From the distinct travel preferences of millennials to the growth of “creative tourism,” the travel industry is witnessing a series of powerful trends with real staying power.
Travel agents – along with suppliers, destinations and marketers – would be wise to take note, as the trends represent both opportunities and challenges.
Resonance Consultancy president Chris Fair detailed the top trends his firm expects to shape travel in 2014 and beyond in a webinar earlier this week. The firm researches lifestyle and tourism trends and formulates branding and development strategies for destinations.
Among its leading travel trends are:
Trend #1. Impact of millennials
Millennials – 18- to 30-year-olds – are of “obvious and growing importance” to the travel industry, said Fair. They also have distinct characteristics.
“Millennials are a much more ethnically diverse group than other generations and so are more interested in international travel,” he said.
Other characteristics of millennials:
• They’re more interested in urban than resort destinations.
• They’re more likely to travel in pursuit of favorite interests or activities.
• They’re more likely to travel with friends in organized groups.
Trend #2. Seniors are unstoppable
What Fair called the “unstoppable elders” are estimated to comprise 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion people worldwide.
Customer service is crucial to this group, and they “show higher levels of frustration that result in zero tolerance for poor service,” he added.
“Seniors are not only the world’s wealthiest group, they are also the most demanding of travelers,” said Fair.
This group travels primarily for rest and relaxation on either short- or long-stay trips, and they favor quieter, less congested destinations, according to Fair.
Trend #3. Rise of conspicuous leisure
Another key trend is what Fair called “conspicuous leisure,” which he defined as “the signaling of social status through consumption of experience rather than through consumer goods.”
“Unique experiences, and not just for the affluent, are social currency,” he said. The preponderance of social media – and with it the widespread sharing of vacation photos with friends, families and colleagues – has fostered the trend.
Fair said the top five goods and experiences desired by the affluent are:
• owning a smartphone
• owning a vacation home
• having the freedom to work from home
• taking vacations to exotic destinations
• taking extended time off from work
Trend #4. Growth of ‘creative tourism’
Creative tourism is travel “directed toward an engaged and authentic experience,” said Fair. “It’s travel that provides a connection with those who reside in the destination.”
The creative tourist differs from a cultural tourist in that he or she is active and interacts with the locals.
Trend #5. Strength of luxury travel
Luxury travel continues to be a robust segment of the industry.
“There are millions of millionaires,” and the number of affluent U.S. households is projected to increase from 10.5 million in 2012 to 20.5 million in 2020, he said.
“For all the chat about China, it’s still projected that the U.S., Japan and Europe visitors will dominate the luxury travel space until 2020,” Fair said.
Trend #6. More multigenerational travel
Another trend with reliable staying power is multigenerational travel, Fair said.
“The older the boomers get, the more family travel they’re doing,” he said. “A lot of that travel is planned around milestone events.”
This market is about “trading memories, convenience and value,” he said.
On the supply side, destinations have lagged when it comes to providing services and amenities that appeal both to 6- and 66-year-olds, but some cruise lines have taken a leadership position in catering to the multigenerational travel market, according to Fair.