With travelers’ desire for new experiences, the rapid global technological advancements, climate change, and other dynamics, the travel and tourism industry is constantly transforming.
Having experienced an all-time high in the past decade, with 2018 recording the highest international tourist arrival, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the sector is now undeniably faced with big challenges and uncomfortable changes following the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the same, there are still rising tourism trends that can help tour operators, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), and other industry suppliers to revamp their businesses and experience success as we get into the new normal.
From experiential and transformative travel to automation and Bleisure trips, there are new opportunities companies should focus on.
In this article, we’ll go through the top tourism trends right now and highlight how leisure businesses can stay on top of their game and rebuild tourism for the future.
1. Bleisure Travel
Bleisure travel is a growing tourism trend where people extend their business travel to leisure activities. Experts predict it will continue to grow in the mobile workforce. Although business travel has started to make its comeback in 2021, bleisure is believed to be its future.
A 2018 study revealed that 60% of U.S. business trips incorporated leisure elements, an increase from 43% in 2016.
These business-leisure trips can either be pre-planned, whereby clients schedule their vacation within the same period of a job-related trip. Companies may also offer their workers some tourist experiences during work trips.
On the other hand, this can come as an afterthought. Once the meetings, professional conferences, and other work engagements are over, business travelers may decide to extend their stay and explore their destination.
There is also a growing trend among millennials known as the “digital nomad” phenomenon. This is whereby online workers and freelancers adopt the lifestyle of traveling as they work.
As a tour operator, you can take advantage of this growing trend by creating offers that entice business travelers to extend their stay for leisure. For example, you can sell team retreat packages combined with perks like photos, videos, and transportation.
Having wifi and chargers in buses and accommodation (for multi-day tours) can also entice digital nomads and other travelers looking to stay connected for work.
Gone are the days when booking a trip required clients to make a phone call, speak directly to a service provider, or walk into the supplier’s office for face-to-face negotiation.
Digitization has led to a rise in online bookings. Not only has this made advertising cheaper for travel companies, but also customers are enjoying and increasingly prefer the convenience it offers.
Tour and activities companies have also progressively adopted technology and online booking. In 2019, 71% of operators surveyed were using reservation technology in their businesses, a marked increase from just 25% in 2010. More to that, these companies experienced faster growth plus higher profitability.
As we approach the post-COVID period, automation in the sector is bound to continue rising. The increasing digitalization of tourism also generates new business opportunities and promotes the sustainable development of the sector. So as you work on getting back to profitability, take advantage of this tourism trend, and set up the right technology in order to increase your chances of faster recovery.
3. Mobile Bookings
Another important aspect when it comes to digitization is mobile bookings.
Operators report that 2 in 5 online bookings are made on mobile devices. These smartphone shoppers are also more valuable to your business because of the following reasons:
- They spend 50% more on tours and activities per trip.
- They average 2.9 tours per trip.
- They are twice as likely to leave online reviews.
Source: Arival Travel
According to Think with Google, 57% of travelers believe that companies should personalize their buying experience and base it on their behaviors, personal preferences, and past choices.
Personalization is also important when it comes to the actual tour or activity. By offering flexible experiences that can be tailored to a traveler’s needs, you stand a chance of better satisfying your clients, and that can lead to repeat visits. Your priority should, therefore, be on offering customer-oriented services.
It starts right from the time they see your advert on social media or your website. The messaging should resonate with what the client prefers. Travel and tour suggestions can be offered according to, for instance, what the customer has been browsing on the internet. This is possible to set up using specialized marketing tools and ad platforms like Google and Facebook.
You are better placed by factoring this into your company’s digital marketing strategy. How do you get started? Reach out and speak to your customers to learn about their preferences, characteristics, behavior, and individual needs.
All in all, staying on top of this tourism trend can be the distinction that will make your company stand out from competitors and gain back profitability faster.
5. Tech-Empowered Travel
We already talked about automation and mobile bookings as some of the future trends in the tourism sector. But existing and emerging technologies will continue to influence travel in many other ways.
A recent Amadeus survey states that technology and innovation seem to be key in building traveler confidence and they will increase willingness to travel in the next 12 months.
Technologies proved to be crucial in the post-pandemic world where international tourists need to present Digital COVID Certificates or fill out travel documentation. What is more, people need instant access to information and help when being abroad.
In the coming year, tech innovations will continue to bring ease to the travel experience. The top five technologies that would increase confidence to travel in the next 12 months are:
- Mobile applications that provide on-trip notifications and alerts (44%)
- Self-service check-in (41%)
- Contactless mobile payments, e.g., Apple Pay (41%)
- Automated and flexible cancellation policies (40%)
- Mobile boarding (40%)
In addition to supporting people throughout their journey, technologies made innovative solutions possible. Virtual tours, experiences, and classes gained significant popularity during the lockdowns, and thanks to tech innovation, many businesses survived the crisis.
6. Sustainable Tourism
Following the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference and the launch of The Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action, countries are urged to accelerate climate action in tourism. So encouraging sustainable tourism practices and environmental initiatives is of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.
The UNWTO Secretary-general has warned that the “climate emergency is a bigger threat than Covid”. As international travelers become aware of this crisis, they come to believe that people need to take action now and make sustainable travel choices in order to save the planet and preserve it for future generations.
More travelers are adopting this mindset hence making their travel decisions with the environment in mind.
But it’s important to note that sustainability is not only about the environment. It’s also about making a positive impact on cultures, economies, and the people at the destinations that clients visit.
In the post-COVID-19 era, sustainability will be a continuous trend in travel and tourism. If you play your part in upholding sustainability, you can earn the trust and loyalty of the generation of travelers who are spearheading this trend.
7. Active Ecotourism
Active Ecotourism is another trend that has emerged in response to the calls for more sustainable and thoughtful tourism. It encourages combining the passion for travel with direct involvement in conservation and supporting the local environment.
According to a recent Amadeus survey on rebuilding travel, people consider cost-effective sustainable travel a priority.
37% of travelers surveyed think opportunities for travelers to be involved in the preservation of tourist destinations will help the industry to become more sustainable in the long term.
According to Evolve’s 2022 travel forecasts, 58% of people will be more interested in exploring the outdoors and practicing relevant activities including hiking, biking, and kayaking. Mountain/rural escapes and waterfront getaways are expected to be popular vacation experiences in 2022.
Covid-19 has drawn our attention to the negative impact of travel on the global environment and initiated a promise for ‘coming back better’. So the tourism industry will continue this trend by promoting sustainable outdoor travel and ecotourism in the post-pandemic era.
8. Transformative Travel
This is a new tourism trend that’s quickly gaining popularity. Transformative travel is about not just traveling for leisure but also aiming to make a difference in both the lives of others and oneself.
Volunteering trips are an example of the experiences that have gained popularity from this trend. Travelers vacation and also set aside time to volunteer at their travel destinations.
When it comes to making a difference in their own lives, clients can opt to go for wellness holidays where they retreat and either join a yoga class, relax at a nature-filled destination, or attend some apprenticeship classes to learn a new skill.
Because of this trend, there is also a notable change in the travelers’ diet. Instead of indulging in unhealthy meals, those who’ve joined the organic food movement prefer places that offer highly nutritious and organic foods.
One of the main aims of transformative travel is to be involved in something that’s significant and adds purpose to the trip. Booking.com shares that 68% of global travelers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill, followed by a volunteering trip (54%) and international work placements (52%).
Based on this trend, tour operators can focus on offering unique and purposeful activities along with their usual products and services.
9. Experience Tourism
Experience tourism is on the rise. This trend is about having a once-in-a-lifetime experience or gaining an emotional connection with cultures and nature.
As travelers get tired or bored of cookie-cutter vacations in touristy hot spots, they begin looking for an authentic experience in their travel destination. They can easily go for a brand that will allow them to mingle with the locals and experience the culture of the people.
Harris Group did a study that revealed that 72% of millennials prefer spending more money on unique experiences rather than on material things.
So, if you can offer these experiences, then you’re well on your way to acquiring this increasing breed of clients. One of the most popular experiences is food sampling. Food tourism enables travelers to enjoy different local cuisines, maybe even learn how to cook some of the recipes, and interact with the people’s traditions in the process.
Another way clients want to experience their destinations is by staying with local families rather than in hotels. This gives them a chance to interact even closer with the locals and see their way of life.
10. Wellness Travel
These are travelers looking for an enriching experience with the primary purpose of achieving, promoting, or maintaining the best health and sense of well-being and balance in life.
But don’t think wellness travel is limited to resorts and spas. Almost any business can take advantage of this trend.
Think of how you can market your business offers as a way to contribute to wellness tourism by developing and promoting communities and showing how both tourists and locals can benefit.
For example, a helicopter tour, paragliding flight, or whatever fun adventure your company offers, is a chance for personal growth by conquering fears or expanding horizons. Your existing offers may give the chance for people to empower themselves by learning a new skill set which also encourages personal growth.
11. Longer Trips
With international travel returning to some degree, tourists are starting to dream about extended long-distance trips again. While countries are advocating for less air travel, this trend will allow people to travel less but better.
According to Evolve’s 2022 travel forecasts, the average trip will likely be longer in length (5-7 nights in 2022, compared to an average of 3.8 nights in both 2020 and 2021).
Longer trips will be increasing in demand as a result of the many work-from-home opportunities too. A study by Envoy finds that the hybrid work model gives employees more flexibility to get work done when they’re most productive.
So those who work remotely are more likely to plan extended stays in 2022 and beyond.
Staycation is another trend that gained popularity during the pandemic. It represents a holiday spent in one’s home country or home rather than abroad. Often involves day trips for exploring local attractions and activities. This type of vacation is ideal for people who are feeling the need of escaping out of their homes but want to avoid the ongoing Covid-19 regulations.
New research suggests that the trend will continue into 2022 despite the easing of international travel restrictions. This is because tourists want to support their local markets well as feel secure and safe in their holiday environment.
So small tour/activity businesses and accommodation providers can rest assured that there will be a constant stream of visitors during the years to come.
As a tour operator or DMO, it’s best to keep an eye on these tourism trends and begin strategizing. These include:
- The merging of business and leisure travels
- Increasing automation
- Mobile bookings
- Personalization of trips
- Tech-Empowered Travel
- Active ecotourism
- A focus on sustainable tourism
- Transformative travel
- Experience tourism
- Wellness travel
- Longer trips
Have a plan of how to meet the needs of your clients and take advantage of these trends. This can be the much-needed headstart to help you emerge above your competition as you seek to recover from the consequences of the pandemic.
You might also like:
- The Rise of Bleisure Travel and How to Make the Most of it
- Travel Like a Local: How Tour Operators Can Make the Most of This Trend
- Health Tourism in the EU: Facts and Figures
- Virtual Reality in Travel: 9 Applications for Tours, Destinations & Activities
- The Rise of Solo Travel and How to Make the Most of it
- When Numbers Matter: The Travel Statistics You Need to Know About
- The Rise of Experience Tourism and What It Means for the Leisure Industry