‘Tis the season to look forward. As the year comes to a close, travel pros and journalists give their projections and observations on the future of travel and tourism. Here’s some of the latest, plus my thoughts.
Responsible Travel released predictions for various destinations, and trends they believe will affect travel in 2017, “driven by an increasingly polarized tourism industry.” Let’s see how they support that assertion.
Because of Brexit and the Trump presidential election, Responsible Travel (RT) believes travel will be more polarized than ever before: One camp is made of travelers ‘dominated by a climate of fear and mistrust of strangers‘ (really?) while the other side craves authentic experiences and adventures (this I buy).
According to RT, places viewed as ‘unsafe’ will be avoided by many travelers, plus travel companies will capitalize on their fears. These businesses will market trips that provide a safe ‘home-away-from-home’, removed from local people and real experiences. That may be the case, but it’s nothing new. Some tourists have always preferred to go to ‘safe’ destinations and there are many places that cater to them. An example are the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, where one does not have to venture past the guarded gates. But even then, the tourists have to get to and from the airport, so there is no true guarantee of safety. Travel in itself always has a level of risk.
Conversely, Responsible Travel cites it has seen rapid 22% growth of folks craving authentic, intrepid experiences, driven by the ‘experience economy’. One example: The company had a nearly 50% increase in revenue from trips to Iran, cited by their guests as a more ‘unusual’ destination. This trend, if it is an industry wide direction, is positive. I have always thought that travelers who actively seek the local experience and to interact with locals helps to bridge cultures.
On to a different report. Liz Weiss, travel editor at U.S. News, penned a feature on a number of trends she gleaned from various travel experts.
Artificial Intelligence Tools Are Improving and Expanding
Travel sites have long been toying with the idea of implementing real-time messaging platforms and personalized automation technology. For example, Google’s AI personal assistance or Siri can book travel plans. Other artificial intelligence tools to watch include Lola, an on-demand travel app that lets you research or book your travel plans on the go, and Expedia, which is planning to launch an AI platform for personal messaging and customer assistance.
Consumer and industry interest in ‘going green’ is causing hotels, tour operators and outfitters to use responsible practices plus encourage travelers to plan low-impact getaways. Supposedly people are choosing to travel shorter distances to reduce their carbon footprint. “One trans-Atlantic flight equals a year’s worth of driving, so consider planning an adventure closer to home,” stated Rebecca Warren, managing editor at Lonely Planet. Okay, I get that, but Machu Picchu or the Great Barrier Reef are not just down a drive from where I live. If I want to experience them, I have to fly there. Later in this section Warren states “…and perhaps one of the most immediate ways to help (reduce carbon footprint) is by choosing to visit destinations that will benefit the most from your tourist dollars,” she adds, pointing to destinations like Nepal as a place that’s benefited from tourism money getting funneled into the local economy. Good point, but back to her earlier statement; I can’t drive to Nepal. Kind of contradicting, but the main point for travelers is to be more aware of how your actions affect the world and local environments and cultures and act accordingly.
Attraction Bookings Go Digital
More restaurant reservations, tours and activities are being booked via online distributors. Airbnb’s recently launched its Trips app, which help travelers book experiences and activities while in destinations world wide. This will be a game changer for those businesses, especially in popular destinations. For smaller towns and places that lack critical mass it is yet to be seen as how these types of apps will make an impact.
High-Paying Loyalists Will Be Rewarded
Weiss writes “With frequent-flier program changes among all three legacy carriers (Delta, United and American) that reward travelers based on price paid rather than distance flown, travelers are starting to realize that “when airlines say loyal, they mean spend money,” Clampet says. Another interesting trend is a brewing battle between legacy carriers and low-cost airlines such as Spirit and Frontier airlines. With bare-bones fares like United’s new Basic Economy option, which allows travelers to book discounted tickets but sacrifice the opportunity to use overhead storage space or select a seat prior to check-in, airlines are “catering to people buying on price,”… elite frequent fliers who participate in the program will have the privilege of placing large bags into overhead bins, though they will not earn elite-qualifying miles with basic fares.” To the rich goes the spoils, so to speak.
Cuba Tourism Will Soar…But At a Cost
Cuba is on the radar for Americans, though it has been a popular destination for Canadians and others for years. I was interested in going there, but decided not to after reading a New York Times article revealing how the surge in visitors is limiting local access to affordable fruits and vegetables. I don’t want to be a part of that problem so I’m taking Cuba off my travel list for the time being.
Finally, while not forecasting travel trends for next year, Google recently revealed the year’s top “trending” travel queries—searches that had the highest spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2016. Trending searches included wellness retreats, solo travel and ride sharing services. I wager many of these will continue to be factors in 2017.
So as Christmas approaches, I wish you all a joyous holiday season. Make it a point to explore the world in 2017. Whether it be a town just around the corner or somewhere on another continent, amazing people, scenery and cultures await. Get out there!
More articles on 2017 travel trends:
Travel Trends for 2017 Part One
How Will Trump Affect Travel and Tourism?