How you vacation says a lot about you. Dash around like a crazed squirrel? Hole up in a hammock sloth-style? A new survey gives insights into how people travel for pleasure and business, showing how people from China travel differently than the French, how Thais are not like Germans, and how Americans look more like Italians and Indians.
The study by TripAdvisor's TripBarometer, a survey of more than 44,000 users and travel providers, looks at how travelers use their smartphones while traveling. And that can suggest which cultures like to disconnect while traveling, and which stayed attached and addicted.
In broad strokes, the survey found South Americans, Middle Easterners and Asians are more likely to be the most connected when they're away from home. Europeans were at the other end of the spectrum, more likely to leave the phone in their hotel room while traveling.
"The thought and the dream of getting away from it all is not the same as the reality of getting away from it all," said Stephanie Boyle, a spokeswoman from TripAdvisor. "Asian travelers are so used to be switched on all the time, whereas French and German travelers are more 'I want to get away from it all' switched-off travelers."
Two-thirds of Thai and Chinese travelers were in the highest category of smartphone usage, while about 60 percent of Brazilians and Indonesians, and 53 percent of Malaysian travelers, used the device at the same level.
By contrast, only 28 percent of French people on holiday relied heavily on their phones, and only 38 percent of Germans. Americans were right about in the middle with 48 percent of travelers very tethered to their handheld wizard, about the same rate as Italians, Australians and Indians.
The survey examined how much people use the devices for a combination of researching trips, booking trips and then using them during the trip for further research and reservations. That measure can define the people who are most eager to be permanently on the grid, even while away from home, and those who are more likely to be untethered when they are away.
The survey had other findings about how travelers' wants as well. Even as usage varies, the increasing number of travelers, from anywhere, who expect to use their electronic devices everywhere also want more things from their travel providers. The mandate for providing WiFi is already old news.
Now travelers want chargers on hand for a variety of portable devices so they don’t have to haul them or go dead if they forget something. And they want SIM cards for mobile phones when they are abroad so they can get service or avoid gigantic roaming fees.
Consumers want the smartphones at their disposal, but they don't like the burden of having to tote the cables and chargers for keeping them alive.
Sixty percent of the TripBarometer participants said they want adapters and converters for the differences between electrical connections in different countries. And 54 percent said they wanted chargers available for music players, phones, cameras and other electronics. It's no fun being on vacation and having the camera go dead. And a business trip is going to go very badly if the laptop battery dies.
"Connected travelers are not stingy. They are willing to pay for it. But they want it available," said Boyle. "One thing people hate paying for is WiFi, but if you are offering you a service they don’t expect like a charger or SIM card, that is great."
Once again, regional differences appear.
"Hoteliers in Asia are offering that SIM card more than in established Western markets because they are used to travelers needing that," she said.
As expected, younger travelers are driving the demand. About a third of millennials fall into the highest smartphone usage group, more than three times the rate for retirees.
Why whip out the smartphone on the road? Because you're lost. Using maps is the most common use of smartphones on a trip. Two-thirds of people said they used the smartphone for getting around. People also love connecting to social media on the road to share the fabulous details of their travels.
The phones are also heavily used for finding things to do and places to eat, often through online reviews.
And the trend is only going to increase. The survey found the share of people using smartphones to book reservations doubled in the past year. It's still a small share, but it's seems like a powerful indicator of what travelers will be doing in the future.
Methodology of the survey: The TripBarometer study, by TripAdvisor, is based upon an online survey conducted from Jan. 16 to Feb. 2, 2015, conducted by Ipsos, a global research firm. A total of 44,277 interviews were completed in 32 markets, spanning seven regions. The sample is made up of 34,016 consumers who are TripAdvisor Web site users and Ipsos online panelists who chose to take part in the survey and have researched their travel plans online in the last year; and 10,261 representatives from accommodation properties who use TripAdvisor's free marketing services, making it the world’s largest combined accommodation and traveler survey. The consumer survey data is weighted to represent the known profile of the global online population, to keep in line with previous waves of TripBarometer. Equal weighting is also applied at country level for the business survey.