Every year we survey leading sources and journals to see what universal trends are being forecast. As a service to our friends and clients we share this report with you of what we see as the key trends for 2019 to assist you in gaining a bigger share of the US travel market.
Off the beaten path and avoiding over-tourism
Americans don’t want to be a tourist as their parents were, but rather be a traveler. Look for them to minimize impact on the places they visit. The rise of ‘overtourism’ means many Americans will avoid places with a bad reputation, and try to make smart choices in destinations. Mass tourism is becoming any ugly word, and amid growing media attention on the problems stemming from overtourism, look for off the beaten path travel, as well as faded glory to be new hits. One news source says Hungary and Moldova are seeing big boosts in booking despite bad headlines while Australia saw bookings jump over 70%.
What makes traveling worth it?
More than half of travelers hit the road to gain new life skills, and in 2019 more will travel to learn something – be it by volunteering or just taking cooking classes. Trips with a purpose will bloom, as travelers will seek some sort of cultural exchange. So, more people will travel in search of an authentic experience. This will translate to lodging, food and adventure – why travel to find what you already have? And, in a complicated and sometimes sinister world, people will look for more of an idyllic escape they can feel good about – touring a cloud forest, trying locally grown teas, hiking from one ancient village to another – the combination of feeling good and escape will be a powerful product.
What about the net?
So, millennials see the Internet as their new travel planner – after all they get all their other info, and even groceries online. So, if your site is not optimized, if the SEO is bad, or you don’t have a blog – well you are not in the game. Many younger travelers use their phones with apps to translate or act as guides. Many will use a social media app to share their trips. Online outreach, smart social media marketing and good SEO are crucial to help attract and curate guest experiences.
DNA and travel
The boom in ancestry and DNA kits will lead to a boom in the destinations many Americans trace their roots to. Newly curious travelers will take their results and plan a vacation. This may benefit some places, such as Britain with a wealth of DNA information, but not so much for Portugal where such tests are not yet popular, and genetic results often come back with labels such as, “Iberian,” or “Southern European.” But, tour operators that help people connect with their roots will do quite well.
Green Electric Travel
The electric vehicle market is still growing, but so is global warming. Many savvy travelers are renting or taking their EVs on the road. With an uneven map of charging stations – some destinations such as New Hampshire will suffer, while places like Portugal, with a strong national network, will benefit. Look for green-minded travelers to continue to look for strong charging networks, rail networks, and destinations where there is easy access to hiking.
Once seeing 4,000 stars at night was free, but now with light pollution, it is quite rare. Opportunities for true constellation admiration are few and far between. Today, designated dark-sky spaces are on the rise, letting guests see the night sky they cannot find at home. Look for this to grow, and smart operators to take advantage of the trend.
This goes hand in hand with over-tourism. Look for some families to hit the road over the holidays not to shop, but to avoid the retail/shopping culture that has taken the Christ out of Christmas. Look for families and couples to seek traditions, celebration without retail, and simpler places to escape the ugliness of Black Fridays and Trumpian excess.
Travel and women
Travel can be a tangible way to empower women: Last year was a transformational one for women –and with women making decisions about where to travel, the role of women and benefiting women will figure in to what happens in 2019. Creating jobs and supporting the work of women will play a much larger role. So places where women are left out of the economy and the travel industry, may be in for some hard times, while hotels, tours, and volunteer program that feature women in an uplifting and honest way may see a new market advantage. So go beyond the spa weekend, and focus on the uplifting.
Americans don’t want “international food,” or the Hard Rock Café anymore- they want to learn how to use local ingredients and taste and learn how to cook local dishes. They want to taste and learn about wine, olive oil, local spices, dishes with breads and cheeses. A destination needs to beef up on local food emersion, and not just delivering it, but offering an in-depth journey into it. And, please call it cuisine, as “gastronomy” is out of the American lexicon.
A long distance weekend trip was once unheard of, but in 2019 this is changing. The growth of cheap air travel via low-cost airlines means that a weekend in Paris is more than doable. Some are saying that 2019 will be the year of 'bite sized travel' - squeezing more into shorter trips. But to succeed there needs to be the right recipe of good air, fast and easy airport times and good transportation. Obviously cities will do much better here than rural destinations, as will resorts. The two growth areas are the unique and remarkable and the classic and urban.