US travellers are becoming more adventurous with their choice of international destinations and this trend is being fuelled by the Millennial generation.
The number of US residents travelling outside North America has grown from 26 million in 2000 to more than 38 million in 2017, according to Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) during a session on the Americas Inspiration Stage at WTM London.
Americans are spending an average of just under $4,000 on these international trips outside North America, while overall spending has doubled since 2000 to reach $145 billion per year.
“Americans are becoming more intrepid – they are getting on planes and going to places outside the Western Hemisphere,” said Kerby.
Kerby added the profile of the average US traveller had also changed over this period with women becoming more influential in making travel decisions.
“In 2000, the average traveller was male, 45 years old and planned the trip 86 days in advance,” he said. “Now the average international traveller is female and spends 105 days planning the trip.”
The Millennnial generation, which now numbers 70 million, is also shifting the nature of the US market.
“Millennials are the first generation who instead of going and seeing something, want to do something,” explained Kerby.
Despite this desire for more experiential holidays, the number one reason for US travellers to take a vacation is relaxation (64%) – just ahead of spending time with family (59%).
Kerby revealed that Europe’s market share as a destination from the US has fallen since 2000 and now accounts for only 37.8% of travel outside North America (down from 49.8%) – conversely, both the Caribbean and Central America have seen their market shares grow over this period.
The Caribbean was also in the spotlight during a session on how destinations can ‘Plan, Prepare and Protect’ for crises such as last year’s devastating hurricanes.
Dominic Fedee, St Lucia’s minister of tourism, said: “Even countries not affected directly suffered tremendous brand damage and the whole region has been affected.”
Jamaica’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett added the region had to improve its capacity and resilience to cope with natural disasters.
“You need to build more capacity – that’s really what’s going to save us from annihilation because these disruptions are going to keep happening,” he said.
“As economies, we’re so dependent on tourism – the region is at risk.”
Bartlett said the new Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre had been formed to look at how countries can improve their resilience to natural disasters and other major disruptions.
“We will pass on best practices to the countries that are most vulnerable in the world,” he added. “This is a huge game-changer to help countries lift standards of preparedness for these mega-disruptions”
Also in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority presented a case study on its first dedicated trip and conference for social media influencers earlier this year.
Colin James, CEO of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said: “We wanted to work with influencers targeting different generations. It was the largest ever influencer conference in the Caribbean and we hope to grow it next year.
“The influencer market is unfiltered and fits right into what consumers are looking for.”
Using social media and influencers for marketing was a key topic during a session on luxury travel trends, chaired by April Hutchinson, editor of TTG luxury.
Kate Warner, product & PR manager at travel agency Black Tomato, told a packed audience that storytelling and authenticity was also increasingly important.
She added: “Focus on people and their stories, especially in destinations. Who are our guides? What are their stories? They often have remarkable tales and that’s really a great way of marketing a certain destination.”
The panel also agreed that personalisation was increasingly elevating luxury experiences, particularly in a sector where “luxury means different things to different people”.