How many reading this report have ever heard the term “Search escapism” before. Probably not too many, since the global pandemic has only just made a trend of scrolling Google or Bing search for that next holiday experience. Even though lockdowns and restrictions have forced hundreds of millions of people to stay at home, the dream of traveling is alive and well.
Search escapism is not really a new thing. Looking and dreaming of that perfect “bucket list” experience has been with us since hide-covered canoes crossed narrow straits between continents. And the digital Darwinism (coined by Brian Solis) has evolved our quest from word of mouth rumors of greener pastures elsewhere, to the point where 95% of those who love to travel are doing daily searches for the perfect dream vacation. A Booking.com survey recently showed a “heightened desire to escape reality”, something most travel experts are not really talking about.
We tend to generalize rather than trying to really understand what has, and what will drive tourists to this shore or that one. But if you think about it logically, vacation has always been an escape from the humdrum, the hamster wheel, and the hard grind most people need to get away from in order to maintain their sanity. The Booking.com data showed people spending as much as 99 percent of their time online searching travel content (Mexico). This Fodors story by Katka Lapelosova, also deals with the psychology of travel escapism. I find this story fascinating, especially when I look at the most shared Instagram postings for the hashtag #escape.
This research and other data like that revealed in the study “Searching for escape, authenticity, and identity: experiences of “lifestyle travellers”, from the book “The Tourism and Leisure Experience: Consumer and Managerial Perspectives”, also reveals how nostalgia plays a role in traveler’s dream-making. The studies give me marketing ideas about how to use social media to inspire travelers at the top, in the middle, and at the end of the booking funnel. The Instagram share below is a common one for showing how users are sharing past experiences since the pandemic began. This one is a trip from 2018, shared earlier this year. There are thousands and thousands like this in the chronology of #travel.
So, at the end of the pandemic day, can you blame anyone for trying to create a fictional experience, as Lapelosova outlines in her story? She cites Lindsey Pratt, a psychotherapist who says travelers escapists:
“…may notice a general sense of loneliness…a shift in the way they fit into the world around them. Their identity as an adventurer is on pause due to COVID-19, and it’s felt as a deep loss.”
And this is what is really happening with “search escapism”, travelers trying everything they can to replace the adventure, freedom, and dreams of far off places and memories to bring back home. Now that I’ve become the latest analyst to analyze the obvious, what’s your search escapism profile like?