clear communication, especially when issues arise, can help brands establish a good rapport with their customers and help reduce their anxiety caused by uncertainty. 
  3. Capitalize on emerging trends. Consider tailoring your strategy to better cater to the emerging desires of your audience. Look for opportunities to surprise and delight your audience during special moments – as we’ve found above, there are lots of opportunities to spark good customer engagement. 
  4. Optimize your digital platforms. Brands should proactively monitor consumer issues relating to their buyer experience and use this feedback to enhance the overall buyer’s journey. 
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