What keeps the business of tourism thriving? Tapping into new trends and meeting changing demands, that’s what.

Sustainability in tourism goes beyond green travel. It’s also about responding to the trends that drive demand and define relevance. Each new special interest introduced to the world of travel translates into new business opportunities. As you prepare to adjust your products accordingly, let’s check out the more prominent trends forecast for this year.

Family Travel Grows Up

The traditional nuclear family has changed shape forever, also in the way they travel. Travelling families extend across multiple generations as well as species.

Single parents travelling with kids is nothing new, but they and their coupled counterparts will defer to the grandparents in bigger numbers this year. More silver-haired travellers will take the grandchildren on trips because they can better afford it, they have more free time than the parents, and they want to impart what they know to their progeny. The grandparents will want to ensure minimum boredom and maximum bonding. You’ll need to strike a balance for this lucrative demographic to personalise their joint experience while catering for age-appropriate needs: a combination of fun, adventure and sophisticated luxury.

What the kids want

As much as the older are in charge, they’ll be keen to consult the younger and accommodate their tastes. According to Expedia, 95% of family travel decisions is based on activities for the entire family, with 85% of the decision-making driven by children and teenagers.

You can win Generations Y and Z over with designer brands, trendy decor and music, food and cookery classes, conveniences like industrial-strength WiFi, video games, in-house cinematic experiences and chill areas, and a wide selection of sports and leisure activities. For little ones, there should be supervised activities including water-, beach-, snow- and other nature-based adventures. Some hotels conduct courses for different age groups in arts and crafts, conservation, stargazing, yoga and zumba, while others hold junior tournaments in golf, table tennis, even treasure hunts.

In a departure from the usual inter-connected rooms, luxury bunks in shared sleeping quarters will be the new sought-after accommodation.

What the furbabies need

Parents of furbabies will travel with their pets in bigger numbers this year. Comfort animals on planes or trains are becoming more regular and barely raise an eyebrow. Tolerance towards travelling animals will increase as it pussyfoots into the mainstream. Consider what adjustments you can easily make to accommodate and lure pet-centric travellers, or watch them trot on by. This is a community that looks out for each other, that will quickly spread the word that yours is a sympathetic brand worth doing business with.

All-inclusive home-away-from-home style accommodation will be very popular with other groups too this year. Packaged in tandem with events or festivals, special celebrations or seasons, completes the experience. Build special offers around in-house activities or curated excursions, and make access easy for guest families.

Female-focused tourism

It doesn’t matter that some social movements have an icky political stickiness about them. What matters is that going forward, women will be making bold statements with their travel choices, precipitated by the #MeToo and anti-GBV movements. This seems to be the moment that women feel enabled: to travel with other women, support women in business, and interact with local women, almost exclusively.

Personal safety is a factor but it’s mostly about shared experiences with people they relate better with. Travel brands that recognise this growing preference will do well to arrange events or incentivise women’s groups to travel to their destinations this year. There are already some trail blazers specialising in female-focused tourism – could this be a fit for your brand? Remember, women outnumber men!

With many things slowly becoming equal, women will increasingly flex their financial muscle, presenting you with opportunities to develop new, relevant products to meet the top travel demands on their shopping list:

  • Wellness, spiritual healing and relaxation will take off
  • Disconnected travel offers an escape for those wanting to unplug
  • Motion-based travel (cycling, surfing, walking, hiking, etc.) will be popular
  • Gastronomic experiences are evergreen favourites

Discover the female-owned brands in your area, especially if they employ and empower local women. Mindful travel for this demographic is about engaging with local women to help each other overcome challenges, grow and transform themselves and also fellow female travellers.

Actually, the notion that local is better will resonate across the board this year. Immersion into unique local experiences will be seen as an experiential luxury. There’s something very appealing about interacting with the ‘real’ people, learning first-hand about their food, lifestyle and heritage. With so much perceived ‘fake’ floating around modern society, saturating social media, it’s the last thing anyone wants to engage with when they travel. Your local insights are priceless and will give guests the taste of authenticity they crave.

An Antidote to Overtourism

Goodbye mass tourism mayhem, hello second cities and shoulder-season travel! Guess what: local residents are sick of having their popular cities and sites overrun by tourists; and travellers are sick of bumping into each other for a good Instagram shot. The rise of the second city is fortuitous (more Marseille, less Paris; more Osaka, less Tokyo) for all destinations, as is the growing popularity of shoulder season and off-peak travel. This antidotes to overtourism promise smaller crowds, better availability, and tourism spend spread more evenly throughout the year to less-traditional destinations.

Travellers will love the cheaper options, different views and experiences, better quality interactions with friendlier, more welcoming locals, and their ability to positively impact local economies.

If you’re based in a second city or your destination has potentially meaningful experiences available during the less popular seasons, connect with local brands and services to add value to your base offering. See how you can better accommodate women-only groups, pet-centric travellers, and solo travellers travelling in greater numbers this year. Incorporate the prevailing wellness, slow tourism and gastronomic trends and market your destination as a hub with opportunities in the vicinity to explore.

Score on the Sustainability scale

Carbon footprints and environmental impact should be rooted in your agenda by now. The Greta effect on an entire (influential) generation has us all minding our practices and operations. Travellers will become increasingly mindful of reducing their footprint, preserving indigenous culture and supporting local communities.

What can you offer those discerning luxury travellers who believe in paying extra to do the right thing? Investing in green design and carbon off-setting features will finally pay for themselves. Consider migrating from single-use plastics towards recyclable materials, to renewable energy and zero waste. Locally-sourced produce, artwork and decor, services and staff are smart business moves.

These guests care about sustainability, and will want part of their tourism spend to be invested in local youth training or upliftment projects. Your brand messaging should communicate clearly what local programmes you’re involved in.

Being Trendy Sustains your business

The overarching trend among travellers will be to maintain their lifestyles. So whether you cater to niche interests like veganism or wellness, travelling females or furbabies, or you take a clear stance on sustainability, you will find these trends feel less like passing fancies and more like mainstream tourism demand. Offer the bespoke experiences forecast to trend this year, and help secure the path to sustained tourism.

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