Tour and activity providers are used to spotting trends. It's a natural part of the trade in an industry that changes globally. What was successful one year might not work as well in the next one.
Our 2016 Trends Report was a great success, helping many experts stay up-to-date with their travel companies. And that's why we've put together a relevant, actionable report on all the vital trends of 2017 for the global tourism industry.
This year Lucy, Nicole, and I have worked together to create our most insightful report yet, but we wanted to share a few insights directly on the blog as well. Here are seven trends to watch in the coming year.
For more insights, download our Travel Trend Report 2017.
Millennials are officially the largest generation in history, beating out Baby Boomers. As the youngest generation with disposable income, they have secured their status as leaders in travel and tourism.
They also lead in decision making. They are helping to decide what the major trends and tastes of the new year will be and are not shy about getting exactly what they want, how they want it. When planning travel, Millennials are used to having their options conveniently available to them. They want to be able to research and book their trips and tours online.
As the largest generation to date, this is a vital portion of your clientele base. They will also be the largest market in travel in the next several years.
2. Active & Adventure Trips
According to Virtuoso, the #2 trend for 2017 is active and adventure travel. These experiences include things like "an African safari, swimming with whale sharks in Mexico or Australia, or hiking the Swiss Alps"
Customer demographics for adventure travel lean in the direction of ladies (53% to 47%), especially in Africa (57%). North and South America are the top adventure destinations for customers. There is a rising interest among clients for a more customized experience and a falling interest in hard adventure.
For 2017, adventure activities such as safaris, hiking and cycling are expected to be the stand out choices.
3. Female Solo Travel
Today, 80% of travel decisions are made by women. Whether married, single or divorced, women are leading the way and the travel industry is taking notice. Today's female travelers are bold, independent and looking to explore new and raw experiences. They have their own say of where to take a vacation, how to get there, and many are choosing to go solo.
In 2014, 72% of American women took a solo adventure. That number is only set to increase in the next few years, as more and more women are taking trips designed to their needs. And it doesn't look like you would expect. Women aren't looking for the gender stereotypes that are often marketed to them. Forget the 5-star hotel and spa days, they want real adventure.
Tour companies simply can't ignore this market. It makes up a massive portion of potential clientele, especially when it comes to Millennials and Baby Boomers. Tour and activity providers will most benefit from ensuring safety for solo female travelers, but there are a few more vital tips that our own Nicole Kow wrote about in our Trends Report 2017.
4. Food Tourism
When it comes to travel it always comes down to food at some point, doesn't it? Food tourism has become an emerging trend among travelers everywhere and tourism experts have taken notice.
According to Skift UK Editor Patrick Whyte at TouRRoir 2016, food experiences are not limited to simply dining out. It includes cooking courses, farm tours and the classic food markets, which make up about 95% of these experiences.
These experiences are closely tied to the culture of the location. Many travelers consider it to be one of the best ways to get to know the story of the place they're traveling to and it works as a valuable resource for tourism companies.
Operators who are providing a food experience can benefit by ensuring it connects products with people and the traditions of a destination. With this in mind, every stage of the customer journey can be actively reinforced.
5. Responsible Tourism
Global changes affect us all. More travelers are aware of the impact their experiences have on the planet and as a result, more are opting for sustainable measures in their travel.
"2017 has been appointed The International Year of Sustainable Tourism by the UN “as a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued”
-UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai
Global campaigns have been set in place to promote more sustainable forms of travel and industry professionals should expect a shift in the mindset of travelers everywhere. They will be more interested in the environmental, economic and social impact they're making at the destination they visit and are likely to support companies that embody these values.
There will likely be many mindful changes ahead for the modern traveler, like staying closer to home to reduce their carbon footprint. Tour businesses with a strong awareness of the impact they're making will benefit greatly from their already established ecotourism practices. However that's not to say that businesses who are just waking up to this trend will be far behind! Companies will need to develop a strong social focus.
6. Mobile Photography
It shouldn't be surprising that tourists in 2017 are looking for ways to document their travels. Given the brilliance of modern mobile phone cameras, it's only natural that more and more travelers are using their devices to capture these notable moments.
Tour operators and activity providers can benefit from tapping into this trend, as it will add to their marketing efforts. It's the perfect social media marketing tool as it helps to build up user-generated content.
On a recent trip to Antelope Canyon in Arizona, I signed up for a guided tour that knew the value this trend could bring to their customers. While we passed through the iconic canyon, light streaming in at various portions, the tour guide offered us several opportunities to stop and take photos.
Everyone set out to take photos, most of them on mobile phones. The guide even offered to help those who didn't have much photography experience. When asked, he explained that he had taken a course in nature photography so he could help lead a better tour of the canyon.
This point is even highlighted on their website and it helps to drive in tourists that might not have felt confident enough to take these photos otherwise. It builds an additional layer for an already stunning nature tour.
Look for areas within your tour that would make similar memories for your customers. But remember, many of the travelers want to see both iconic and unique photo prompts. Look for opportunities to capture both.
7. Business and Leisure Travel
Business and leisure travel or (as it's affectionately known around here) "bleisure" is a favorite topic among tourism experts this year. It's predicted to be a very lucrative trend for tour and activity providers in 2017 and some project that it will rise in popularity.
However, we're not so convinced.
Bleisure has been presented as a rising trend for several years, but there is more data suggesting its static in the past five years than its rise. It would suggest that this isn't as much a trend as it is an observation of the latest traveler needs. For generations, people have been extending their business trips into leisure travel, so we can't exactly say that this is an emerging trend.
Trends that drove the market in 2016
Naturally, this list wouldn't be complete without a small revisit to some of the emerging travel trends of 2016. As a tourism professional, you may have noticed how these trends have affected the industry. While some of the predictions have had more prevalence than others, these four have been instrumental in the success of many companies this year:
In 2016, authentic adventure trips became all the rage. They are continuing to emerge as a popular purpose for traveling. Especially as millennials are taking the stage as leaders in the industry.
Millennials have been steadily ascending to their current platform as leaders in tourism for a few years now. For 2016, we predicted that by 2020, this market will be taking 47% more international trips than in 2013.
Staycations have been a powerful trend in 2016. Many travelers have trended in the direction of sticking around locally to enjoy their vacation time. This has been great news for local tour and activity providers and their communities as more people are looking to boost their local economies with trips close to home.
Last, but not least, the strength of the Chinese market has been a proven trend in 2016. A fact that continues into the new year (and highlighted in this year's trend report), as the Asian tourism market is stronger than ever before.
Want to know which trends are worth looking into this year? Read our latest Travel Trend Report 2017. Up-to-date, tailored to the industry, and absolutely free!