US leisure travellers are open to innovation; ride and home sharing not seen as innovative as seat-back screens, WiFi and Concorde

24 September, 2019

Innovation is a key aspect of the travel buying process, but the definition of what is seen as innovative is very subjective, and has become common place, differs markedly between different age groups.

A survey of US consumers by travel insurance and assistance solutions specialist, AIG Travel, part of the American International Group, found that when considering whether to buy travel products, services or experiences, 73% of leisure travellers care “a lot” or “somewhat” about whether those offerings are innovative.

While 79% of the poll respondents reported being either “pleasantly surprised” or “fairly comfortable” when they hear something has changed or is about to change, millennials (ages 23-38) are three times as likely (15% versus 5%) as traditionalists (ages 74 and older) to “eagerly await” an innovation in a travel-related service that they’ve used consistently. Conversely, traditionalists are nearly three times as likely as millennials (17% versus 6%) to react with ambivalence or annoyance when learning that such an innovation is forthcoming.

In terms of the single most innovative travel development over the past century, 79% of consumers cited the Wright brothers’ first flight. The debut of GPS car navigation systems came in second (56%), while the first commercial passenger flight came in third (50%). Other travel developments that rated a 1 on an innovation scale of 1-6, with 1 meaning “most innovative,” included the first transatlantic flight (50%), advent of online travel booking (43%) and debut of wheeled suitcases (33%).

Interestingly, only 17% of the polled consumers rated the advent of ride-sharing services (i.e., Uber and Lyft) a 1 for innovation, and only 15% of respondents rated the launch of home-sharing services (such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO) a 1.

Other innovations that some of those surveyed rated a 1 for innovation and ranked higher than the sharing economies included the debut of expedited airport security/Customs/immigration processing programmes (30%), high-speed trains in Europe (23%), seat-back entertainment systems (21%), Concorde and supersonic travel (20%), in-flight Wi-Fi (17%) and self-service kiosks for ticketing/check-in (17%).

Finally, when considering whether to buy travel products, services or experiences, 60% of respondents feel it’s important that the provider of these offerings has been around for 75 years or more. While 25% of baby boomers (ages 55-73) agree that this is important, only 7% of millennials do.