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 in the face of 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 recover during the post-COVID period.
1. Bleisure Travel
Bleisure travel is a growing tourism trend where people traveling for work or business include some leisure time at their destination.
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 a 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 slowly approach the post-COVID period, automation in the sector is bound to continue rising. 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 in 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. Sustainable Tourism
Research by Booking.com reveals that 72% of tourists 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.
Carbon offsetting, for example, is becoming more popular by the day especially since travelers want to help mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.
Tour companies can also support this mission by making small but significant adjustments. You can do away with single-use plastics or opt to only use solar for all your energy needs.
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 face of COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable tourism is most likely going to grow. 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.
6. 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 for 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.
7. 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.
8. Solo Travel
Solo traveling is a wonderful and self-rewarding experience that forces you to grow and leaves you feeling stronger and more confident.
But more people are aiming to travel solo for different reasons. Some may want the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, rather than be ‘’tied down’’ to a group of friends, family, or a partner. And some may be traveling alone for their own personal growth, and seeking something deeper from their solo adventure.
More solo travelers are also opting for professionally guided tours, which is good news for tour and activity operators. Many travelers are wanting to maximize their ‘’me-time.’’
Take advantage of this by having special offers to cater to these solo adventurers. Maybe you can offer them a more personal experience with one-on-one tours, or one-on-one cooking classes.
Traveling solo can be uplifting, eye-opening, and fun, but sometimes lonely. You can also think of offers for two people where you have the opportunity to pair them with a stranger that may become their new best friend. These travelers also enjoy meeting new people and often make long-lasting friendships during their travels because approaching someone who is alone is much easier than approaching a group. Safety is also a high concern for solo travelers.
Be sure to stress that your offers are trustworthy and reliable. The idea of being scammed or even worse while on a trip is never fun for any type of traveler.
9. 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 show 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.
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
- A focus on sustainable tourism
- Transformative travel
- Experience tourism
- Solo travel
- Wellness travel
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 effects 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