The travel industry is constantly evolving, and the pace of change is now faster than ever before, as emerging technology and shifting demographics alter expectations and standard practices. This has been further exacerbated by COVID, which has disrupted almost all aspects of travel. Of course, there are real opportunities for companies that keep pace with the latest travel trends and embrace new ways of doing business.
Why Is It Important to Keep up With the Latest Travel Trends?
Staying on top of travel trends is vital for any business in the travel industry, whether in the hospitality sector, transport or entertainment. Customers expect the businesses they patronise to offer the latest innovations. While fads may come and go, some travel trends indicate the direction of the industry as a whole, identifying and embracing these travel trends is vital to remaining relevant in the future.
17 Coronavirus-Related and More General Travel Trends
The current and emerging travel trends can be broadly divided into trends that are related to the outbreak of COVID and trends that are relevant at all times. In order to fully keep pace with the evolution of the travel industry, it is important to be aware of the trends within both of these categories.
6 Travel Trends Associated With COVID
Below, you can learn much more about some of the main travel trends that are connected to the coronavirus pandemic and the various ways it has disrupted travel and altered the behaviour of travellers.
1. Prioritisation of Hygiene and Safety
Since the beginning of the COVID outbreak, a focus has been placed on reducing the spread through hygiene and safety measures. Depending on the setting and local regulations, these measures may require travel industry companies to provide hand gel, facilitate social distancing, require mask-wearing and/or generally improve cleanliness.
Clearly, both hygiene and safety measures have always been necessary, but they have emerged as one of the major travel trends because, against the backdrop of COVID, they are now a key focus area for customers when making purchasing decisions. With this in mind, it is critical that companies highlight hygiene and safety steps in their marketing content, and actually take the necessary actions to keep people safe and avoid negative publicity.
Read “Tips to Highlight Safety in Marketing & Guest Communication in Travel” for more information.
2. A Greater Focus on Leisure Travel
One of the most significant travel trends to be aware of relates to business events. With travel restrictions, limits on household mixing in certain countries, and an emphasis on working from home, many of these events are being cancelled and fewer events are being booked in the first place. This is encouraging certain travel companies to adapt.
In some cases, those involved in travel management may wish to switch their focus away from business customers, towards leisure. While leisure travel has also been affected by the pandemic, there is still significant demand for travel, people within the same household are able to travel more easily, and holiday periods can still bring in customers.
In these situations, it may be necessary to make changes to your overall travel marketing strategy, placing a greater focus on families, groups of friends, couples and other demographics who may still be keen to book with you.
3. Emphasis on Local (vs. International)
With travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in place in certain countries, along with more generalised anxiety around international travel, another of the major COVID related travel trends has involved emphasising local customers. In this context, local may mean travellers from your own country, or from a neighbouring country.
Focusing efforts locally may mean altering marketing messages to appeal to different audiences, and it can also involve promoting features that are likely to appeal more to locals. For hotels, for example, this could mean promoting facilities and features like gyms, saunas, Wi-Fi access and rooms as temporary work offices.
Of course, this does not mean turning your back on international customers entirely, but simply shifting your focus.
4. Wider Adoption of Contactless Payments
Contactless payment has been a major travel technology trend for some time now, but the situation with COVID has made this even more important. Accepting contactless payments is a great way to convince your customers that you are taking the necessary steps to protect them by minimising the number of shared surfaces they need to touch.
Aside from the hygiene benefits of using contactless payments as much as possible, the technology can also provide travellers with greater convenience and a swifter payment process. This can also be useful for encouraging spontaneous purchases, which can help your travel business to maximise revenue.
Video: How Contactless Payments Work?
Read “4 Reasons why Contactless Payments are Becoming Popular Within the Travel Industry” for more on this topic.
5. The Power of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality technology has been one of the breakthrough technology trends of recent times and its role within the travel industry exceeds almost any other area of usage. After all, virtual reality allows for destinations to be showcased, properties to be viewed and attractions to be explored, all via a digital experience.
This can be especially helpful in the COVID era, when travellers want certainty that they are going to the right place. It can also help organisations that take corporate bookings or event bookings, because these customers will have the option to fully explore facilities without needing to travel for in-person viewing.
Video: A Guided City Tour (360 VR Video) of Rome
Find more detailed information and examples about how virtual reality can benefit your business in the article “How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry”.
6. Voice Control Technology
The voice control technology is another means by which travel companies can provide touch-free environments and reduce the risks associated with COVID. This particular travel trend has been especially prevalent within the hotel industry, where a growing number of companies are using voice-controlled devices within their hotel rooms.
This provides guests with the ability to adjust their room’s temperature, turn on the television, change channels, contact the front desk and much more, all using smart speakers or a voice-controlled hub. The same technology can be easily applied to other areas of the travel industry too, providing further layers of both safety and convenience.
To learn more about this, read the “How Can Voice Control Benefit the Travel Industry?” article.
11 More General Travel Trends for the Travel Industry
In this section, you read about some of the more general travel trends you are going to need to understand and embrace. These trends have relevance throughout the industry, at any time.
1. Voice Search Travel
A significant travel technology trend that has been emerging over recent years involves the use of voice search to book travel or learn about travel destinations. This has been aided by the growing number of smart speakers and similar products on the market, including Amazon Echo and Google Home, along with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.
Capitalising on this involves a process that shares similarities to what website designers went through with mobile optimisation several years ago. Here, however, websites need to be optimised to gain visibility in Google’s featured snippets, while airline and hotel booking engines need to be configured to allow voice search to be used. Voice search is expected to continue to grow in the years ahead, so it is sensible to capitalise on this immediately.
Video: Book Your Travel trip With Voice Search
To learn more about this, read the “Voice Search for the Tourism & Travel industry: All You Need to Know!” article.
Personalisation is a hot travel trend these days, especially in marketing, is increasingly easy in today’s data-driven world. It’s also increasingly important. Personalised marketing takes data regarding a client and uses this to tailor advertising and promotion specifically to that person. A simple example would be the targeted ads that appear in your web browser when you visit certain sites, which use information derived from your browsing habits and prior purchases to show you products that might interest you. A regular traveller might be offered deals on plane or rail tickets, or useful gadgets such as adapters, power banks or noise-cancelling headphones.
Video: Personalisation in Travel
Find more detailed information and examples of “Personalisation marketing” in the travel industry in the article “5 Ways Personalisation Marketing is Used in the Travel Industry”.
3. Recognition technology
Recognition technology is a broad category of devices, systems and protocols. One branch of this technology uses individual biometrics to identify specific individuals. An example might be the face-recognition technology used in some airports to expedite passport control, or simple fingerprint locks on mobile phones and other devices. Another example of recognition technology is voice control, where spoken commands are used to control, for example, systems in a hotel room: lights, heating, entertainment etc. Voice control can be set up to respond to any speaker; it’s also possible to restrict voice-controlled systems to a particular individual.
Video: KLM’s smart pack assistant on Google Home
Find more detailed information about voice control in the travel industry in the article “How Can Voice Control Benefit the Travel Industry?”.
Automation is one of the key travel trends to watch, with many tasks that were once handled by humans now being taken over by robots or automated systems. A familiar example would be the chatbots that have fallen into widespread use across the industry, which is designed to help people find and book tours, transport and accommodation by asking a set of questions. More sophisticated examples might include the robot “staff” used by a few hotels to run the reception desk or even serve food and drinks. In the future, robots in the form of self-driving cars are likely to be one of the major travel trends.
Video: Alibaba Opens AI “Future Hotel” With the Help of Robots
Find more detailed information about how to use robots in the travel industry in the article “Robots in the Travel Industry: 8 Real-World Examples”.
5. Local experience
The days when travellers expected to be cloistered in a resort, consuming the same food they ate at home and interacting chiefly with people from their own country, are drawing to a close. Instead of peering out from a hotel balcony with only the climate to distinguish home from abroad, today’s travellers now crave engagement with the people, cultures and landscapes of the countries they visit. Local food is a key feature of many trips, with people keen to try new things. Cultural experiences are a high point of many journeys and modern travellers are eager to witness and participate in local traditions.
Video: A Local Travel Guide of Amsterdam
Video: Food Travel Vlog about Local Food in Hong Kong
6: Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI systems are becoming one of the top travel trends. Many types of AI are now used all across the tourism industry. There are the aforementioned chatbots which use artificial intelligence to automate and streamline many sales and customer service tasks. As customers require faster response times and more interaction, chatbots bridge the gap when human operators are not available. Although limited in their functionality, chatbots can provide a wealth of useful information for customers. Machine learning allows these systems to learn from every interaction and continually improve. AI is also widely used now in data collection and analysis — important tools for boosting efficiency, security and customer satisfaction.
Video: Create Your Bot Booking Travel
Find more detailed information and examples about artificial intelligence use cases in the travel industry in the article “How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Travel Industry”.
7: Internet of things (IoT)
The IoT has gone from a geeky curiosity to one of the most important trends in the travel industry. Internet-connected and microprocessor-controlled devices (smart devices) have become increasingly prevalent. From dedicated iPad tablets used to provide information for museum-goers to smart hotel rooms where lights and HVAC systems can be controlled using voice commands, the IoT is permeating every aspect of travel and tourism. With Amazon introducing a hospitality-oriented version of its popular Alexa virtual assistant, this trend is firmly set to continue. Guests can use the Alexa for Hospitality hub to control their room environment, book sessions at gyms or spas and ask for services.
Example: Smart Technology Smarter Airports
Find more detailed information about the ‘Internet of Things’ in the travel industry in the article “How the Internet of Things (IoT) can Benefit the Travel Industry”.
8: Eco Travel
Today’s customers are more ecologically conscious than ever and current trends reflect that. Airlines, tour operators, car hire firms, hotels and a whole spectrum of businesses across the industry have embraced this trend, which is only set to become more prevalent in future. Some changes have been small and fairly simple, such as allowing air travellers to purchase carbon credits when they book a flight in order to offset the environmental impact. Another example would be vehicle hire companies that are now offering, and even specialising in, electrical vehicles. Hotels and resorts with an emphasis on sustainable technology are springing up around the world.
Video: How to travel eco-friendly Germany
9: Augmented reality
Closely related to virtual reality is augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality combines virtual elements with real-world experiences. AR travel trends include museum exhibits where visitors can view objects and structures in the real world, then see them overlaid with a reconstruction of their original appearance; for instance, Greek marbles with a virtual overlay of their original colours. Augmented reality can also be used to provide information about the location that a visitor is exploring — cultural or historical data or listings for entertainment and travel. Augmented reality is easily realised using common devices such as smartphones, further driving these travel trends.
Video: Augmented Reality Within the Travel Industry
Find more detailed information and examples about how augmented reality can benefit your business in the article “How Augmented Reality is Revolutionising the Travel Industry”.
10. Bleisure Travel
Bleisure travel (also known as a “bizcation”) combines both travel for work or commerce and leisure activities. While not the newest of travel trends — extending a business trip to enjoy some leisure time at a destination has been a common practice for as long as business trips have existed — bleisure travel has been enthusiastically embraced by Millennials. For the frugal under-40 traveller, combining work and leisure travel is the most effective way to visit locations that they might otherwise not be able to afford. The most extreme version of bleisure travel is the “digital nomad” phenomenon, where online workers travel the globe with a laptop.
Video: The State of Business Travel — Bleisure Benefits
Find more detailed information about “Bleisure Travel” in the articles “What is Bleisure Travel?” and “Bleisure: Tips for Hotels to Attract More Bleisure Travellers”.
11: Healthy and organic food
Travel and healthy eating used to be mutually exclusive concepts — but not anymore. A more health-conscious customer base drives these travel trends, increasing demand for more wholesome food and options for those on special diets. Vegetarians, vegans, those who need to avoid gluten, lactose or other common allergens — all these groups are better served now than ever before. Hotels and resorts are combining health and leisure with innovative new cuisine, often with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients and regional recipes. Some resorts focus on specific goals such as weight loss. Food-related travel trends also emphasise organic produce.
Video: Organic Holiday in Italy
12: Customer Experience
Enriching the customer’s experience is vital in the modern travel and tourism industry. Customers have more options than ever so ensuring loyalty and satisfaction is increasingly important. All of the strategies and technologies listed above have their parts to play in creating a positive customer experience. From the chatbots used to book a trip, to the food on offer, to the smart devices in the hotel room and the AR applications that help guests navigate their destinations — it’s all about improving the way the customer feels about their journey or their stay. When adopting a new trend, it’s important to ask: “How can this enhance the customer’s experience?”.
Find more information and examples of customer experience in the article “8 Ways to Improve Customer Experience in the Travel Industry”.
Grow Your Bookings by Linking With Travel Agencies
In the last decade, the biggest travel trend is the shift from off-line booking to online booking behaviour. A travel agency will be able to reach travel customers who mostly do not book with individual companies directly. Linking with travel agencies can therefore help to optimise and grow your bookings.
Meet the most important travel agencies in our article “Grow Your Bookings by Linking With Travel Agencies”, and learn about ways to best benefit from linking with them.
You may already have adopted some of these travels trends as part of your own business model. Other travel trends may seem more esoteric, particularly those relating to emerging technologies. Even so, it’s important to get on board now if you don’t want to be left behind.