What does it mean to travel better in 2020? Taking into consideration conscience, motivation and special interests, this year’s trends signal a clear shift toward more mindful travel. Travellers will seek out bespoke experiences with a more merciful social and environmental impact, with a bit of self-transformation to boot. There’s something for everyone on our travel hit parade – take your pick and craft the personalised experiences your clients will be craving this year.

It starts and ends with sustainability

Only someone living under a rock can claim ignorance of the increasingly vocal discourse around climate change and its impact on the environment. Where you stand on the subject hardly even matters, given the worldwide concern about the the planet’s natural resources and well-being. What’s pertinent to travellers in regular life influences their travel decisions. Travel brands that echo their values with authenticity and integrity will rate highly.

Luxury travellers will drive the 2020 movement towards more mindful experiences. The attitude that ‘We can afford to be wasteful’ gives way to ‘We can afford to be zero-wasteful’ as it becomes a high-end travel standard. Paying extra for a proactive approach to sustainable travel equates bragging rights as much as it assuages guilt.

That puts all things eco-friendly into a green tourism basket laden with golden opportunities for you to incorporate into tours.

Sensitivity to local communities falls into the same basket, with growing mindfulness of the impact tourism has on residents and local economies. The burden of overtourism in many popular cities and tourist sites will also direct attention onto new destinations. There’s a desire to do things differently, better.

1 Positive impact travel

This is for people who want to travel as they live, zero waste and low carbon footprint left in their wake. Give them carbon neutral experiences that leave a positive, rather than detrimental, legacy. More travellers will consider alternatives to air travel or opt for fewer and shorter flights to destinations closer to home. Self-driving, trains and other modes of transport with a lower environmental impact will gain popularity. Empower them to give back to the environment and support the local economy by focusing on locally-procured services, products, and accommodation with an appetite for sustainability.

2 Undertourism

This is for people who don’t enjoy jostling for space and photo opps at destinations. They sympathise with the impact of tourism saturation on the locals and popular sites, and understand the negative impact on the quality of their own experience. Design off-beaten-track, under-explored experiences, including second city destinations and off-peak or shoulder season travel. They’ll happily experience something new, even different weather conditions, especially if it lowers costs. The less crowded a destination, the better their chances of more authentic local interactions. Incorporate unique learning opportunities into your tours for a rich immersion and an experiential twist.

3 Slow travel

This is for people who’ve already made up their minds to ditch air travel in favour of slower modes of travel. They have time to immerse themselves in the journey and will be looking at trains and boats to experience destinations a little differently. For many it will be a more comfortable option with less post-trip burn-out. It’s more scenic with a lower environmental impact than flying, right out of Greta’s gospel. A new motion-based travel niche is rearing its head this year, highlighting the popularity of cycling or biking, hiking or walking tours, surfing, boating or yachting, RV and road tripping. Develop opportunities in your destination for leisurely exploration that focus the traveller on the journey itself and low impact activities that enable them to enjoy the scenery, terrain and waterways en route.

4 Disconnected travel

This is for travellers suffering from digital fatigue. They love their devices but want an escape from being permanently plugged in. They’ll be looking to immerse themselves in nature for a while and deliberately avoid the nagging blue light from their smart device. According to Fashion Magazine, nature will be calling hard from places like Oman, Borneo and Greenland, but anywhere pristine and rural will tick the right boxes. Create tour products that take them offline and off-grid, encouraging them to worry less about charging their phones (lower that footprint!) and rather live in the present. Wellness experiences marry well with this trend – include plenty of pampering and feel-good activities in your tours.

Travel through generations

While all traveller demographic groups are on the move, Generation Z is growing its influence on travel trends. According to Conde Nast Traveller, they’re forecast to make up 40% of consumer spending this year. Their parents consult them on travel choices and, as young as they are, they know what they want and don’t want. From Baby boomers to Millennials, Gen’s X,Y and Z, there’s plenty of demand from all corners to all corners.

5 Time-poor travellers

Millennials will be short on time this year, which means they’ll prefer micro-cations or short tours that are easy to access and book. Many will look at destinations closer to home. Technology will help you facilitate the purchasing journey and help them win back some time. Jam as many of their favourite activities in one destination or string together multiple destinations into a single trip. Varied experiences will go down a treat, like combining culture with adventure or wellness activities with some Instagrammable sites, to create personalised, inclusive packages that shout convenience.

6 Gen Y and Z designer trips 

If it’s shiny and trendy, they’ll want it on their travels. You can lure this young and savvy demographic with travel products that speak their language: designer decor, trendy food and beverage brands; the latest, hottest music (mixed by big name DJs); celebrity chefs and other entertainers; lightening-fast WiFi, gaming and mobile apps for everything. That extends to accommodation and activities. Some cruise companies have taken to this concept like fish to water, offering age-specific, tailored experiences. Jump on that bandwagon and compete with some #FOMO-inspiring travel content.

7 Family roots and bonding

Grandparents will take their grandkids on more trips this year. They’ll leave behind mom and dad for some alone time or the single parent for some me-time.

Parents might not be able to afford to take the kids away but their retired parents will be financially more comfortable.

If they’re still mobile and healthy, they’ll be keen to teach the younger generation what they know about the world.

Personalise their experiences around age-appropriate activities, shared accommodation and logistical convenience.

Ancestry travel will be popular too as curiosity about family origins grows and DNA profiling makes it easier to trace roots.

Connecting across national borders to find kinship is something that families will be keen to explore and bond over.

Movements with momentum

From #MeToo to wellness, social issues and lifestyle movements are organically spilling into travel. They’re breeding niche interests with lucrative prospects for travel brands that can craft products that match the demand. The fact that those demands are diverse and very specific, lends itself to product diversity and a bigger market to ply your wares in.

8 Solo

No longer just for single people, timing and differing travel preferences between couples are among the reasons more people are travelling solo. Hotel providers and cruise companies especially have begun to realise that punishing solo travellers with single supplements loses them a share of this growing travel demographic. Seek out those priced-for-one rooms/cabins to add to your solo-friendly itineraries, with the safety features and end-to-end service finishes they need.

9 Women-only

There’s a female empowerment travel movement gaining momentum for women and by women. It entails women-only groups travelling together or individuals wanting to share experiences with other women. Safety is a concern but so are relatability and support. They prefer tours that incorporate female-owned tourism products and interactions with local women. There are a few women-only specialist travel brands but a bit of research and creative planning put this niche well within your reach.

10 Gastronomic #FOMO

Food ain’t going nowhere… It’s just got edgier, going into underground supper clubs in some cases, but generally it’s about trendy food in trendy places, cooked by trendy chefs. No demographic is immune to the charms of food porn (have you seen the teens cooking sophisticated dishes on TV?) and all world cuisines have a place at the table. From fusions to pairings down to an art-form and science adding interest, everyone wants to be first to taste and learn to cook the next big thing in gastronomy. Foodie experiences span different locations, even modes of transport; so experiment with different flavours!

11 Furbabies on board

Last but not least on our hit parade: more pet-centric travel motivated by owners who won’t travel without their animals. What felt like a passing fad last year will be growling for more attention this year. I’ve stayed at some hotels answering that demand and my research indicates more stakeholders are sniffing at it. Take stock of your pet-friendly suppliers to help you create some animal-friendly tours with bite.

When we talk about sustainability, it’s not only about the environment. Sustained tourism requires that various markets get the bespoke experiences they want. Travel is better when the personal connection is strong and travellers can choose with confidence and a clear conscience.

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