What people like to do on vacation—and why CPAs should care

Insight from a new survey is valuable for CPAs who work with clients in the travel and leisure industry.
By Anslee Wolfe

Vacations spent lounging on a beach are in demand more than those that involve trekking up a mountain, according to a recent survey that shows nearly twice as many people worldwide prefer relaxing trips over active ones.

The insight is valuable for CPAs who work with clients in the travel and leisure industry because it can help them shape more efficient business strategies, said Amanda Martin, global PR and content manager for GfK, a market research company based in Nuremberg, Germany, that conducted the survey.

"If you're going to invest in a certain region, you want to know what people who visit that destination are looking for in terms of their holiday activities," she said.

The survey, Preferred Vacation Type, found that internationally, 59% of people favor a relaxing vacation, while 35% want to be active.

GfK conducted the research online, asking 22,000 people age 15 and older if they prefer "an active vacation where I do or see lots of things" or one "where I relax and take it easy." Six percent said they weren't sure.

The results for each of the 17 countries surveyed—across Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region—are broken down with vacation preferences by gender, age groups, and people with or without children.

Italy, France, and Spain lead for favoring active trips, according to the survey. That means a company specializing in adventure holidays—such as skydiving, whitewater rafting, or zip-lining—may have a bigger market in those countries than in Brazil, South Korea, or Japan, which lead for relaxing trips.

"If you're building a zip line in Japan or Brazil, in a destination that is focused at local tourists as opposed to incoming tourists from Russia, for example, you might want to question if you have the right strategy," Martin said.

The survey didn't give examples of active and relaxing holidays, she said, but instead left it open to interpretation.

Other findings, released in April, include:

  • Teenagers are the most energetic, with 43% of respondents ages 15–19 preferring active vacations, followed by people in their 20s.
  • Those in their 40s have the highest percentage inclined toward lazy holidays.
  • Gender didn't matter, with both male and female respondents having nearly the same preferences for relaxing or being active.
  • People both with and without children leaned more toward relaxing vacations.
  • Parents of teenagers are slightly more inclined to active trips.

"I think travel is something that is so interesting to almost everybody. The data that has been captured gives another perspective of what they want their journey to be," said Michelle Holmes, general manager of vacations and loyalty for Omaha, Neb.-based Travel and Transport, one of the largest U.S. travel companies.

And that type of information helps tailor business strategies to meet consumer wants, said Holmes, who has been in the travel industry for 36 years.

For instance, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom are the countries in the survey where those with children younger than 6 are most likely to prefer active vacations. So it might be beneficial for adventure holiday companies in those countries to offer child care options, Holmes said.

Likewise, people age 60 and older in Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico lead in their age group for relaxed vacations, according to the survey. That means marketing targeted at that demographic may be beneficial, Holmes said.

Anslee Wolfe is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs, Colo. To comment on this article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager for newsletters, at the AICPA.

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