It was the perfect storm. Marketers across the spectrum -- from decking and home goods to local destinations and amusement parks -- took advantage of the pressure on consumers' wallets to make a play to keep their vacation dollars close to home.
So what will become of the "Staycation" as the U.S. consumer begins to recover from the worst of the recession? Well, let's remember, the root of vacation is the word "vacate." The Staycation was a hard mindset shift, a bullet to bite, a compromise. All things being equal, people want permission to go away again. And with some early positive economic signs -- and destinations, carriers and hotels working overtime to incentivize prospective visitors -- it seems likely that 2010 will mark the start of the turnaround for good, old-fashioned "go away" leisure travel.
That said, the Staycation will likely have a lasting impact on the travel industry. The advent of the Staycation really shone a light on every element of the vacation experience and what the consumer was paying for it. Every cost was itemized and scrutinized for its necessity and return on investment. The Staycation encouraged a focus on spending on only the most important element of the vacation.
This will have an interesting counter-effect in the recovery period and beyond. As people look to add back the items they may have cut in the last year, they will have a much higher level of scrutiny for the value and ROI each one brings. Each ticket, each meal, every amenity, "add-on" or upgrade that had been previously removed now has greater resonance and meaning and, therefore, will be subjected to a much more rigorous cost/benefit analysis.
This will be amplified in travel itself. Many people stayed home to avoid the cost of the actual travel. But now that travel is back on the menu, they will likely look to make it count more -- a renewed mindset where enjoying the journey is as important as the destination itself.
The Staycation's lasting effect will not just be about making consumers more conscious of and discerning about their holistic vacation experience and its related cost, however. The Staycation will continue to affect travel in 2010 and beyond because it is now a firmly established and viable vacation option, regardless of the economy. Local destinations and attractions upped their ad spending and their game in the Staycation era, and it's likely that their efforts have earned them a long-term place in the consumer's consideration set.
But that's the key difference -- in 2010, the Staycation goes back to being an option, not a "sentence." This promises to make the travel marketplace even more competitive -- welcome news for the consumer, and a continued challenge to travel marketers in all segments.