As we have recently discussed, the luxury travel market is booming – but the sun is also shining for other segments of the industry. So what’s next for the travel industry, and what should brands and investors pay attention to in the next 12 months and beyond? Here are the main travel industry trends for 2019:
Either if it’s for the sense of adventure and new experiences, to make new friends or simply for the freedom of planning what to do and where to go, solo travel is on the rise. According to ABTA’s latest Holiday Habits Report, just in the UK, the number of people travelling alone has increased by a third since 2011 – and the trend will continue throughout the next year.
Many travel agencies already offer special packages and tours for solo travellers, but customers still feel disadvantaged when it comes to cost. From hoteliers to tour & activity operators, the industry must acknowledge this new customer base and update the business model that is, still, highly focused on couples. There may be an opportunity for companies to invest in ideas to engage individual travellers and expand the range of experiences.
The biggest issue in travel next year will undoubtedly be the impact of over-tourism. As concern for the environment increases in everyday life, so does the window of opportunity for sustainable travel, and the options are varied. Searches for wildlife refuges and natural areas outside big cities is increasing worldwide, and so is the interest for “hidden” tourism in regional communities and local farms to discover organic products and recyclable alternatives (any connection to ‘Foodie Travel’, a hit in 2018, is no coincidence).
The trend around eco-travel is also observed in transport – customers are more willing to travel by train or boats, and hiring a bike to get around a big city has never been so popular. Others go deeper and search for rooms in hotels that actively work to reduce waste and save energy, for example. Will ESG become more prominent in the travel industry?
More than ticking boxes in traditional locations, modern travellers look for new experiences – and this includes meaningful, personal development and deeper connection with culture and nature. It’s a bit more serious-minded than just yoga retreats. A complete transformative trip usually combines a mix of physical, cultural and spiritual experiences – and, of course, plenty of time for personal reflection and meditation. Interest for the segment has been growing in the past couple of years, and the movement is set to continue.
Cruises for Millennials
Once synonymous with holidays for older generations, cruising is now finally reaching the millennial market. According to CLIA’s 2018 Cruise Travel Report, the number of American millennials that who would “definitely” book a cruise for their next trip increased from 63% to 70%. For many, it’s an opportunity to discover new experiences and visit different places with friends, while others like the idea of travelling solo while still being part of a community. The cost is also a factor: for a generation that’s constantly worried about prices, an all-inclusive trip with accommodation, entertainment and nightlife sounds like a no-brainer. Some companies already realised the increased demand and developed packages with good value for millennials, but this new market can be explored further.
Technology and Personalisation
Travelling is often a very personal and emotional experience, and the industry is going through an interesting transformation to find the balance between automation and human interaction. A recent report from Skift and Adobe reveals that personalisation is the most important factor when it comes to travel customer experience. According to additional research by Google, alongside the increasing demand for last-minute travel is the need for AI: 57% of travellers believe brands should tailor information based on personal preferences and past behaviours, and 36% would be willing to pay more for personalised services.
Automation is already helping companies to target and reach customers and deliver better services, but the change has just started. There is still a big opportunity to simplify customer journeys and personalise experiences in the travel and hospitality industries. Time to think user-first and embrace innovation.
Data on consumer demand and market insights are essential to understanding the industry and its customers, as well as predicting trends. As social media dominates the internet and changes consumer behaviour, analysis of online sentiment and demand can help companies identify opportunities and risks as well as tailoring services and products based on what consumers are seeking and discussing, both positively and negatively.