Three Top Travel Trends for 2016: Travel Agents Look to the Year Ahead
by Jessica Montevago

Ah, wouldn’t we all like to be young, healthy, and adventurous? Perhaps it’s not surprising that those are the dreams travelers are holding onto for 2016. 

Travel agents say they are seeing more Millennials than ever on the road—and taking advantage of the benefits travel agents have to offer. And those younger travelers, along with healthier older ones, are looking to niche markets like wellness, adventure, and experience travel.  

So here are the three hottest trends they identified for 2016: 

1. More Millennials  
It isn't just Baby Boomers seeking the expertise of travel agents, as a new generation of time-pressed customers accustomed to good service seeks out professionals to help plan their trips.  

In a new report released last month by L.E. Hotels, more than half (51.5%) of agents said they see growth in the number of Millennial clients. About 60% said that over the past two years, 10-25% of their new business was Millennial clients. 

Jamie Mussolini, founder and president of Beachfronts Travel LLC in Westchester, NY, for example, has seen this firsthand. “There are so many websites now, they feel overwhelmed. They say they don’t know where to start,” she said.  

About one-third (34%) plan to take more vacations in the next year, according to MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers. One in ten (10%) plans to increase their budget for vacations next year.  

2. Wellness travel
Whether it’s a study, testimonial, or research, it seems there’s always something new in the world of health and fitness, leading to a booming industry for wellness travel.   

Almost 9 in 10 (86%) travel agents said they expect to see growth in the wellness travel industry, reports Spafinder Wellness 365. That’s the highest percentage of agents expecting annual growth in the survey’s eight-year history. 

Agents polled for the “2015 State of Wellness Travel Report” said contributing factors include an overall concern with health and wellness, rising stress levels, increasing knowledge of wellness travel, more wellness-focused vacation properties, strenuous work environments, and an aging population. 

“People want to go away and stay healthy, and come back feeling refreshed,” said JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, president of California-based Kurtz-Ahlers & Assoc., LLC. She noted there are more options than ever, so travel agents should ask their clients if they’re looking for a trip that focuses on spirituality, mental health, activities, or relaxation.  

For an agent, wellness travel is a niche worth cultivating. A large majority of agents (83%) said clients are willing to pay top dollar for wellness travel or access to health-centered products and services while traveling. 

3. Adventure and experience travel
Travelers are seeking an authentic experience, whether it’s at a local off-the-beaten path destination or one that offers a unique cultural experience. 

“Customers want to do something different and have more unique experiences when they travel. They want up-close and personal experiences, whether that is through food, culture, activities, or all of the above,” said Lesley Egbert, owner of Live Longitude, LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, in Helena, MT. 

Some popular trips she sees are expedition yachting in destinations such as the Galapagos, Alaska, and Australia, and safaris in South Africa, East Africa, and Australia. 

“They want to truly experience the country, do something off the beaten path, and see places in a different way,” Egbert said. “They want to be travelers and not tourists.”

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