Travellers are maturing into socially and spiritually conscious, geopolitically aware beings who desire a different way of tourism from years gone by.

They have a genuine interest in understanding how the other billion live and immersion is the best way to learn. We take a look at who’s travelling and why, how they purchase travel and how to tap into 2017’s emerging markets. Personally, I feel all warm and fuzzy about this breed of travellers, since I’m all for immersive experiences and the layered potential for transformation; so I write this smilingly and a tiny bit crazy jealous of the lucky travellers dictating this year’s tourism trends.

Hello world!

The first thing to understand about the emerging travel markets is that they comprise individuals who want to make and be the change in their own lives through travel. The majority is young, well-educated, digitally savvy, and super keen to contribute to global friendship. They want to grow their own consciousness and knowledge, they want to impact destinations positively and somehow do their bit to bring the world closer together. They also want to share what they’ve learnt by word-of-mouth, and significantly, via social media. They may work remotely, far from home turf or simply spend longer in their destinations of choice (upwards of the standard 14 nights for long haul travel). Between trips, they travel vicariously through the socially shared travel images and stories of others, and eagerly reciprocate.

Giving back is a huge motivation, whether it’s giving back to humanity or the planet, both feature prominently in your traveller’s psyche.

They live in a resource-constrained society and environment, and are conscious of their own impact on their surroundings. So it’s important to them to make theirs a positive impact and not repeat the past evils of mass tourism. They suffer from a disconnect from their own communities and from themselves, so desire a re-connection with people and nature in travel.

They want to return from their travels able to share the learning/discovery and universal love they were exposed to on their trip – it reflects a change within themselves and potentially also transforms their surroundings back home. This is then what differentiates transformative from experiential travel: it’s about a deep inner shift that lasts long after the journey ends, that takes the traveller out of their comfort zone even back at home. I’d say the best way to promote travel to this kind of traveller is through emotive storytelling and content marketing.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.

Pico Iyer

Transformative travel in general will be the buzz for 2017 and what it means for us as travel professionals, is that we need to set the scene for our travellers, inviting them to have those meaningful interactions with locals that make them feel less like tourists. We’re obligated now to weave more activities into our offerings that allow our clients opportunities for self-reflection and communion with nature.

Families are travelling in their numbers this year

They’re notoriously hard to market and cater to, yes, especially the multi-generational families, but a good place to start is understanding their preference for inclusive holidays (could be resort-based) with the holistic travel buying experience to make everything super convenient and hassle-free. They’ll want plenty of outdoor activities on offer, with beach and cruise holidays high on their wish lists, along with road tripping. Statistics show that family trips are mostly planned by women; so it’d be wise to keep that in mind for marketing purposes. They say men are from Mars and women from Venus, and when Venutians travel, they think of everything and need all bases covered.

The Asians are coming

The number 1 outbound travel market for 2017 is the Asian Pacific. 11 Countries from the region have been identified as the most prolific emerging travel nations this year: China; Taiwan; Hong Kong; Japan; South Korea; Indonesia; Malaysia; Singapore; Australia; New Zealand; and India. Propelled by rising incomes among a growing middle class, the region has undergone a shift in thinking of travel as luxury to travel as necessity. APAC travel is becoming more mainstream with especially Chinese travellers planning 3 or more trips per year. In fact, the Chinese are ranked among the top travel spenders on a per-trip basis – they don’t mind splurging on luxury items/experiences. They’ll be travelling further away from home, with a sophisticated interest in experiencing the lifestyles of foreign cultures, and a craving for authenticity and nature.

Know your Opportunist from your Explorer

Our friends at Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific have kindly profiled for us 4 traveller types within the emerging markets to assist with product development and marketing. Across the 11 countries, 1 out of every 3 Asian travellers are Explorers – they travel for personal growth and are inclined to travel solo #singlesupplementmustfall. They like having control of their trip, but they’re flexible and tend to plan activities spontaneously as they go. They’ll demand immersive experiences and are serious about embracing local culture in a real, life-changing way.


Your explorers will be cultural purists seeking hidden gems and unique attractions. They’ll want to live among locals as far as possible and even participate in authentic customs.

In fact, they’ll be the champions of ethical travel with sustainability as a core value – rather than contribute negatively as a tourist, they’ll want opportunities to give back.


They tend to be well-seasoned travellers and among this group Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Indonesia feature heavily. For them status and ego are strong motivators as they enjoy sharing their exploits and experiences on Social Media. They are the seekers of social capital, the reward hunters for whom 5 star top class everything, luxury pampering, and other superlatives are standard. Treat them right and the world will know about it. Give them high-tech accommodation, exclusive experiences like private viewings and VIP treatment they can boast about. The more photogenic their destination, the better tech mod cons they get, the better for them. They like planning ahead and know exactly what they want.


They will travel with others, whether with friends or family, often putting others’ needs ahead of their own. They like to be taken care of when it comes to travel planning and prefer existing itineraries. Among this group you can count India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Expect these high functioning tech savvy travellers to be on the look-out for innovative, different ways to document their travels. They’ll appreciate initiatives that put them in locations earmarked as photo opportunities especially if a guide with photographic expertise is on hand to assist with reproducing their unforgettable travel moments. The flip side of offering this additional value is that your brand can benefit from their User Generated Content and indirect Social Media Marketing.

What’s that saying about taking only pictures and leaving nothing more than footprints behind? It’s an ethical travel micro moment.


They want full immersion, a bit of indulgence, but at a good deal; and they want it without hassles. This is where your Chinese and Taiwanese feature. They’ll be the ones desiring simplicity in travel planning – they’re partial to organised tours, possibly in groups, to exciting destinations, or cruises, with all activities and excursions pre-arranged.

What the 4 types all have in common is being convenience-driven, time-poor, and while they like to plan the bulk of their trip in advance, there’s still an element of spontaneity in their purchasing (have those specials and deals running throughout the year!) and they want value for their money. They will seek to disconnect somewhat, so offline access to their travel information will become a super useful travel accessory.

On that note, you should know that Asians have generally deviated from Western trends in terms of travel buying.

According to Tnooz, China, along with other developing markets, has not gone the travel agent to PC/laptop to smartphone route to book travel. They’ve just gone straight to the smartphone.

The pressure is on: it’s no longer good enough to design the right products, you’ve got to make those products available in a format that’s easy for travel consumers to access and admire, a format that inspires them to travel, and you’ve got to keep sharing the love with technology that makes the practical nuisances of travel more palatable.

The burgeoning middle class is driving the growth of outbound travel in Asia-Pacific…as well as new technology and infrastructure developments.


Here are some scary stats: By January 2017 mobile phones have increased their share of web traffic by device, up 30%, enjoying 50% of total traffic, while laptops/desktops follow with a 45% share (down 20%).

Well, it’s only scary if you’re sitting idly while the writing is being digitally carved into the wall. The solutions are digital, mobile, and social. If further studies are telling us that travellers browse on tablets, research on desktops and then book on mobiles, then we need to engage them with content that speaks to their travel motivations, in a seamless travel buyer experience. We need our marketing to reach them on any device, we need to up the social media ante so that our happy clients can advocate for our brands – Instagram them green with travel envy!! And we need to incorporate our knowledge of the emerging travel market and what motivates them into our product development. Let’s see you board this gravy train powered by travel technology before it speeds away from you!

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