Steamboat Springs Four in 10 Americans feel they lead humdrum lives -- and that's a good thing. At least it is for the nearly 800 resort professionals who gathered in Steamboat Springs this week.
The boredom boom of the late 1990s still persists, travel consultant Peter Yesawich said, and vacationers want to visit a place they've never been to. They want inject some excitement and novelty into their lives.
"Of the people we surveyed, 40 percent said their lives are boring," Yesawich said. "It's a sad social commentary, but it's great news if you're attending the Mountain Travel symposium."
Yesawich is a principal in his own Florida-based travel consulting firm. Despite his warm-weather base, Yesawich has developed a specialty in mountain resorts and is a frequent speaker here -- the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is among his clients.
Mountain resorts, with ample opportunity for people to satisfy their adventure lust, stand to benefit from American ennui, he pointed out.
However, not all of the trends affecting Americans' decisions to plan and take vacations are so reassuring.
Yesawich employs frequent polling to track vacation trends. This month he sees three primary influences on the travel industry:
First, Americans do not feel as secure in their employment as they did two years ago. That fact is, in turn, driving low consumer confidence that is keeping people close to home.
Second, "Iraq War Phobia" is causing more people to predict they will spend coming vacation time at home, and when they do go on a trip, they are more likely to drive.
Finally, in just the past year, the number of Americans using the Internet to drive hard travel bargains has risen by 6 percent, Yesawich said.
Americans aren't necessarily looking for cheap vacations, but no matter what level of vacation experience they seek, they are determined to get the best deal they possibly can.
In 2002, 53 percent of Americans said they had planned a trip online, Yesawich said. This year, that number jumped to 57 percent. And the number of people who have purchased travel online jumped from 32 percent to 38 percent.
"We marvel at the change in 12 months," Yesawich said.
The trend will continue, he predicted, and resort operators and suppliers need to prepare for a new world order in the travel industry.
"The more people go online, the more they want to control the transaction," Yesawich said. Increasingly, Internet sites are giving prospective vacationers the tools they need to wield leverage in booking travel. Those tools come in the form of knowledge, or a phenomenon Yesawich terms "transparency pricing."
He illustrated his point by drawing an analogy to the consumer electronics industry. The old style of shopping for a big- screen TV was to check advertised prices and head for the big-box retailer, he said. Today, consumers have latched onto the strategy of visiting Price Grabber.com or DealTime.com in advance to print out a list of the best available prices for the model television they want.
"They walk into Circuit City with a real attitude," Yesawich said. "They beckon to a sales clerk, point at the big-screen TV they want, show their print-out to the clerk and say 'What would you like to do?'"
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