Tour industry is constantly changing while following the current trends. It's unacceptable to refuse to change along with these travel industry trends. The competition is restless. It appears that 2016 went well based on the information we have so far. Destinations around the world welcomed 956 million international tourists between January and September 2016, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. This is 34 million more than in the same period of 2015, a 4% increase. And although we might expect the same increase in 2017, it’s important to predict all the possible factors. So, travel industry trends are not to be neglected.
There’s never a dull moment. The emergence of new markets, different niche groups, digital trends, new ways of travel, types of accommodation, and even types of travelers. We want you, tour operators and activity providers, to be aware of their expectations in 2017. So, we tried to cover all the categories.
Travelers' Expectations for Tours and Trips
Nowadays is not so hard to know travelers’ (your potential customers') expectations and wishes when tailoring the trip for them. Because they will tell you. According to the Travelling Mystery Guest (Pty) Ltd, these are the most important ones for 2017.
More and more travel experts say that travelers want experiences with some kind of purpose, especially when it comes to wellness and cultural education. Travelers want to have digital detox options and they want to experience different indigenous cultures. They want the real local experience, to try certain things like working on farms, taking lessons from local artists and trying out local cuisines.
2. Experience Driven Tours
Tour operators say that travel to Africa is booming. Travelers now want the true African Safari experience. Things, like walking safaris, canoe trails and fly camping, should do the trick. Experience-driven tours that encourage travelers to move at a slower pace while on holiday are a must in your planning for 2017 if you want to “wow” your customers.
3. More Destinations in One Trip
Travelers don’t go to one destination and stay there for two weeks anymore. Instead, they make the most of their time away from home and fit in as many destinations and experiences as possible. In South Africa, this is a huge trend as travelers want to see, for example, Cape Town and the Kruger National Park all in one trip.
4. Combination Trips
“High-low” safaris are also becoming very highly ranked in the travel industry trends. Travelers rough it with walking trails or canoeing and then end off their trip with a few days at a luxury lodge. Combination trips are definitely something to look into. Gosh PR also mentioned this at the THINC Africa Conference, hosted by HVS earlier this year, where they explained that UK travelers want something from both worlds in one trip. With South Africa having so many stunning beaches, we need to tap into this travel market, providing tours that combine safaris and beach holidays to travelers from around the world.
5. Living Room-like Spaces
With regards to decor, hotels have living room-like spaces to look forward to – moving away from the traditional front desk.
6. Culture Inspired Designs
Culture-centered designs where there is not much visible difference from the indoor spaces to the outdoor spaces is not necessarily a new trend, but it has increased in popularity.
7. Bohemian for Budget
Bohemian simplicity has become a popular design trend to follow, especially for budget hotels, with high-touch furnishings, but simple, environmental finishes.
8. Conversation – Responsible Travel
Another trend that is growing quite quickly, is the trend of traveling with the purpose of conservation. Conservation of not only the planet, but also cultures, wildlife and more. Responsible Travel is tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species. Studies continue to show that travelers prefer companies that instil eco-friendly practices in their operations. Travelers have a higher level of environmental and cultural awareness, meaning that they are more demanding and able to influence tourism providers to change their practices. This is also the one of most often mentioned travel industry trends for 2017.
Different Types of Travel
As you know, there are different types of travel, tours and activities to offer your clients. We covered all the types that are becoming more popular or facing some changes, and the trend will likely continue in 2017.
1. Business Travel
If you’re a business travel type provider, maybe you’ll be interested in reading these travel industry trends. Forecasts have shown a slight decline in the growth rate in business travel, perhaps a sign that overall economic strength is less robust than previously thought. It’s also a struggle for travel providers to negotiate strong rates for 2017 in this environment.
But, there's something interesting on the horizon. A popular subject of discussion at the moment is on the rise of leisure travel: chiefly, more and more people are extending business trips to include an aspect of leisure. Recent studies have linked this to an increase in generation Y business travelers: young professionals between the ages of 26-35. According to a recent survey, 65% of young professionals have traveled on business at least once during the past year, for an average stay of three nights. Their study adds that 53% of those travelers were able to incorporate some leisure into their trip.
2. Luxury Travel
What will travelers, your potential clients, seek when it comes to a luxury type of tourism? Travelers are seeking fresh territory. International trips of two weeks or longer topped the list of trips seeing increased demand.
Multigenerational travel also remains a defining trend, with Japan making its way onto the emerging destination list for the first time.
New this year, insight into rapidly changing destinations, some to the point of being endangered. Cuba topped the list, with concerns over retaining its rich cultural heritage with increased tourism. Advisors also named the polar regions of Antarctica and the Arctic due to the threat of global warming. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is losing its coral due to pollution, and Venice, with its deteriorating lagoon, also made the list. The United Nations has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, making this topic particularly timely and relevant.
Personalization is the key. Travelers crave active experiences that are customized to their interests and abilities and are venturing all over the globe to find them.
The 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report also revealed that upscale travel is thriving as trips are selling out earlier than in past years. Many travelers are booking further in advance, even one to two years for bigger trips. Virtuoso is also observing more requests for business and first-class air travel, as well as nonstop flights. Late bookers face higher rates and fewer flight options.
3. Spa / Wellness Travel
According to the findings in a report issued by VISA and Oxford Economics, there is very good news. The Medical Tourism industry was valued at a staggering US$439 billion. With a projected growth rate of up to 25% year-over-year for the next 10 years as an estimated three to four percent of the world's population will travel internationally for healthcare and health-related treatment.
Worldwide wellness holiday experts Health and Fitness Travel have forecast the next big trends in wellness travel for 2017. Find out what are the hottest new trends that will influence the wellness and spa world next year. We listed them here, but you can read more about them here.
- Stop smoking retreats
- Optimal health for the modern man
- Healthy mind and emotion healing holidays
- Post-cancer recovery retreats
- Eat-well detox holidays
- Zen adrenaline junkies
- Physical therapy holidays
- Family-wellness holidays
- New waves in wellness
- Preventative health to lower your biological age
- Social group fitness holidays
- Workplace wellness
- Eco-friendly wellness retreats
If you have the means and the opportunity to offer your clients tours and activities like these, it seems it would definitely pay off. You cannot hear or read about the travel industry trends without mentioning spa/wellness/medical related activities.
4. A Growth in Niche Markets
The tourism industry is experiencing more segmented markets and new groups of consumers. The following are some of the top growing niche markets that relate to responsible travel:
- Adventure Tourism
- Culinary or Gastronomic Tourism
- Orange Tourism – Focuses on Cultural, Economic, and Social Development
- Sharing Economy – peer-to-peer market
- Wellness Travel (as we mentioned before)
Travel Industry Trends and Digital Trends - Social Media
It’s practically impossible to imagine the world without the social media anymore. And it’s also almost impossible to keep up with all new trends in the digital world. But we managed to assemble the most important ones you should pay attention to when it comes to next year's travel industry trends.
1. Let's Talk About Content
Quality content means putting the focus, not on your product or service, but the needs of visitors and guests. Your main questions should be who your guests are and what interests them?
Tough quality content is as important as ever, it will become more expiring. The success of Snapchat has seen many of its competitor’s introducing features inspired by the ephemeral messaging app. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have all ‘borrowed’ Snapchat features recently.
It seems disappearing content might be about to become even more popular. It will be interesting to watch the inventive ways brands embrace these new features, just as they have for their Snapchat campaigns.
2. Social Networks
Facebook, Instagram, and others are removing chronological timeline updates. They are starting to make you invisible unless you pull out the credit card. Organic reach is getting lower and lower. Social media is just becoming another paid media. If you don’t want to pay, perhaps some of these options will be helpful:
- Optimizing for search engines so you rank on the first page of Google.
- Building email lists so you can reach your own audience without a Google or Facebook algorithm blocking or filtering your content and updates.
- Working harder at evolving skills that include growth hacking that is the new “art and science” of marketing.
It is time you pursued a multi-channel strategy. This is one of the travel industry trends you can and should embrace.
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4. Live Streaming Video
Facebook launched live streaming video primarily for celebrities. But recently it was rolled out for all users. YouTube Live is apparently about to launch too.
That trend will only continue to grow in 2017 before we hit the peak and video becomes less effective on Facebook. Video has been responsible for a lot of the growth enjoyed by Facebook this year, and consistently shows higher engagement than other formats. As social networks fight to keep people online, this push into live video makes sense.
At this early stage, it’s difficult to know what the possibilities for brands are. Facebook will surely have rules around this. However, forward-thinking brands will be watching this social media trend for opportunities. Brands have the potential to release engaging content, conduct marketing around an event, or even pay influencers to feature their products.
There have been predictions of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) taking over for the last few years. It never quite happened. But something has happened this year. For a while, you could barely walk down the street without someone bumping into you while they tried to catch a Pikachu. Pokémon Go introduced a lot of people to AR, and it showed that there is mass appeal for it when it is executed well. Snapchat filters are also worth mentioning.
The practical application of these technologies could be worked out beyond gaming. Brands with physical stores are likely to be interested in AR development, as it makes proximity-based offers and engagement possible. Definitely one of the most interesting ones among travel industry trends.
Tour operators and activity providers should perhaps start to think about this. Those able to incorporate VR/AR as a part of extra added value to the customers’ experience – will surely differentiate themselves.
Bloggers built loyal followers and advocates on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They constructed credibility and trust built on authentic content. Bloggers are the new niche gatekeepers, which applies to these travel industry trends as well. It’s not anything new, but the trend is absolutely growing. It’s important that you get noticed by the travelers, your potential customers.
Mobile traffic is overtaking desktop. We feel there’s no need to stress out anymore the importance of mobile optimization. These days it’s just „mobile, mobile, mobile”. And it will continue to be even more so.
Your role is to be available, active and accessible in real time. Talk to your customers, ask them for their opinion and listen to their thoughts because they are the ones that bring life into your tourism business.
In any case, don't worry about the challenges. Concentrate on everything you can do in you area of business. The customers will embrace your tours and activities if they see you're doing it the best you can. Choose among these travel industry trends the ones that apply best to you and work on that.
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