Actually, these results aren't all that surprising when you think of them in the bigger scheme of things. Today's honeymooners, many of whom are Millennials, are traveling with the same Millennial mindset we've been seeing across all types of travelers, regardless of whether they're traveling for business, leisure, or a special occasion like a honeymoon.
Today’s typical honeymoon won’t have couples flocking to far-flung regions like Europe, lingering by the pool all day, or ditching their wedding diets altogether. Instead, North American honeymooners are choosing to travel closer to home, be more active on the road, and are trying to do more with their already limited vacation time.
At least that’s what a new survey conducted by StudyLogic at the request of Westin Hotels & Resorts suggests. In April, StudyLogic conducted phone interviews with 4,060 non-single respondents with household incomes of $50,000-$500,000, spread out evenly from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, asking them about their honeymoon travel experiences.
“Statistically, people are getting married later in life and, more often, have the flexibility to travel as a couple before the ‘big day,’ so what couples are looking for in a honeymoon has changed dramatically — from travel dates and ideal destinations to their desire to keep their wellness routine intact,” said Bob Jacobs, vice president of brand management for Westin Hotels & Resorts.
So what prompted Westin to put this survey together? Jacobs said that Westin properties, particularly its resorts, which comprise about 25 percent of the global collection, do a lot of business related to weddings and honeymoons. “Honeymoons are a big focus of our brand and we wanted to highlight the great destinations we have and the things that we offer at Westin to honeymoon travelers, which is what led us to this survey,” he said.
Data compiled by researchers compared the responses of travelers who took a honeymoon within the last five years compared to those who took a honeymoon within the last six to 10 years. Here’s what they found.
Traveling Closer to Home
Seventy-five percent of couples surveyed took their honeymoons in the U.S. and Canada in the last five years, while travel to Europe dropped by nearly half in that same time period. Travel to Canada has tripled among North American honeymooners in the last five years and quadrupled in the western mountain region of the U.S.
Westin also noted it saw “significant growth in honeymoon travel” in the last few years at its Western U.S. and Western Canadian properties.
Why would there be such a significant drop in more recent honeymooners choosing to travel to a classic honeymoon locale in Europe like Paris or Rome? Jacobs thinks the primary reason has to do with limited vacation times and proximity.
“It is difficult to establish causation versus correlation,” said Samuel Nahmias, president and COO of StudyLogic. “It may be that couples are choosing to travel within North America because they are cutting down on the amount of time it takes to get to their honeymoon destination of choice.”
“I think what’s happening here is that people are focused on trying to do a lot more with their honeymoons,” said Jacobs. “People aren’t getting more vacation days these days, so they need to make their vacation better and pack more into their vacations. They’re doing more things on their honeymoons and they don’t want to spend as much time traveling in a plane or a car. They want to maximize their time in those destinations.”
Jacobs’ assessment may not be far off the mark. A recent survey conducted by Skift found that nearly 41 percent of Americans didn’t take a single vacation day during 2015.
The most recent Honeymoon Study conducted by The Knot showed, back in 2010, the growing popularity of domestic U.S. destinations over even the Caribbean, for example. The study of more than 12,000 American couples who got married in 2010 showed the number of couples honeymooning in the continental U.S. (30 percent) surpassing the number of couples vacationing in the Caribbean (28 percent). Additionally, Europe was the No. 1 “dream honeymoon destination” among couples who married in 2010, but only one in four couples actually went on what they considered to be their dream honeymoon. Only 9 percent of honeymooners who took a domestic U.S. honeymoon thought of it as their “dream destination.” Excluding travel time, the average length of a continental U.S. honeymoon in 2010 was 6.7 days and 8.7 days for an international one.
Being More Adventurous, Active, and Wellness-Minded
Honeymooners in the last five years are 1.5 times more likely to want to travel outdoors and are twice more likely to hit the slopes. Other favorite activities among respondents who honeymooned within the last five years included ziplining, rafting, cycling, mountain climbing, and fly fishing.
Of those who honeymooned within the last five years, they are 1.6 times more likely to choose to run, 1.5 times more likely to hike and climb, and 1.5 times more likely to make healthy food choices on their trip.
“One of the most surprising things about the study was how many people went running on their honeymoon,” said Jacobs. Forty percent [of honeymooners] in the last five years went on at least one run during their honeymoon and they are using it as a way to decompress, disconnect, and be a tourist at the same time.”
More travelers, in general, seem to be pursuing activities like running and working out, as well. In 2015, Westin saw a 16 percent increase in requests for its Gear Lending partnership with New Balance, which gives guests access to workout gear they can borrow and use during their stay.
Eighty percent of those surveyed who went on a honeymoon in the last five years also reported being more active and health-conscious during their honeymoon than at home. And, if given the opportunity to re-do their honeymoon, 44 percent of respondents would prefer to be even more active. Four out of five respondents said they increased their approach to active well-being and healthy food choices while on their honeymoon.
Wellness remains an important trend among all travelers, honeymooners included, suggests the survey results, and hotels are responding to those demands. “People are living healthier lives going into their weddings and into their honeymoons and they are continuing that even after their honeymoon, and we’re seeing that,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, however, was also quick to point out that the activities preferred by couples weren’t all related to “sweating it out at the gym.” “Not every honeymoon today has to be a massive workout,” he said. “Fifty percent of those surveyed said the spa was one of the most memorable things on their honeymoon.”
In the last five years, 68 percent of surveyed couples traveled to more than one destination on their honeymoons that were less than 10 days in length. Of couples who honeymooned in the last 5 years, 40 percent are visiting two destinations, while 28 percent are visiting 3.
“That’s double than what it was five years ago,” said Jacobs. “Only 35 percent had visited more than one destination five to 10 years ago. And the number of couples who went to at least three destinations within the last five years quadrupled from five to years ago.”
Jacobs said the driving force behind this, among respondents, was a desire to combine different experiences. For example, he said, some couples might fly into Vancouver for a city experience and then leave for Whistler in a few days to hike or ski or take in the great outdoors.
“I think this really speaks to this megatrend of people willing to spend money on having certain experiences in a place, and that’s playing out in the destinations and types of things people are doing on their honeymoons,” he said. He noted the popularity, for example, of a wedding/honeymoon gift registry at the Westin Maui where family and friends can buy experiences for couples similar to a Honeyfund.
More Digitally Connected, But Not to Work
Even though work constraints may be influencing travelers to travel closer to home and take less time off, more honeymooners today are determined not to let work interfere with their honeymoon itself. Those who took honeymoon trips within the last five years were half as likely to keep up with work compared to honeymooners who took a trip more than five years ago.
While couples are choosing to be connected on social media with family and friends during their trips, they aren’t using Wi-Fi and connectivity to check email as much as they did before, and Jacobs saw that as a sign of improvement. “I think that’s a great thing,” he said. “It could also have something to do with the fact that they are being more active and there’s just less time to check in with work, too.”
Using Social Media as Inspiration
Of the American respondents who went on a honeymoon in the last five years, 80 percent used social media to research their destinations compared to just 28 percent who honeymooned more than five years ago.
Nahmias said the survey was not able to collect information about which specific social media channels were being used for inspiration or research purposes among the respondents, but Jacobs noted he’s seen Instagram and social sharing, overall, remain strong in promoting certain destinations and activities among honeymooners today.
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Photo credit: A couple goes sightseeing. A new study suggests couples are more interested in pursuing active experiences during their honeymoon trips than they were in previous years. Westin Hotels & Resorts