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THE MAJOR TRAVEL TRENDS OF 2020

January 2020

As we enter a new decade, we take a look at the major trends that are shaping the travel industry. 

The environmental, social and ecological impact travel is having across the world is indisputable and with it, there is growing pressure for travel companies (and tourists) to act more responsibly. 

The impact of social media on travel, 10 years after the launch of Instagram, is also having profound effects on behaviour. Stories of over-tourism at popular sites, as well more sinister implications, with wildlife poachers using geotagging on photo-sharing apps to hunt Rhinos, have all hit the headlines.

For the first time, this year, the Generation Z population has surpassed Millennials. This demographic shift may shape how the travel industry looks in the future. In a 2019 Skift Research report, it suggests that both politics and sustainability matter in Gen Zers’ travel decisions. 

Here are seven of the major trends developing as we enter 2020.
 

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE RISE OF SLOW TRAVEL

“Sustainability has become a deciding factor for individuals purchasing travel and accommodation, and travel companies are adapting their offers to reflect this.” (Amadeus 2020 trends)

 

2019 saw the start of flight shaming and in 2020 the term vacation or holiday shaming has also been mooted. Given the climate emergency and the quest for increasingly authentic travel experiences, slow travel will likely be a key trend of the decade.

 

The Financial Times reported in January 2020 that with the resurgence of rail and extended holidays, slow travel offers the luxury of time and the ability to uncover destinations more authentically. Staying longer, slowing the pace and staying in one place allows visitors to engage more thoughtfully with, and tread more lightly in, the places they're visiting.

 

Demand for second cities such as Seville (over Barcelona) or Porto (over Lisbon) is likely to increase as travellers explore a country’s lesser-known destinations in a bid to reduce over-tourism and to help protect the environment.

 

According to a report from Booking.com, 51 per cent of travellers would swap their original destination for a similar alternative, if it meant making less of an environmental impact.

TRANSFORMATIONAL AND ACHIEVEMENT TRAVEL

Experiences are the new luxury.

Travellers with disposable income are choosing to spend it on transformational experiences, searching for meaningful interactions with locals and for immersive experiences that go beyond ticking off the usual sightseeing spots.

 

In an age of intense digitalisation and automation, travellers are also craving human connection, so travel brands that can offer an increasingly personalised experience, delivered by genuine and hospitable hosts, will drive more interest and loyalty. 

 

The latest Virtuoso® Luxe Report shows travellers in 2020 are prioritising trips powered by the belief that customised experiences are the best investment of their money and time, given the backdrop of a world of climate change and unsettling politics.

EPICUREAN EXPLORATION

Culinary travel has firmly become its own niche with exceptional food and drink now considered essential to any trip. Virtuoso® shares that culinary experiences allow foodies to go beyond a seat at the table with cooking classes, eating in private homes, Michelin-starred restaurants, farm-to-table visits and truffle hunting, just a few of the experiences they offer to their clients.

TRAVELLING FOR THE ‘GRAM

‘55% of global luxury travellers believe capturing social media content while travelling increases their ability to have a meaningful experience.’  (InterContinental ICons Research Study)

 

The lack of diversity across social media, which sees travellers posting the same iconic images in major tourist destinations, are driving travellers to only visit the “must-see” sites and largely miss out on the true depth and culture of a destination.

 

Some 77% of global luxury travellers feel that they’re supposed to see the most popular sites in a destination they visit. A common sight in popular tourist areas are queues of bloggers attempting to replicate an iconic shot such as Oia’s blue-domed church in Santorini or the distinctive fishermen on Inle Lake in Myanmar.

As well as influencing our choice of destination, the rise of image-sharing platforms has started to have an impact on the way destinations look, with hotel designers now briefed to include Insta-friendly features.

In a darker story, it was reported in the Sunday Times Travel in January 2020, that the uploading of safari images could prove deadly for the very wildlife people have come to see. Geo-tagging, the option in photo-sharing apps that shows time and location of the images, are being monitored by poachers to form map of Rhino’s habits, often with bloody consequences.   

SUBSCRIPTION TRAVEL

“Subscriptions and memberships represent a compelling way for travel companies to create lasting relationships with consumers.” (Skift 2020 Megatrends)           

 

Subscription services have become an essential part of our lives and now the travel industry are identifying the benefits of achieving daily, direct engagement on digital platforms, that leads to sustained purchases.

 

Whilst a points program isn’t enough to always create loyalty, this kind of membership model touches various aspects of the traveller’s life beyond the trip.

 

Brands both big and small are experimenting with an early stage of subscription products. Delta Air Lines offers boarding perks for a flat fee each year but until recently, the subscription concept was largely absent from luxury travel. 

 

Safara is among the first travel brands to bring the idea of subscription travel to the luxury sector. Users pay an annual subscription in exchange for free travel selected from its exceptional portfolio of accommodation (only two per cent of properties are selected into the program).

 

The benefit of subscription-based travel is that consumers who buy into the service are committed beyond just a onetime purchase, enjoying access to hotels that engenders loyalty.

A DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT – GEN Z CUSTOMERS ARE THE NEW FRONTIER

This year, 2020, will be the first full year that we expect Generation Z to take up the largest portion of the global population.

It will take time for us to see the real travel behaviours and preferences of Gen Zers as they continue to come into their own, but a Skift Research report, Millennial and Gen Z Traveller Survey 2019, shows that both politics and sustainability matter in Gen Zers’ travel decisions.

“Gen Z customers are the new frontiers of tomorrow’s luxury market — and they already represent a growing portion of luxury consumption in Asia,” according to the 18th annual Bain & Company Luxury Study, produced in conjunction with Altagamma

Gen Z are already showing specific consumption habits, differentiating them from Millennials. It’s predicted that experiential travel will progressively evolve into ‘achievement travel’ for Gen Z, with an emphasis on travel experiences that allow them to align with community and that are more sensitive to ethical and environmental standards.

THE WELLNESS REVOLUTION

Perhaps one of the biggest shifts is wellness moving into the great outdoors - reconnecting with nature and enjoying the ecotherapy of outdoor activities.

 

Forest bathing, stargazing and wood-fired hot tubs are replacing gyms and infinity pools as selling points. 

With Google Trends reporting that searches for “wellness retreats” have increased by 182%, this is a trend here to stay.

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