The infinite list of different motives that drive people to travel shaped special interest tourism, also known as niche tourism and alternative tourism. Basically, tourism niches arose because of the mass tourism’s inability to satisfy people’s craving for new experiences. Instead of being a passive observer, today’s tourist wants to dive into the experience; taste; feel and relate to local customs, traditions, and cuisine.
Here are the tourism niches that will be trending in 2018:
As I said, often is not enough to see a monument and hear its history. Many travelers enjoy romantic walks to the fridge and the only way they are interested to get to know a new place is through their plate. Recent research shows that 93% of travelers can be considered as a ‘food traveler’.
There’s a bit of chemistry behind the whole thing. By breaking down certain foods, our bodies produce uplifting chemicals, known as phenethylamines and endorphins. As phenethylamine causes excitement, quickens the pulse rate and makes people happy, it was named ‘the love drug’.
Discovering new flavors and exploring the local culture by tasting their local cuisine is fun! Even the people who are afraid of trying new foods will find a courage to taste something local – if not food, then drinks! Beer tourism brews up across the world, showing no signs of slowing and pub crawl tours are booming. Every big city appears to have at least one tour operator specialized in seducing your taste buds. Flavors of food tours, beer or wine tastings blow tourists’ minds and leave them wanting more.
2. Health or Medical Tourism
Medical tourism dates back to 4000 BC, when the Sumerians constructed the earliest known health complexes that were built around hot springs.
As the world population is aging, this market grows. Patients are traveling abroad to receive medical treatment either to save money or to avoid long waits for treatment. Patients Beyond Borders estimate the global medical tourism market ranges from $40 to $60 billion with 12 to 14 million travelers taking medical travels each year. They also estimated the worldwide medical tourism market is growing at a rate of 15-25% and that’s more than a good rate, don’t you think so?
Dental tourism has to be mentioned here because dental treatments are the most common reason for medical tourism. If searching for a dentist in a foreign country, you will see that many of them wrote call-to-action descriptions in English where they explicitly invite foreigners and expats.
Finally, how a travel agency can benefit from medical or dental tourism?
Glad you asked! Best practices are to partner with doctors and dental clinics and offer an all-in-one-place package where travelers can fix their medical problem and explore the city they are staying in. Usually, they have time for a short walk through the town, and that’s where your travel agency comes in. Needless to say – when partnering with them it’s in your common interest to promote your an all-in-one-place package. Meaning, a travel agency will gain new marketplace, additional social and websites where its offer is pinned. Pretty awesome, right?
3. Religious and Spiritual Tourism
Spirituality is becoming an important motive to travel. People are increasingly looking to develop their own spirituality and to discover that of others. It’s no wonder that this niche tourism that is on the rise.
Faith-based tourism is estimated at a value of US$18 billion and it’s usually less affected by trends and economic crisis. Hence, it represents low-risk growth of a tour business. To cash in, travel agencies can offer pilgrim tours and spiritual travels that include meditation classes, prayers, yoga rituals, etc. Partnerships with yoga schools in sacred places can benefit local communities and encourage their sustainable development.
Spiritual practices I mentioned earlier belong to different religions so, it’s essential to do a market research and adjust your offer to your customers’ needs. Be aware of religious calendars and specific travel prohibition days such as fast days. Among the things to consider are the types of food served and types of music played. Tourists are joining pilgrim tours to find or maintain peace of mind and music in the bus should support that.
4. Adventure Tourism
As more people live in urban areas today, people get more distinct from nature and they gradually lose the feeling that they are an integral part of that nature. For this reason, there is a growing need for the return and discovery of nature in all its forms – from idyllic landscapes to the harshest forms on land and sea. Overcoming difficult natural obstacles have always been a challenge to humanity. Mountains, oceans, jungles, wilderness areas, deserts, islands, and icebergs are becoming a challenge for potential thrilling adventures that can sometimes be extremely demanding, even life-threatening.
Adventure tourism is defined by the Adventure Travel Trade Association as a trip that includes at least two of the following three elements: physical activity, natural environment, and cultural immersion. It’s among the fastest growing tourism niches.
There are two main types:
- Soft adventure (e.g. bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, sailing, etc.)
- Hard adventure (caving, mountain/rock/ice climbing, trekking, skydiving, parachuting, etc.)
Still, the adventure will always be a subjective term for travelers themselves, because it is related to one’s individual experience. For example, hiking may be an adventure for one traveler and the ordinary activity for the another.
Both hard and soft adventure activities are highly lucrative segments of the adventure tourism sector.
Volunteering Tourism or Voluntourism
Voluntourism is the practice of individuals going on a working holiday, volunteering their labor for worthy causes. It can be a soft adventure activity, depending on where you go and in what social environment you volunteer.
Sometimes, travelers even pay to volunteer. It is the latest western trend, which can be marked as the search for turtle nesting on white sandy beaches of a remote Thai island or participate in archaeological excavations in South America. This year western travel agencies offered thousands of holiday work arrangements around the world – from the Scottish mountains to the Borneo jungle. In the most cases, at least part of the money that such a special tourist pays for his holiday goes to the benefit of the project.
5. Political Tourism
Political tourism is a niche tourism for travelers who are passionate about politics and current affairs in the world. Such travels often involve travel to areas of conflict to meet the actors of both sides and to develop an understanding of the local history.
A sub-sector of political tourism of huge importance is the “red tourism”, in which tourists visit locations with historical significance to communism. Chinese tour operators organize red-themed tours to Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, Cuba and the former Yugoslavia, visiting locations connected to figures such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Castro, and Tito.
Since the numbers of Chinese tourists participating in red-themed trips is growing fast, not embracing “red tourism” represents losing money. And that is worth thinking about.
Do you agree these are the five tourism niches to tap into in 2018? If there is another special interest tourism you think it will mark this year and I haven’t mentioned it, write it down in the comment section. I welcome any questions or comments you might have.
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