Survey: Young Travelers Still Seek Human Engagement

LANGLEY, UNITED KINGDOM—Travelers in the United States are strongly influenced by the digital experience of the brands they choose to travel with and are looking to new technologies to further enhance their experiences, according to Travelport’s “Global Digital Traveler Research 2019.” This year’s research surveyed 23,000 people from 20 countries, including 1,000 travelers from the United States.

Demand for change, driven by digital solutions and human engagement, continues to mount:

  • Survey of 23,000 people from 20 countries shows travelers want change and are driving transformation in the industry
  • Digital solutions are most valued when coupled with human engagement
  • Technology is increasingly influencing decision-making and travel management

The importance of a good digital experience is critical to travelers, irrespective of their age:

  • Gen Z (81%), Gen Y (78%), Gen X (67%) and baby boomers (60%) consider whether a brand offers a good digital experience, e.g. online check-in, gate information, room key on your smartphone, etc., as important when booking an airline or hotel.
  • Three-quarters of Gen Y (76%) also said in-room technology, e.g. smart TV, digital music player or Bluetooth speakers is important when choosing accommodation.
  • Demand for voice search as well as augmented and virtual reality experiences is now significant.
    At 64%, Gen Y rated the highest in using voice assistants for travel and 70% think augmented or virtual reality would be useful when planning travel.
  • The majority of generations, including Gen Y (76%), Gen X (59%) and baby boomers (48%), are comfortable using biometrics.

According to the study, levels of frustration among travelers indicate travel suppliers need to go further to satisfy demand for transparency and simplicity:

  • Gen Y (59%) said they find booking with online travel agencies harder than shopping online for other products and services.
  • A high percent of Gen Z (69%) and Gen X (54%) found it frustrating not being able to see the availability and cost of extras, e.g. prebook seats, food, WiFi and baggage.
  • The majority of travelers—Gen Z (62%), Gen Y (56%) and Gen X (50%)—found the complicated rules/terms and conditions around cancellations or changes frustrating.

Social media is an important influencer, but less important once travelers reach the research stage:

  • Channels like social media, are opening new opportunities to land bookings and have increased in influence.
  • Instagram is considered most influential by Gen Z (71%) while Gen Y finds both Facebook and Instagram influential (64% and 25% respectively). Facebook tops the influence list for Gen X (70%) and baby boomers (58%).
  • Gen X (43%) rated the highest in using social media for researching and booking travel on social media platforms, while smaller proportions of Gen Y (30%), Gen Z (29%) and baby boomers (24%) did.

Technology is not replacing the important of expertise and the human touch, especially among younger travelers:

  • Gen Y (50%) and Gen Z (25%) nearly always turn to travel professionals for recommendations, e.g. travel agents or tour operators compared to Gen X (20%) and baby boomers (8%).
  • Almost half of baby boomers (49%), Gen Y (44%) and Gen X (43%) surveyed found it frustrating not being able to speak with a human when they wanted to.
  • Gen Y (66%), Gen X (49%), Gen Z (37%) and baby boomers (32%) also indicated that a live chat with a travel representative is an important feature in travel apps.

“It’s great to see travelers are keen to use new technologies to further enhance the booking phase of their travel experience, and it’s important for travel brands across our industry to understand the very real way the digital experience they provide can be an important differentiator with their customers. At Travelport, we will continue to accelerate developments in these areas, and others, to help the industry keep pace with the rapidly evolving needs of the modern traveler,” said Maurita Baker, managing director for North America, Travelport.

Globally, some additional trends stood out. Value is more important than cost for the majority of travelers, but can be hard to find. Travelers also indicate they want more control and transparency when it comes to personalization:

  • When booking a flight, value is a top priority for more than four out of five (86%) travelers today with just one in five (18%) now booking solely on cost. This trend is apparent across all age groups led by baby boomers (91%) who prioritize value marginally more than younger generations.
  • Across all age categories, when booking a flight, travelers typically want to personalize their own experience (42%) through add-ons like extra legroom, additional baggage allowance and meal upgrades. One quarter (24%), however, prefer to receive branded offers, which provide a basic level of personalization.