Traveling By Tribe

Friends and family have always been important motivators to travel, but never have the forces been so aligned to spur this type of connection. 

People are more dispersed than ever across the country, with long-distance living increasingly separating friends and family. While technology and social media serve to keep people connected and kindle relationships, they also fuel a desire for more meaningful and intimate face time. Add the pressure consumers feel to maximize both their time and financial constraints, and you have all the ingredients needed for travel to serve as the glue that promotes togetherness.

The researchers at Iconoculture have even labeled this movement as “Traveling by Tribe” and noted that travelers are organizing their trips to achieve greater levels of togetherness. They recently conducted a survey amongst those within their IconoCommunities to identify what types of leisure group travel would be their top choice if time and money weren’t an issue. Couples Getaway was selected by 43%, followed by Travel with Multi-generational Family (36%), Travel with Friends – Kids Not Included (26%), Travel with Extended Family (23%), Travel with Friends – Kids Included (18%), Travel with Shared Interest Group – People You Know (12%) and Travel with Shared Interest Group – People You Don’t Yet know (8%).

Signs of this tribal travel are everywhere.

For young professionals, travel has become an important way to escape the pressures of their jobs and maximize their limited time away from work, while staying connected with their social circle. A survey of Millennials, sponsored by Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, found that 58% of respondents travel for leisure with friends. That’s 20 points more than older generations.

Boomers and Matures are increasingly eager to spend time with kids and grandkids, spawning a growing type of travel called “Grandtravel”—grandparents and grandchildren vacationing together, leaving the parents to enjoy some time on their own. A survey conducted in Florida a few years ago had nearly 80% of grandparents endorsing this kind of travel. 

The fact that women are increasingly marrying later in life and delaying having children has given rise to a growing audience of traveler called PANKs—Professional Auntie, No Kids. In fact, a recent study by KRC Research showed that almost one in ten women are PANKs and that they are spending about $9 billion on kids. These single professionals can regularly be found traveling with nieces and nephews, and it would be surprising if you can’t identify a few doting PANKs among your own friends and family.

Women, as they do in so many aspects of travel, remain a primary decision maker and purchaser and are a significant part of this trend to traveling by tribe. A study done by AAA found that 24% of American women have gone on a “girlfriend getaway” in the past three years and, more importantly, 39% of American women plan on taking one in the next three years. 

One of the key findings from the Iconoculture study was that respondents liked maximizing their quality time by traveling with their group, but didn’t want to give up their control or privacy. In fact, proximity + privacy = the ideal leisure group getaway. “Sharing experiences and moments with like-minded people,” “built-in fun,” “splitting costs,” and “safety in numbers” were the most desirable aspects of leisure group travel according to members of the IconoCommunities.

As we look to market travel across generations and the sexes, we have the opportunity to further position our industry as the ultimate vehicle for togetherness. Recognizing that people’s definition of what travel looks like is now viewed from the perspective of one’s own small group, and we need to show how we can connect family and friends in ways that extend beyond the traditional.

That requires us to not just depict and write about this form of travel, but to think about how we can create the products and tools that resonate with an audience increasingly looking for these kinds of tribal experiences. It could be a package that is priced for the single woman traveling with a niece or nephew, or a booking tool that lets a small group of buddies book on their own and share a common rate, flight schedule, itineraries and more, as they look to remove another item on their life list.

Traveling by tribe is a movement that is only going to grow stronger. So too does our ability to accommodate and serve them.

Tags: travel
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2 comments about "Traveling By Tribe".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , December 2, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
    You missed a big growing group. It is singles, the 50+ who want to see the world. Needed are more hotel rooms with 2 beds for the people who want to share expenses and the punishment of being single with single supplements eliminated/greatly reduced (not including air fare, meals and such). A few are popping up, but not nearly close to the clammer. This tribe is called single (co-mingled with couples) with small groups/doubles by choice.
  2. Gary Leopold from ISM , December 3, 2013 at 9:46 a.m.
    Paula, many thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you on the growth of singles as an important travel audience. In fact, a few years ago I wrote a post titled, "One. It's no longer the loneliest number" that addressed the very point you are making. And, last month my post highlighted some of the changes within the Boomer population, including the growing number of singles in that age group. Unfortunately, as you note, the industry continues to remain slow to respond to the opportunity. I guess you and I will just need to keep writing until more take notice.