The mindset of what it means to travel is ever-evolving. In recent years, the term has morphed to include more local experiences—area residents looking for a break from their usual routine and environments interested in booking a tour or activity with your company, giving them an opportunity to enjoy some much-needed time off without having to pay a premium for a vacation. In fact, searches for "staycation" have been up 10 percent year after year from 2011 to 2014, according to recent Google Trends data.
A staycation—a word derived from "stay" and "vacation"—is a getaway that doesn't really involve getting away too far physically, but still affords the option to break away for the day to enjoy something new. A day's itinerary for a family or individual on a staycation might include eating at a new restaurant, heading to a museum or art gallery, spending the day at a local festival, or trying a new outdoor adventure.
See More: The Future of Travel Is Local - Insights from our CEO in the Huffington Post
Here is a closer look about why the future of travel includes these local experiences.
An Emerging Travel Trend
Going on vacation without paying a high price for the trip may be one of the biggest drivers of local travel. Forbes shared some tips on saving on summer travel airfare in 2013, pointing out how the high cost of travel can put a dent in any family's budget. A survey conducted by American Express revealed that the average cost of a vacation is $1,180 per person. This includes the cost of airfare, transportation, meals, and vacation-based spending.
Budget-conscious travelers could easily pare down those travel bills by eliminating a flight and transportation costs, and limiting vacation-based spending the bare minimum. And many are doing just that by planning a staycation instead of an exotic getaway or out-of-state trip.
White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group dug deep into the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to review the trend of local spending based on results of the Consumer Expenditure Survey. This survey provides a breakdown of the average U.S. household's spending, including trips and entertainment. The company found that the staycation trend does exist—community-based spending, or spending that might qualify as spending for a staycation, represented 56 percent of all out-of-home entertainment spending in 2000 and jumped to 66 percent in 2009. The recession may have spurred this trend, according to the experts at White Hutchinson.
How and Why Travelers Benefit from Staying Local
Staying local affords many benefits to the typical traveler. Here are some key benefits of staying local.
Many travelers opt for a staycation to save money. Fluctuating flight prices and the extra costs associated with traveling with young children or pets can put a strain on the typical traveler's budget. Staying local means there is no need to book a flight, hotel stay, or even a car rental. The traveler can use their preferred method of transportation and even pack their own meals if they want to save on the cost of food for the day.
Less Time Off Work
Staying local means there won't be a need to take time off work. The traveler can save their paid-time-off days for another occasion, and instead make the most of a long weekend to enjoy a refreshing break. Eliminating long travel times to and from a destination and the stress of getting situated in a new city means the traveler can make the most of the core experience—their kayaking adventure, a hiking trip, a fishing excursion, or a boating tour.
More Customization Options
Customers who decide to take the lead on booking their own travel may turn to companies that allow them to book online. This allows for plenty of customization, especially if the tour or activity operator is using an online booking program like ZOZI Advance, which allows the customer to see available travel dates on a real-time calendar and take advantage of add-on services during the checkout process.
Less Stressful and Family-Friendly Trips
Parents traveling with young children or teens may find traveling more stressful than enjoyable—especially if it's the kids' first time on the road or the family is heading to a destination that doesn't appeal to everybody. Planning something local means everyone in the travel party will already be familiar with the area and parents don't need to worry about long hours keeping kids entertained at the airport, on a long road trip, or anywhere from else along the journey. This can make for a more relaxing retreat for all members of the traveling party and eliminate much of the stress and hassle of planning a family vacation.
Marketing to Local Travelers
Tour and activity operators can tap into the local market and demand for staycations in a number of ways. We talked about ways to do just that in our article here. Some key takeaways from our observations:
Promote staycation packages. Run specials specifically for local residents requiring a proof of residency in the form of a driver's license or a document with their current address to validate the promotion.
Connect with local merchants and organizations. Be more visible in your local community by making yourself known to complementary businesses via social media and making sure they now you offer packages and experiences specifically for locals. This can help you promote your business indirectly while helping you stay connected to your community.
Get featured in local media. Invite members of the local media to experience your tour or activity in case they want to talk about it for a feature story or spotlight your business in a directory or other publication.
As demand for staycations steady increases and more travelers seek out experiences in their own backyard, tour and activity travelers may need to modify their approach when promoting their offerings online and offline. Travelers on tight budgets may be keen on seeking out local experiences to create their own itineraries. The future of travel is local, so you'll need to position your company as the ideal destination for those planning a staycation.