Despite rising inflation and dwindling 401Ks, consumers are moving ahead with travel plans — at least for this summer. To work on vacations — and to work on vacations — many will look for technology that makes that economy flight a little more comfortable and that Airbnb a little more like home. Laptop computers, wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, and smartphone accessories will continue to lead the travel tech pack, according to analysts and consumer electronics companies.
While inflation continues to erode consumer confidence, according to a recent Tripadvisor global survey, 4 in 10 respondents plan to move forward with travel plans. Furthermore, air travel numbers continue to reach rates not seen since before the pandemic. On a weekday in June 2022, for example, the TSA carried 2.4 million passengers compared to 2.7 million on the same day in 2019, some signs that things are returning to normal.
To ensure they can still afford to travel, respondents to a Tripadvisor survey said they would cut back on other areas, such as eating out and buying clothes, to compensate for rising prices. So the pent-up desire to travel seems to trump other budget fears.
“But with inflation rising, consumers are still looking for bargains on discretionary technology purchases,” asserts Avi Greengart, founder and chief analyst at technology research firm Techexponential.
Lisa Emard, director of media relations at Acer America, agrees that shoppers and travelers are looking for value, noting: “Due to supply chain issues and the lingering effects of the pandemic, customers are more thoughtful about purchases and are doing research to ensure they’re getting high-quality, reliable Buying products they will enjoy using for a long time.
For zooming back to the office or streaming Disney+ at the cottage, travelers want laptops that are still lighter and more portable, but with increased performance and sharper OLED screens. “The combination of thin-and-light designs paired with performance processing and dedicated graphics means they can be used for gaming, as well as school and professional work,” said Emard.
To save on lodging costs, more travelers are booking through sites like Airbnb, and while those rentals typically don’t offer all the entertainment options of a traditional hotel, many people are looking for tech solutions. Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K ($39.99), for example, is a popular device for bringing streaming video and music services from home to people on their peregrinations. It plugs into an HDMI port on any TV but maintains the owner’s security and privacy because the traveler doesn’t have to enter login and password information on a stranger’s Airbnb TV.
To help make sure getting there is half the fun — instead of half the hassle — Greengart says tech travel categories to watch are bag and luggage trackers, like Tile Mate (starting at $25) and Apple AirTags (starting at $29). and active noise canceling (ANC) headphones.
“ANC used to be reserved for premium over-the-ear headphones, but can now be found in more affordable wireless earbuds,” Greengart said. Models like Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro earbuds, for example, offer better sound quality and comfort than Apple’s AirPods (3rd product) for less money ($160 vs. $179).
A different kind of eco travel
Ecotourism has transitioned into sustainable tourism, with destinations such as Switzerland offering electric car tours and even e-bike tours of the lake region around Lucerne. The trend has also spawned all-but-popular brands, such as Clean Canteen, which offers a stainless steel, leakproof food box set ($64.95) in addition to bottles of water, just protein bars and cookies for carry-on meals on those flights. Meanwhile, new sustainable brands like Zealios are emerging with products like Sun Barrier Reef-Safe Sunscreen ($18) to meet environmental regulations in destinations like Hawaii.
But nowadays eco means economy as well. According to a TripAdvisor survey, when travelers get out there, they say they want to do it in a more sustainable way but aren’t willing to pay more to do so: six in 10 surveyed said they wouldn’t spend more for it. Eco-friendly option.
“Sustainability is an important part of brand value, especially with younger consumers. However, consumers still do not base technology purchase decisions primarily on specific eco-friendly practices,” agrees Greengart. But he notes that “sustainability is an important part of brand value, especially with younger consumers.” So highlighting ecological or climate friendly practices or features can tip the purchasing decision in favor of one product over another.
“Customers want eco-minded options that reduce their ecological footprint,” said Acer’s Emard, adding that Acer’s Aspire Vero laptops use 30 percent post-consumer recycled plastic in the chassis and bezel.
Still, there is one category of tech products that can be virtually inflation-proof: smartphone accessories, such as chargers and cables. “The big trend that continues to expand is power – the Otterbox power category has seen tons of growth over the past year,” said Kiana Noonan, spokeswoman for Otterbox. Chargers and cables are a necessity rather than a discretionary purchase, but Noonan says Otterbox’s protective phone cases also continue to do well. “Protecting an investment like a phone is something people should consider more than ever,” he added.
Will travel trends catch up to the forces of inflation? According to a survey of 4,000 US consumers by travel and tourism market research firm Destination Analysts, 86 percent of respondents said they plan to travel in the next 12 months. But those numbers may persist depending on whether the rate of inflation can be brought under control or not.
Meanwhile, it’s more important than ever for retailers to keep an eye on travel trends and back-to-school shopping, according to Acer’s Emard. She says retailers need to be able to reposition some electronics as we move from summer vacation to fall classes and back to offices. In other words, today’s travel laptop is tomorrow’s hybrid work computer.