Steamboat Springs Prepare yourself for the dawning of a new age in tourism the age of the vigilante consumer. They're "techknow savvy," they're empowered, they are enlightened, and they're coming soon to a ski area near you.
Travel marketing and advertising consultant Peter Yesawich told a Steamboat audience that it must prepare for the ME.2 generation of vacationers.
"The vigilante spirit is mushrooming," Yesawich said, and travelers are more and more interested in controlling their own vacation destiny. Increasingly, they are also intent on getting the best deal possible, often over the Internet.
When asked if their IQ is higher than average, 60 percent of the respondents to a travel survey said "yes," Yesawich said.
"Mathematics tells me that's impossible," Yesawich quipped. "But that doesn't keep them from acting that way. They believe, 'I can figure this out for myself,' and 'I'm smarter than you.'"
Referring to the same survey, Yesawich noted that six out of 10 respondents agreed with the statement "getting the lowest priced vacation is very or extremely important to me." In addition, 82 percent of the respondents said that when they book hotel reservations, they negotiate.
"Can you imagine an industry where eight out of 10 customers try and negotiate the price?" Yesawich said. "The only other industry like that I can think of is used cars."
Yesawich was speaking to a meeting for local business people who lent financial support to the winter jet program into Yampa Valley Regional Airport this winter, as well as representatives of the major airlines who fly here. The Steamboat resort community invests about $2.2 million in flight guarantees that ensure the airlines will deliver skiers.
Price-conscious vacationers are just beginning to form the impression that the best place to shop for the lowest priced vacations is online, Yesawich said. As that trend grows, ski resorts will need to be aware of Internet developments like "demand aggregation," Yesawich said. There is a Web site now called mobshop.com, he said, that is devoted to compiling lists of consumers all interested in purchasing the same product high-definition television sets for example. By aggregating them, mobshop.com can go into the marketplace and shop for a lower price based on a volume buy.
If that sounds farfetched, consider that Intel has recently obtained the patent on a device that would enable shoppers to scan the UPC codes on merchandise in a store, using their cell phones. If the phone is also Internet capable, it would provide a list of prices for the same television set, within that shopping region. It's a tool that could empower consumers and drive retailers bananas.
"Someone will be selling demand aggregation lift tickets in the near future, and that's not good," Yesawich said.
The increasing tendency of vacationers to be price conscious is a reflection of the mood of the nation, Yesawich said. And the mood of America is of vital importance to winter resorts like Steamboat.
"The mood of America is in fact, what drives demand," Yesawich said.
The index of consumer confidence is at its lowest point in two years, and that doesn't bode well for destination resorts. But in the short run, Alan Greenspan's announcement Wednesday that the Federal Reserve Board is cutting interest rates by a half-point will cause a spike in the stock market and perhaps a corresponding jump in consumer confidence.
Over the long haul, destination resorts should be looking at trends like "time impoverishment."
Money is no longer the most precious commodity, Yesawich said. Today, it's time; the 40-hour work week is an anachronism, and people are struggling to find the time to take vacations, especially vacations that include five nights and six days. Instead, people are taking three and four-day vacations, a trend that has been well-documented in the ski industry.
Shorter vacations mean destination resorts are, to a great degree, selling convenience, Yesawich said. People want to customize their vacations, but they also want to pay one price for the package, he said.
Finally, Yesawich urged his Steamboat audience to pay attention to the fact that four out of 10 adult Americans say they are bored with their lives. That statement is symptomatic of the consumer mantra "been there, done that," he said.
There was a time when consumers developed fierce brand loyalty. But those days are gone, he said.
"That's a dead concept," Yesawich said. "The contemporary concept is price loyalty. People want to get the best value for a brand within a price range. It's a completely different way of pricing vacations than we saw five to seven years ago."
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