Why do we travel?

Study looks at what Canadians expect to gain from travel

Take off eh.comOver the last century, travel has evolved from an elite pastime to a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada and one of our largest economic drivers. This spending also generates billions of dollars in government revenues, so naturally the feds are keen to understand what drives it. What motivates us to ‘get-away-from-it-all,’ sometimes in spite of poor finances or other deterrents? When and how do we choose where we go and for how long? And what benefits do we expect to gain?

According to a recently released StatsCan study titled Going On Vacation: Benefits Sought From Pleasure Travel: “People travel for pleasure because they want to escape the everyday, to feel rejuvenated, to acquire status and prestige, to socialize, to learn something, or just to enjoy the scenery.” The research also suggests that the benefits Canadians gain from travel can be a more powerful motivation than affordability – which is good news for a beleaguered travel industry.

The three most popular reasons for Canadians leaving home, in order of importance, are ‘rest and relaxation,’ ‘strengthening ties of family and friendship’ and ‘learning and discovery.’ These motivating factors may sound self-evident, but what’s interesting is that the study was able to quantify the value of each. Two-thirds identified the first as a highly important travel benefit, just under half cited family bonding as the key benefit, and one-quarter were looking for new experiences. Understanding the size of each of these markets can help guide product development and resource allocation for tourist boards and travel wholesalers in future.

Not surprisingly, those who work full-time were identified as the most interested in R&R, while travellers aged 55+ and those with the highest education levels show the greatest interest in learning and discovery. Women come out of the survey with the highest interest in travelling to meet family and friends.

There is significant overlap between the various expectations, which indicates Canadians are seeking multiple benefits out of a single trip. The study also suggests that what people hope to gain from a trip impacts their choice of destination. Those primarily looking to relax seek out comfortable, familiar surroundings, which helps explain the Canadian love affair with cloistered all-inclusives. The 28% of respondents who highly rank learning and discovery are far more likely to seek out unfamiliar cultures and places, where their intellect and sensibilities may be challenged.

Interestingly, the study found little difference in travel desires and expectations based on household income, though the past several months have certainly demonstrated the impact of economic uncertainty on overall travel demand. The authors say this finding is consistent with decades of tourism research that reveals the expectations people have are better predictors of travel choices than income or other demographic characteristics.

The research suggests an evolution of travel desires and expectations throughout the life cycle. Those with children at home prefer predictable, affordable destinations that feel safe and offer plenty of activities for both children and adults. Once the kids are out of the house, however, the dynamic changes, with travellers seeking to expand their boundaries and broaden their experiences. Free from the demands of children, they then take the time to follow their own passions in exploring the world.

It’s no secret that Canadians are among the world’s most avid travellers, and as the StatsCan research reveals, our wanderlust is not restricted to a desire for a brief escape from the icy grip of winter. We also travel to learn, grow and renew bonds of kith and kin. And while we’re always looking for ‘the deal’ we won’t let a little recession get in the way of our desire to go forth and explore.

Photo Credits: RASimon, Scott Dunlop, MudGuy

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