Why travelers are now taking more short road trips
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Imagine we are going to take a long vacation in a place far away from our home. That sounds superb, doesn't it?
Well, it really seems like a good idea until we have to think about all the logistics of the trip. If everything goes smoothly, the reality is probably like this:
First, we would spend hours on the Internet searching for a flight and making plans for the itinerary. Then, a few days before the vacation, we would probably spend at least one night packing. On the day the vacation begins, many of us would have to leave our home for the airport 4-5 hours before the flight takes off. If there is no traffic, we will make it to the airport 2-3 hours before the departure time.
At the airport, it will take us another 30-60 minutes to go through the bag check and security check. By the time we put our shoes back on and get to the gate, hopefully the crewmembers have arrived and begun preboarding.
If we are lucky enough or willing to pay the extra cash, we will end up sitting in a not-so-terrible seat with a little bit extra legroom. After a long flight, we then arrive at the destination.
Let's say we have a wonderful time in the destination, but on our way back, the hassles of air travel repeat again. In the end, when we finally get home, we would find ourselves feeling extremely exhausted from the travel.
Do you agree that's what we usually experience in a long trip? Very likely, I think.
The hassles of air travel have become the key factor pushing travelers to rethink "vacations." More travelers are now taking more short road trips for shorter vacations. But at the same time, they travel more often than before.
Certainly, there are more factors that contribute to such changes. For example, it becomes expensive to travel by air, but cheaper to travel by automobile these days. With more airlines are merging with one another, there is less competition in the market.
In addition, airlines are cutting flights, making consumers "compete" with one another for the limited seats available on the aircraft. Then, airports are also pushing to double the government fee on all airfares. Even worse, airlines are now switching to fare-based frequent flyer programs. It becomes much more difficult for most travelers to earn mileage for upgrades or free flights.
Meanwhile, taking road trips has become more affordable than it was just a few years ago. The average gas price in the U.S. is projected to be $2.94 per gallon for 2015. Since January of this year, we have indeed seen a much lower gas price than a few years ago. When gas prices remain low, road trips become more affordable.
Last but not least, the behavioral changes of consumers also result in more travelers taking shorter road trips more frequently. "Go green," "staycation," and "shop local" are today's buzzwords. Taking short vacations makes many travelers feel good about themselves.
For example, they no longer need to spend as much time in planning and traveling from one place to another, as I described earlier. Not only that, staying local can help consumers lower the carbon footprint and thus make them feel good about their choice. They may also feel they are supporting the local economy when they are spending money in nearby places.
Most of all, hotels and restaurants are also responding to such changes of consumers. New products and service packages are rolling out to attract those travelers who want a short getaway.
What impact will this trend have on the hospitality and tourism industry? How should the industry respond to such trend?
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