With New Year’s Day just behind us, a variety of trends are emerging that are likely to be significant to the travel industry throughout 2018. Many trends are a direct result of increasing convergence of travel, technology and a shared economy, others from Millennial habits, while some have long been gestating in the travel ecosystem and are beginning to gain momentum from a variety of influences as shown by research from companies such as Expedia.
One definite trend for 2018 is the continued growth of Airbnb impacting the overall accommodations market, according to The Points Guy. Already popular cities like New York City, London and Paris will top the list for Airbnb, with destinations such as Lisbon and Miami coming into their own, along with various cities throughout Asia. This will be especially apparent as we get closer to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Millennials are powering this trend, merging tech and the sharing industry. Airbnb has also provided a platform for atypical accommodations such as treehouses, houseboats and barns to become commonplace.
The new year will also see a variety of trends in almost every segment of the travel industry, according to the website The Places You’ll See. Many of these have already been emerging, but will become mainstream in 2018 among travelers of all ages.
One rising trend, multi-generational vacations, sees grandparents and their grandchildren traveling together, sometimes called “Skip-Gen” travel. It’s a special treat for all involved, as grandparents get to know their grandchildren better, and the parents experience their own time-alone with the young ones away.
The United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and in 2018, we will see sustainable tourism remain top of mind for a variety of travelers. Sustainable tourism is more than just a buzzword, referring not solely to eco-tourism; it also includes heritage and socially conscious travel with an awareness of the culture of the places being visited. “Traveling like a local” falls under this trend, with more travelers seeking authentic experiences where they can meet residents of the destinations and communities they are visiting.
With sustainability and local experiences high on travelers’ minds, voluntourism will also continue to be important in 2018, with travelers wanting to make a difference. The unprecedented volume of recent ecological disasters, from hurricanes in the Caribbean, to earthquakes and forest fires are also driving this trend, both for domestic and international travel.
The results of global warming and a desire to see rapidly fluctuating destinations at the far ends of the earth are also driving the extreme travel trend that will remain prevalent throughout 2018. Among the locales travelers are heading in 2018 include the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and New Zealand, among others. These trips are often longer than typical week-long vacations, pointing to another emerging trend, extended vacations, sometimes lasting months. Popular among retiring baby-boomers and those with flexible work schedules, they are known as “sojourns,” and Brownell Travel has launched this concept of extended three-month stays at apartments and an opportunity to immerse oneself completely in a culture, living and working abroad, with access to shared working spaces such as WeWork.
The new trends aren’t just for landlubbers either as cruise lines incorporate innovative technology and state-of-the-art features to their vessels. For instance,Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship — Norwegian Bliss — will be home to the world’s largest at-sea race track. Princess Cruises has also debuted Ocean Medallion Vacations, where a quarter-size wearable piece, with similar technology to Disney’s FastPass+ and MagicBand, will personalize the guest journey with everything from embarkation to ordering meals and booking excursions, creating an inventive onboard experience, for new and seasoned cruisers alike. 2018 is also shaping up to be one of the biggest years yet for river cruises, particularly in Europe.
Other trends we are seeing include train travel, providing a break from the rush of airports and allowing travelers to take in gorgeous scenery along the way. The recent Centennial of the National Parks has also piqued interest in exploring these preserved wonders of nature throughout the United States, ensuring the glamping trend (glamorous camping) where travelers blend luxury and rustic nature continues throughout the new year.
Wellness travel, medical tourism, culinary tours, family programs such as airlines introducing “Sky Nannies,” and other trends have been on the rise in recent years, and travelers can expect each to remain relevant throughout 2018.
Expedia recently held a travel conference where many of these trends were discussed and explored utilizing the company’s extensive research. An important takeaway from the conference’s keynote speaker, Simon Sinek, was that companies don’t have to win every battle, they just need to outlast their competition. Making the resolution to be cognizant of trends is certainly one way to do that in 2018.
Teresa Villarreal is Newlink’s Senior Vice President of Tourism. She brings to Newlink nearly two decades of experience in the travel and tourism sector, adding value to clients and her talented team of professionals.