Happier Times Ahead: HENRYs (High Earner, Not Rich Yet) Are Keen To Cautiously Return to Pre-Pandemic Travel Behaviors. — Maru Group

By Vik Sood, Senior Vice President & Patrick Tillman, Senior Research Manager, Consumer Goods and Services

Continuing with our 3-part series on HENRYs, those High Earners who are Not Rich Yet, we discuss a topic that appears close to the hearts of this group — Travel.

Using our proprietary software, Maru/HUB, we studied this niche group in the US through Maru’s Instant Qualitative environment. It allowed us to efficiently moderate a discussion over three days and engage on the topics of financial sentiment, travel, and wellness. We will be exploring what we learned with this group in a series of releases — all aimed at taking a pulse on how HENRYs are feeling, behaving, and thinking during these unparalleled times.

In part 1 of our series on HENRYs, we uncovered that recent pandemic-driven financial responsibility is expected to be short-lived as high discretionary spending returns in the post-COVID lives of these consumers. As restrictions lessen and vacations once again become a more regular expenditure for HENRYs, part 2 of our exploration on this group sought to understand perspectives pertaining to travel, from both a pre-pandemic and forward-looking lens.

First though, we must ask, how does travel fit into the lives of these high earners during normal circumstances?

HENRYs are committed to discretionary travel spending despite shifting life priorities

While it is an activity that many HENRYs enjoy and have dedicated meaningful portions of their budgets to in the past, some find themselves in the early stages of child rearing. Accordingly, they have shifted their travel priorities and are leaning towards family-friendly destinations. For some, the difficulty of identifying travel options that are suitable for young children has resulted in less travel than desired. Nevertheless, there are still some perennial favorites for HENRYs who are also parents, namely Disney.

Though priorities vary among this group of consumers, we know travel is top-of-mind for them when it comes to discretionary spending, regardless of life-stage. Presented with a hypothetical situation in which they were awarded an unexpected windfall of $10,000, both parents and non-parents, alike, would commonly set aside a portion of the funds for extravagant vacation plans, demonstrating the value of travel in the lives of HENRYs. These consumers often seek fresh experiences and travel provides them an opportunity to explore new areas, engage in unique activities, and immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures. Having spent the past year with a greater focus on using disposable income to address financial liabilities, HENRYs are primed to soon revert back to their pre-pandemic travel planning behaviors.

HENRYs seek out opportunities to maximize the value of their vacations

Notwithstanding their otherwise liberal spending behavior, HENRYs demonstrate a more frugal approach to travel. They are avid loyalty program subscribers, and seek to capitalize on those points as much as possible when traveling for pleasure. Not surprisingly, the large hotel brands are referenced, namely Marriott, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Hilton. When redeeming points is not an option, HENRYs will invest their time to seek out the lowest rates for both airfare and accommodations, ensuring that most of their funds can be used for the experiences during their trips. For some, the availability of attractive rates has even influenced their chosen destination.

“Instead of having a set destination in mind, I would occasionally shop around for where there were good deals on flights, and just go there. I found the cheapest flights I could, and then, spent a little bit more where we were staying on the rest of the trip.”

Ultimately, though, it’s about value, and being flexible is key to realizing that value for HENRYs! Some reflect on having received greater value with Airbnb compared with hotels, or by seeking out those hidden gem resorts or relatively unknown destinations.

Regardless of the degree to which they tend to travel, HENRYs do show some similarities in their vacation planning tendencies. These consumers are meticulously outlining their travel itineraries with considerable research prior to booking their trips, ensuring that they can maximize the value of their vacation from not only a financial perspective, but also the experiences and activities in which they plan to engage. One HENRY perfectly summed up behavior that this group more broadly shows, “ I am very much a planner and spend a lot of time doing research about a place online and have a detailed itinerary that is flexible and full of options for almost every trip I take.” This detailed approach to vacation planning is not limited to the travel itinerary though, as HENRYs also put significant effort into discovering the best pricing options for their trips.

HENRYs are eager to return to travel but will do so cautiously

While HENRYs are keen on the idea of traveling in a post-pandemic environment, consistent with their more considered approach to such expenses, they intend to do so with caution, likely even to a greater degree than the average traveler. They’re looking forward to the opportunity to relax, with some longing for the day that they can enjoy the warm weather on a care-free beach vacation. One HENRY said, “I would like to go to some beach, doesn’t matter where. I just want to get in the ocean, have a drink and walk in the sand.” The chance to travel is seen as a return to “happier” times, but there are also clear expressions of nerves and anxiety, as well as a reluctance to travel without widespread vaccination and the removal of quarantine requirements.

  • How will attitudes toward Airbnbs and similar less established accommodations change in light of the pandemic, even once the majority of the public has been vaccinated?
  • To what degree might there be hesitation in using accommodations that are run by more private players who may not follow as strict of standards in maintenance as the large hotel companies?
  • What other behaviors are likely to stick from the pandemic that could influence wants and needs for travel?

To understand these among other questions, Maru’s suite of System 1-based tools and approaches are ideally positioned to most effectively capture the subconscious element that underlies such thought processes, particularly given the range of emotions associated with the pandemic.

Contact us today to learn more about our research on this group and stay tuned for the final entry in our series on HENRYs in the weeks ahead!

Originally published at https://www.marugroup.net on April 22, 2021.

Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.

Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.