In a country this varied and beautiful, the continued popularity of road trips is not a surprise. A growing number of Americans are opting to vacation in the U.S. instead of going abroad. Domestic travel rose 7 percentage points from 2016 to account for 85 percent of American vacations in 2017, and road trips were the fastest growing sector, jumping from 22 percent of all American vacations in 2016 to 37 percent in 2017, according to MMGY Global’s 2017–2018 Portrait of American Travelers®. (A road trip is defined here as a prolonged journey by car with several stops.)
Some travelers are staying within the country out of concerns about safety abroad. “We’re seeing a decrease in international travel among those who haven’t done it before,” says Steve Cohen, vice president of research and insights for MMGY Global. “As a result, Americans are more interested in domestic travel, which road trips have always been a part of.”
But road trips appeal across all generations, and for different reasons. The study found that three generational segments—Generation X (ages 39–52), baby boomers (53–71) and matures (72 and over)—were motivated mainly by the ability to control their itinerary and make stops when and where they wanted. Meanwhile, millennials (19–38) cited lower vacation costs and liked that road trips can be taken at the last minute.
Road-trippers line up well with two of vacation ownership’s key demographics: boomers and families. Road trips made up 42 percent of boomers’ total vacations, the largest percentage of any generation. And many roadtrippers are families, with parents reliving the vacations they took as children, Cohen notes. National parks, which are often home to timeshares, continue to be a favorite for road trips—giving nearby resorts opportunities to capitalize on these travelers.
Since road-trippers are typically passing through, resorts with flexible accommodations may be best poised to capture this sector. “We’re seeing more Points vacations, which are typically three- to five-night stays,” says Marissa Andrick, marketing and media specialist for Massanutten Resort, outside Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The area is home to Skyline Drive, a scenic highway affording stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Our rental department brings in smaller groups that like the three-day, two-night stay.”
To attract road-trippers, Cohen suggests advertising in drive-from markets that are within about a 10-hour radius and partnering with tourism boards. You can promote the location as a great road-trip pick and position the resort as a stay option during that vacation. If you have pet-friendly accommodations, be sure to get the word out— MMGY found that millennials like to bring their pets along on road trips. Massanutten caters to road-trippers by handing out complimentary maps and keeping a printed visitors’ guide at the concierge desk. Andrick also recommends building varied itineraries and finding community partners. “It’s important to show a potential guest that it is worth their time to make the trip.”
To purchase the full report, 2017–2018 Portrait of American Travelers by MMGY Global, go to mmgyglobal.com.
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