From the increased popularity of local experiences to the rise of solo female travel, we take a look at the trends driving the travel industry forward this year.
1. Private Jet Travel Joins the Mainstream
When premium travel outfitter Abercrombie & Kent began offering its 50-seat 5-continent 25-day round the world private jet trip (with the founder Geoffrey Kent in attendance), it was alone in the market. Since then, other luxury travel and accommodation providers have followed suit—National Geographic offers a similar trip, led by some of the world’s top experts in the natural world.
Four Seasons joined the market in 2015 with a sleek Boeing 757 available to bring travelers on unique round-the-world trips, including a foodie adventure with acclaimed chef Rene Redzepi featuring customized experiences at every destination. Super-luxe resort brand Aman launched their offering last year and is expanding for 2018 with a new pan-Asian private jet tour taking in China, Bhutan, India, and Sri Lanka.
Luxury Retreats has partnered in the past with fractional ownership private jet company Wheel’s Up to provide transportation to and from properties in the Caribbean, and can also arrange private jet charters. Laurent Fort, Senior Manager of Guest Experience at Luxury Retreats, sees the trend toward ultra-personalized travel continuing in coming years. He said, “Guests now want 360-degree, fun, unique brand experiences. Their focus is not just on buying something, but on being part of something, while still being treated as an individual.”
Michael Holtz, a travel specialist at Smart Flyer, told Bloomberg recently “Private jet travel inquiries have grown by at least four or five times in the last few years.” We predict more companies launching their own versions of the service in 2018.
2. Adventure Vacations Increase Market Share
Vacation in the 21st century is not restricted to lying on the beach. A recent survey by Virtuoso found that 95% of tour operators questioned had seen a rise in inquiries relating to adventure travel. Those opting for adventure includes couples—with high-activity honeymoons an emerging trend—as well as families and groups of friends. And not just 30-somethings looking for bragging rights either. Tour booking company TrekkSoft reported that over-65s are also looking for adventure on vacation with the opportunities to socialize that come along with shared experiences.
Adventure destinations increasing in popularity include Iceland, where the outdoor natural hot springs and ice caves invite explorers; New Zealand with its heady combination of vineyards, mountains, bungee jumping and skydiving outfitters, and Costa Rica, where active volcanoes, zip lines, and surf beaches attract outdoor enthusiasts.
3. Solo Female Travel is on the Rise
As Contiki reported last year, searches for solo female travel have increased dramatically in the past 5 years, and the trend sees no sign of slowing down in 2018. Facebook groups, such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Women in Travel—where women share travel tips and inspiration with one another—are fueling the trend, and have seen huge increases in popularity in the past year. Women in Travel now has 45,000 members and continues to grow.
Along with solo female trips, female-focused retreats—such as Swell Women, which organizes women-only surf camps—are on the rise, too. Swell Women has expanded in the past year to include summer retreats in Panama and Nicaragua, as well as winter ski and snowboard retreat in Whistler, Canada. Founder and Chief Officer of Bliss Lulu Agan, said: “We want to push out boundaries and support our tribe as they do the same.”
4. Learning a New Skill is a New Reason to Travel
Retreats with a learning focus are not restricted to female travelers. A vacation where you come back with a new skill—and not just a tan—are popular with couples too, in the form of day-long courses or experiences as part of a longer, more relaxing vacation. Popular activities include earning your PADI scuba diving open water qualification—with Thailand one of the most popular locations—to cooking courses, hosted wine tastings, or even taking a language course. Airbnb Experiences, which launched last year, has helped this trend to grow—the company now offers over 3,000 experiences in 40 cities worldwide, with more to come in 2018.
When travelers are not learning a new skill, they’re getting healthier. According to a recent Skift Report, hotels including Swissotel and Four Seasons (with the help of Delos) are working to develop “Healthy Rooms” with air purifiers, ambient lighting to help with jet lag, and spa-style bathrooms. Delos even has Deepak Chopra on board to provide guidance. In Zurich, Swissotel has developed the Vitality Suite with a Wellness Wall featuring training equipment like dumbells, a cable system and an interactive screen pre-programmed with workouts.
5. A Move Towards Responsible Tourism
2017 saw a backlash against “over-visited” destinations, with destinations like Barcelona enacting restrictions on the number of tourists permitted per year by limiting the number of hotel bedrooms available, and Italian cities Venice and Florence launching marketing campaigns to instruct tourists on how to be a “better visitor”.
As a result, in 2018 we are seeing a focus on leaving no trace and making a positive impact in the places you visit, which could mean contributing to the local economy through smaller restaurants and boutiques instead of globalized brands or choosing locally organized tours like Airbnb Experiences.
For well-seasoned travelers, there is a shift towards visiting more distant, ‘unspoiled’ destinations, like choosing to explore the Andalusian towns of La Ronda and Granada over tourist-heavy Barcelona, or foregoing the crush that is Rome in August in favor of Puglia’s foodie delights. With more Americans traveling abroad than ever before, as well as hugely increased tourist numbers from countries such as China, popular destinations need to find a way to balance visitors numbers with ensuring quality of life for long-term residents.