How travelers behave

Traveling longer and more often

There are a number of standout trends in traveler behavior in this year’s CITM. Chinese travelers are traveling internationally more often and for longer and many are seeking new, more adventurous destinations.  

All age groups are traveling internationally more often and for longer, with the number of trips and number of days per trip increasing in the past year from 3.4 to 3.9 and from 5 to 7 days, respectively.   

In line with this trend, shorter, spontaneous trips are not as popular as they were a year ago. This is more marked amongst millennials, who tend to travel internationally more often and for longer than their older cohorts, especially post 80s millennials. Those with annual leave are also more likely to spend more days per trip.   

Not only are they traveling more often and for longer, Chinese travelers want to visit multiple cities per trip, with over 80 per cent saying they would not just stay in a single city. They would also prefer not to return to previous destinations, with 93 per cent saying this was the case.  

Travel Duration
Number of cities visited

Parents and children are influencing each other

The influence that different generations are having on each other has come through in this year’s report, particularly those born in the 1960s and their post 90s children.    

As older travelers become more adventurous, many are taking their cues from their millennial tech-savvy children.    

The survey showed that across generations the main travel influencers for Chinese travelers are spouse / partner and friends, followed by online and offline channels such as travel websites and travel guides and magazines.    

Parents are an important influencer for 90s millennials, who ranked this 6th out of 17 as an influence compared to 13th for other age groups. A proportion of this group of millennials is also likely to travel with their parents, particularly females. But when not traveling with parents they are the most likely group to travel alone.   

The importance of parents to younger millennials is partly a reflection of their earning capacity. More than a third (34%) of post 90s millennials do not have income and so rely on their parents to pay for their traveling. This is evident from the research, with 35 per cent of post 90s without an income traveling with their parents compared to 21 per cent who do have an income. Almost a third (32%) of those without an income also consider their parents to be a major influence on their travel decisions compared with only 25 per cent of those who do have an income.    

And it’s a two-way influence. Younger millennials are also influencing their parents’ travel decisions. While only 40 per cent of post 60s travel with children, compared with 67 per cent of post 70s and 52 per cent of post 80s, those who do are more likely to travel in the future by theme tour, eco tour, private luxury tour and backpacking, versus those who have not traveled with their children.    

This intergenerational travel and two-way influence is a key area for potential new services for hotels and other service providers. Which is why the Hotels.com app offers the Mobile Concierge, connecting travelers directly to a more diverse range of services for all ages, such as restaurant reservations, Uber bookings and entertainment choices.    

When planning their trip Chinese travelers spend considerable time researching. On average they spend 12 days researching online and start planning 1 to 2 months before their trip. Younger travelers spend less time planning than older travelers.   

Time spent on planning

When planning their trip Chinese travelers spend considerable time researching. On average they spend 12 days researching online and start planning 1 to 2 months before their trip. Younger travelers spend less time planning than older travelers.   

Influencers

Spouse / partner and friends are the key influencers for travel, followed by online and offline professional channels across generations. Parents are ranked 6th out of 17 influences on post 90s travel destination selection, and 13th amongst other generations.  

Travel companion

Non-millennials and older millennials (post 60-80s) usually travel with their own family. Post 70s and 80s tend to travel with their children, while post 60s prefer traveling with their spouse / partner. Apart from friends, post 90s are more likely to travel on their own or with their parents.  

Adventure and eco tours on the rise

Along with their growing preference for long-haul destinations, Chinese travelers are choosing independent travel and more adventure rather than group travel.  

This is reflected in the rising popularity of theme tours, eco tours, backpacking and luxury tours. Post 60s are embracing these options and say they will be doing more of this type of travel in the next 12 months, particularly if traveling with children.    

All age groups will be doing more specialized tours in the next 12 months. The number of travelers choosing theme tours will increase from 15 to 33 per cent, eco tours 13 to 28 per cent, backpacking 10 to 26 per cent and private luxury tours from 8 to 23 per cent.    

But it is post 60s travelers where the trend is particularly strong, with those choosing backpacking more than tripling in the next 12 months, from 6 to 21 per cent. Similarly, post 60s opting for theme tours will increase from 11 to 27 per cent, eco tours 12 to 25 per cent and private luxury tours 6 to 20 per cent.  

Independent travel is particularly popular with millennials, with 64 per cent of post 90s travelers and 62 per cent of post 80s choosing this option. This is likely due to their greater proficiency in speaking English along with their preference for freedom and flexibility.    

Higher numbers of post 60s travelers opted for group travel in 2016, with 45 per cent choosing this option compared to 43 per cent choosing independent travel, but next year only 12 per cent intend to travel with tour groups. Similarly, the number of post 70s travelers choosing group tours will drop from 42 to 13 per cent.    

Travel method

Free Independent Travel (FIT) is still the most preferred travel method amongst Chinese travelers, especially for millennials (better proficiency in English, freedom and flexibility) versus a significant portion of non-millennials who still prefer tour groups.  

Looking forward, millennials will undertake more diverse travel experiences in the future, and will choose theme tours, eco tours, backpacking and private luxury tours more often.  

Online booking for all ages

Online planning and booking is preferred by the vast majority  

Around 94 per cent of travelers visited an online price comparison site when planning their trip and most also use an online travel agent to book their trip, using either a mobile phone or computer.  

The online and smartphone space has enormous potential for the travel industry and it is moving at unprecedented speed. Hotels.com has responded by introducing new features that integrate our website content and mobile app. Features such as our Mobile Concierge connects travelers to other services such as Uber, restaurant bookings and entertainment choices, while the app also offers hotel guest reviews, special deals and access to our generous loyalty program.  

New technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) is the next exciting phase of travel search and bookings and we envisage this will be a major area of development for our business and the industry at large.  

Booking channels for millennials