Travelers want to go to extremes in 2014 – so travel agents should not hold back from steering their clients in new directions.
So says travel trends expert Daniel Levine, executive director of the Avant-Guide Institute. Levine cites suborbital space flights, hotels inspired by luxury fashion brands and marijuana tours as some of the hot new options for travelers.
“We’re seeing that 2014 will be the year for experiences and the extreme bragging rights that go with them,” he told Travel Market Report.
“With the economy getting better, agents should encourage their clients to trade up for these experiences. People will be more receptive.”
Here are seven travel trends Levine believes we’ll see this year.
Trend #1. Uncharted territory
The chance to venture where no tourist has gone before will take travelers on everything from suborbital space flights to submarine voyages to the deepest depths of the ocean, said Levine.
This year will see the launch of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceflights, with ultra-wealthy passengers on board, but cheaper alternatives will soon be available, he predicted.
“Trends never operate in a silo. There’s competition now to offer space travel at a fraction of the price of the Virgin Galactic flights,” Levine said.
“There’s one company planning to take tourists into low orbit using military grade balloons,” he said, referring to World View Enterprises, a Tucson-based company that has announced plans for balloon flights soaring 19 miles above the earth.
At the opposite extreme, deep-sea tourism, made possible by high-tech submersible vehicles capable of reaching the deepest recesses of the ocean, will soon be more widely available, he said. Tours have already been offered on a limited basis by companies such as Deep Sea Expeditions.
Trend #2. Fashion brands check into hotels
Fashion houses are expanding their reach into the luxury hotel world, noted Levine.
Among the growing number of designer-branded properties are Versace hotels on Australia’s Gold Coast and in Dubai (opening this year); Armani hotels in Dubai and Milan; Bulgari hotels in Bali, Milan and London; a Missoni hotel in Edinburgh, and a Dior suite at the St. Regis New York.
“The reason big fashion houses are getting into travel is that they see that their rich clients are valuing experiences over physical objects. That’s where the bragging rights are,” Levine said. “The brands are realizing that the new meaning of luxury is about experience.”
For travel agencies with high-end clients, a marketing partnership with a designer brand could be an effective way to promote a travel experience, he said.
Trend #3. No-frills business class
More airlines will offer no-frills business class – larger seats without the usual business class services, Levine said. The service is already available on the Middle Eastern carriers Flydubai and Jazeera Airways.
“People want the comfort of business class seats, but at a discounted price, so this trend has a lot of potential appeal,” he said. “With the economy getting better, more people will be willing to pay for no-frills business class.”
Trend #4. Food foraging
The latest twist to the sustainable food trend is travel that includes foraging for edible foods such as berries and mushrooms and then learning to cook with them, Levine said.
Examples include SideTour’s guided walks through New York City parks led by a foraging expert and Relish Culinary Adventures’ mushroom foraging hikes and cooking classes in Healdsburg, Calif.
“The travel industry is responding to the huge interest in sustainable, organic foods. This is a way to turn it into an experience that you can have with friends and family,” Levine said.
Trend #5. Beer-based travel
The explosion of micro-breweries in cities everywhere is inspiring a growing genre of travel, according to Levine.
“We are in a renaissance of beer right now,” Levine said. “People used to tour baseball stadiums, now they are traveling to tour breweries. And breweries are answering this by creating small-batch brews only available at the brewery.”
Trend #6. Marijuana tourism
The legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington is spurring opportunities for marijuana tourism, Levine said. Colorado-based companies such as Highlife and Colorado Green Tours have already announced marijuana-themed packages.
“Starting in 2014, people will visit these states, just as tourists have gone to Amsterdam to smoke pot,” he said. “There will be pot tours, marijuana-smoking events, cafes and stores – things specifically attracting marijuana smokers.”
Trend #7. Workcations
With family leisure time at a premium for many working people, the line between a business trip and a vacation will continue to blur, resulting in the ‘workcation,’ Levine said.
“More people are taking their families along on a work trip or are getting some work done while on vacations. Mobile devices have made this possible,” he said.
“Actually, business trips sometimes provide more contact with local people and culture than pure vacations.”