This year’s hot destinations are about more than location, location, location with just about everywhere boasting its own beauty and interest.
People will travel with their conscience this year and they’ll be emotional about the choices they make. Let’s take a trip around the world to see how your product offering stacks up in the list of predicted travel trends.
Thailand’s second city is the perfect example of one hot destination with multiple interests that’ll draw travellers this year. Chiang Mai is the more easy-going, graceful baby sister to the better known, crazy-paced Bangkok, but with all of the typical Thai charms. Its popularity in 2017 will be due to travellers wanting something less ‘obvious’ in their Thai destination.
A stay in Chiang Mai could be coupled with visits to the Old Town, night markets and restaurants, cookery classes and spa treatments. The outlying areas feature tea-growing plantations, the Golden Triangle and Hill tribes.
Perhaps your location has an excellent fusion restaurant, and you could collaborate with the chef to offer a special food experience (cooking and/or tasting) and win over the hearts and stomachs of travelling gourmands.
Despite being a close neighbour to Thailand, Myanmar is a barely discovered gem predicted to pique many travellers’ curiosity with its pagodas, Buddhist temples in forests, classic South-East Asian landscapes and villages with a cultural charm that has so far largely escaped modernity. Markets feature handmade local crafts and traditional food, there are floating islands to marvel at, and the freedom of touring by bicycle or canoe to enjoy.
There’s also the novelty of visiting a country newly ‘liberated’ from a dark past – there is tentatively growing interest in this type of tourism. Travellers will have a special empathy for destinations proven to have overcome difficulty and will wish to support local communities.
Some will be drawn to the novelty of accessing locations apparently untouched by mass tourism. And some will enjoy the bragging rights of visiting a newly liberated society.
Travellers continue their love affair with Africa and Ethiopia is the next big thing. Better known for famine and political instability, it retains its historical allure as the ‘cradle of humanity’. Travellers will desire experiences as diverse as viewing fossils to learning about the religious identity of the country, reflected in its architecture. Edifices like rock-hewn churches, obelisks, castles, monasteries, crypts, all exist gracefully alongside grottoes, majestic geological formations and natural beauty peculiar to Ethiopia, quite different from the customary African wilderness.
You could add value to your guest’s stay by offering a cruise to the Blue Nile’s source, or an experience of Ethiopian coffee culture, or of the local cuisine.
Cruises will become destinations within themselves – no longer favoured only by senior citizens and honeymooners. The interest in cruising comes from the desire for luxury and the fully inclusive experience. Your activities, dining options and entertainment will need to be more varied and onshore excursions will need to reflect high-end luxury.
Demand for themed cruises will increase, guided by pop culture trends in television, film and music, with the obligatory dramatic natural locations to view and visit.
Apart from the bread-and-butter shore sightseeing tours, it would be smart to include local food experiences or feature super trendy ‘ocean-to-plate’ events, to appeal to a growing curiosity in locally sourced, in-season foods. All those celebrity chef shows and master chef cook-offs on TV have created an appetite for real life encounters of the same, for a change to smell and taste the works of culinary art.
The trend also applies to suppliers of static accommodation with space for organic vegetable or herb gardens, which double in aesthetic and consumption value.
Train travel will become a more popular way to enjoy parts of the vast country that is Canada, as it celebrates its 150th birthday this year. Its birthday will be marked by free national parks entry all year long and festivals in iconic cities like Toronto and Montreal. This destination already favoured for its multiculturalism, craft beer industry, and the stunning wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. There’ll be less emphasis on seasonal preference among those time-constrained travellers who book last minute trips for good deals or spontaneous travel. Culture and nature, whatever the weather, bring the train journey experience full circle.
You could be based in or near a wilderness area like Taranaki, New Zealand, another destination travellers will love this year, favoured by solo travellers for its safety. Tap into their desires as well as those of adventure-seekers, incorporating risky experiences, from controlled to extreme, in your destination. Travellers will be keen to experience geological phenomena such as volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, jungles, canyons, deserts and always, the vast blue ocean.
So, activities such as diving, skiing, helicopter flipping, hot air ballooning, paragliding and spelunking, will all attract attention. Collaborate with trade members operating activities of this sort, package the experience and, in doing so, differentiate your offering from the competition.
Year of extraordinary experience
This is the year that your target customers will want to experience exotic wild animals like sloth, black jaguar, Himalayan snow leopard, lemur, gorilla or chimpanzee in their natural habitat. It comes from a fear of missing out on experiencing species at risk of disappearing forever.
They’ll want to escape the rat race, to experience healing pilgrimages.They’ll want to hike and bike rather than be car-bound. They’ll want to experience cloud forests in Ecuador, the meditative isolation of Mongolia. They’ll want to immerse themselves in local culture, and experience a return to a simpler, slower way of life to contrast the stressful pace of their regular routines.
These destinations may have made the list of must-see places, but experiential travel still rules. So, there’s certainly room for you to develop packaged experiences to ramp up your base offering and align with the predicted trends. Let this be the year your brand becomes the portal to your destination.