At the end of every year, I explore trends and forecasts relating to travellers’ plans for the coming year. The online travel agency Booking.com has published a report that reveals several fascinating trends.
Taking it slower to see more
For some time now, travellers, wherever they were going, have wanted to see everything in one journey. Often racing through their itineraries with an underlying fear of missing out, they were able to capture the photos, but hardly live the experience.
That seems to be changing, with almost half of those interviewed planning to take more time to enjoy their holidays, while at the same time trying to take slower modes of transportation to reduce environmental impact.
Responses from pet owners in the Booking.com study indicated that family pets are almost as important as their children.
While a number of hotel brands already advertise their willingness to accept cats and dogs in guest rooms, many are taking it to the next level, offering pet day beds and food items for these four-legged family extensions.
Airports are recognizing this reality as well. The El Paso airport has created an area especially for pets. The cordoned-off area includes scratching poles, cat litter boxes and a specially made fire hydrant against which dogs can relieve themselves.
Leaving the parents behind
Grandparents agree that travelling with children keeps them feeling young and energetic. Today’s senior citizens are, by and large, much more in shape and able to embrace life’s activities than ever in the past. Many also feel their grandchildren are better behaved with them alone than when their parents are included.
The coming year will see a continued rise in trips that exclude that middle generation, with destinations much further afield than the normal one- or two-day excursions. While grandparents embrace the experience for themselves, they also express the sentiment that parents need more time alone to re-energize their own relationships.
Earlier retirement plans
The report also suggests that travel is feeding into younger workers’ plans to save more during their productive years, to allow them to experience more of the world earlier — while they can still enjoy vacations including activities such as hiking and cycling.
More than 10 per cent are planning to retire before they turn 55, and 65 per cent see travel as a motivating factor for early retirement.
Paying for our travel
Amadeus, the international travel data and payments processor for the travel industry, reports that almost 50 per cent of millennials do not have a credit card. There are already more than 300 different ways people are paying for products and services, including methods ranging from Apple Pay to Bitcoin, and those are expected to grow.
Amadeus suggests travel suppliers still tied to traditional methods are recognizing they are losing business, and the coming year will see a race to frictionless payments, with wider acceptance of an array of payment options.
Where are younger people going?
Contiki Travel has long been a favourite tour company for millennials and younger travellers. It offers some conclusions from surveys of its prime market.
In a poll of more than 300,000 of its millennial and gen-Z Instagram followers, Greece landed at the top of the list of places to go this coming year — just as Lonely Planet dubbed Athens one of the best value vacations for 2020. Even as Venice experiences the negative side of over-tourism, it is still among the top destinations for those planning vacations this year, as are some of the other established Italian destinations, such as Tuscany, Rome and Florence.
While Europe remains as strong as ever, there is an underlying shift to places like Namibia in Africa, and major animal attractions such as Etosha National Park and Damaraland.
Meetings and conferences strong
While not expecting major growth this year, the Canadian business sector will still be a major factor in keeping the tourist sector vibrant.
American Express Global Business Travel’s annual survey suggests growth in Canada will be only 1.8 per cent, but tourism will still be an important factor in driving the economies in cities that capture the greatest number of conferences and delegates.
As might be expected, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal will see the most visitors, followed by Calgary, Mississauga and Ottawa.
While the resort areas of Banff and Whistler both made the top 10 list, Winnipeg did not.
The most popular U.S. convention city destinations will be Orlando, Las Vegas, and Chicago.
Escaping the all-inclusives
Canadians, who have long helped lead the trend to hot-spot all-inclusive holidays, seem to be moving toward a different style of vacation, which Booking.com refers to as all-amusive.
Growing numbers are not satisfied with landing in a resort and just sitting in the sun, eating and drinking for seven to 14 days. They want to experience more, and prefer destinations that have a number of secondary options close at hand, most of which are seldom available in the more remote and secluded resort properties.
Tied to this is the desire to visit restaurants in a destination to truly experience local cuisines and cultures.
The continued explosion of technology can be found in every tourism sector, from airlines to hotel properties, destination-marketing organizations and in online travel agencies such as Booking.com. The Booking.com report underscored how apps and artificial intelligence are playing an ever-expanding role in both planning and booking vacations.
Canadians are now responding to suggestions coming to them on their smartphones — often based on AI and previous search history.
Interested in learning more about Belgium’s fascinating cities of Antwerp, Ghent, Mechelen, Bruges and Brussels? I will be doing a presentation on these Flanders-region cities at the Millennium Public Library on Friday, Jan. 10, at noon. Admission is free and you don’t have to register in advance.
A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.