“Travel trends are for a lot more low-cost trips,” said Ken Foster, keynote speaker at the recent Utah Tourism Conference held at the Davis Conference Center, here.
“Vacations are one way where people have positive control,” he said. “If people are more nervous at work, they feel they need a little relief” through a vacation.
“There is a very strong movement to stay-cations,” the University of Utah adjunct professor of communication said. Stay-cations involve taking short day trips from home, rather than spending the night away.
Promoting that trend, or at least closer-to-home vacations, are nearby state tourism bureaus, such as Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, who are urging Utahns to visit, he continued.
“Travel nurtures lifelong curiosity, adds joy to life,” Foster said. “It is a life-enriching experience. I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve never been anywhere where there is so much diversity as the Utah landscape”.
Where else can you immerse yourself in the red hot rock country of Arches National Park and look to the snow-capped LaSalle Mountains in the distance, he said.
“There’s nowhere in this state where the landscape isn’t absolutely incredible,” Foster said. “I love the Life Elevated (travel slogan).”
He has traveled the world, and growing up as a “military brat,” lived all over, as well, learning to speak Russian in the home, for example.
He pointed to a “new concept in travel,” where consumers are planning their trips via research on the Internet. That ranges from checking out the sites to booking a room.
“You need to recognize that your consumer is booking rooms (other events) more than ever,” Foster told the group of several hundred travel professionals.
Travelers are now “posting” many aspects of their trip, through phone texting, on blogs, social sites, in addition to the more traditional taking of pictures, he said.
“The latest Nielson survey says that there is more traffic on social networks than on the Internet for the first time,” Foster said.
“Travel can relieve the humdrum aspects of the recession” for people, he said. “You (travel professionals) can come to the rescue.
“Travel should be positioned as a way to strengthen family bonds,” he told the group.
“We need to recognize we’re in a recession, but we’re not down completely,” Foster said. “The contraction in retail spending is far behind the contraction in income.”
The “fear factor” among consumers is an aspect that can’t be ignored, he said.
Foster used the example of grocery shopping where, for many consumers, the experience has gone to where price surmounts convenience.
Looking ahead to the next year, he said 48 percent of individuals are optimistic, while for families, it climbs to 66 percent.
The main concern for people has changed from a concern about creativity in 2006 to safety and security last year, and today, a “need to get back to basics,” Foster said.