Innovative new technology is changing the way Americans travel, with accommodations booking a key area of opportunity. New research from Mintel reveals that one in eight (12 percent) American travelers* have booked accommodations using a home-share website in the last year, rising to one in five (19 percent) Millennial travelers (aged 23-40). Despite the variety of alternative third party booking options that have emerged in recent years, it appears that old habits die hard for many Americans. Working directly with a travel provider remains the most popular way to book a trip (40 percent), while 35 percent of consumers have booked travel through an online travel agency.

While some consumers have a desire to be spontaneous while on vacation, many appreciate tools that can create order out of the potential chaos of travel. More than half of travelers have used or are interested in using an online planning tool to create an itinerary (54 percent) or a website that offers travel recommendations based on interests (53 percent), while one in four (26 percent) would like all of their booking information and itineraries in one app. Travel technology using virtual reality (VR) is also of interest as three quarters (74 percent) of travelers have tried or are interested in trying virtual tours of a property or destination, rising to 83 percent of Millennial travelers.

However, Mintel research indicates that consumers are skeptical when it comes to certain travel technology. While half (50 percent) of travelers are interested in using augmented reality (AR) or VR to explore a location, 40 percent have no interest in using these technologies and 10 percent say they don’t know what they are. Consumers appear even more dubious of artificial intelligence (AI) as half (49 percent) of travelers say they are not interested in using a travel chatbot compared to 36 percent who report usage or express interest in them. What’s more, just 17 percent of travelers say they are interested in using a digital assistant to plan travel.

“While we’re seeing new and innovative technology revolutionizing the travel industry, much of these offerings are being met with hesitation from consumers. While services such as self-check-in kiosks give travelers a feeling of greater control over their trip, many travelers are skeptical of tools that force users to trust a computer with their plans. This indicates that while technology can make travel easier, consumers still want autonomy over their own decisions in order to maintain a sense of control. Emerging technology that adds something new to the market should primarily focus on educating its core consumer base,” said John Poelking, Leisure Analyst at Mintel.

42% of travelers have read peer reviews prior to traveling

When it comes to whose opinion matters most, US travelers appear to be more trusting of their peers. More than two in five (42 percent) travelers have read peer reviews prior to traveling, compared to just 16 percent who say they have reviewed social media posts from travel companies. Experiencing local cuisine is also an important component of the travel experience as one third (33 percent) of travelers say they have researched restaurants prior to their trip, rising to 43 percent of Millennials.

Whether connecting with friends and family or navigating the streets, consumers say WiFi is a must-have as the majority of US travelers have used WiFi while traveling, including 54 percent who report using public WiFi and 60 percent who report using WiFi provided by accommodations.

Capturing and sharing moments while traveling is a top priority for many as nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) travelers have taken pictures on a mobile device while traveling and one third (33 percent) have posted about travel on social media. While mobile devices are also used for entertainment purposes when wandering, such as playing games (43 percent) and streaming content (28 percent), Mintel research reveals that US travelers seem to be packing light as two in five (38 percent) use just one or two devices while traveling.

“Consumers consider multi-functional devices and reliable connectivity essential when traveling. Fast and free internet has become an expectation for many and is especially important for international travelers to avoid paying for expensive international data plans, indicating that free internet access is likely influential to a final purchase decision for travelers when determining accommodations and transportation,” continued Poelking.

3 in 10 travelers are worried about being hacked while away from home

Finally, digital security continues to be a hot topic across categories, especially for travelers concerned about sharing personal information. Three in 10 (30 percent) travelers are worried about being hacked while away from home. What’s more, as consumers age their level of worry also grows: one quarter (25 percent) of travelers aged 18-34 are worried about being hacked while traveling, rising to one third (29 percent) of 35-54s, and seven in 20 (36 percent) travelers aged 55+ feel the same. On the other hand, younger travelers are significantly more concerned about keeping their devices functional, with 36 percent of 18-34s saying they have difficulty keeping devices charged.

“Older Americans tend to be less dependent on technology when traveling, making them more attuned to the potential negatives of smart devices and sharing personal information online. Meanwhile, younger travelers likely have the knowledge and tools to counteract any potential threats and provide peace of mind. Travelers concerned with digital security might be more willing to pay for secure WiFi, in addition to other device defences such as encryption and antivirus software. Brands should focus on traveler pain-points and present solutions to these issues, while at the same time prioritizing security and reliability over novelty,” concluded Poelking.

*Defined as having taken at least one trip with an overnight stay in the last 12 months leading to April 2017.

Press copies of Mintel’s Travel Tech US 2017 report and interviews with John Poelking, Leisure Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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