By The Nation Weekend
FROM CULTURAL exchanges and eco activism, to virtual agents and a ‘less is more’ mentality, these are among the biggest travel trends for next year according to research conducted by Booking.com among total 21,500 respondents across 29 countries, including Thailand.
Here are eight travel predictions, giving a peek into the crystal ball of what travellers can expect in the year ahead.
Next year will see a rise in people’s desire to learn something new whilst away, as well as an increase in volunteering and skillsbased vacations across generations.
Over half of global travellers agree that travelling has taught them invaluable life skills, and 2019 will see a rise in people’s desire to learn something new whilst away, as well as an increase in volunteering and skills-based vacations across generations.
In particular, Generation Z will increasingly scrutinise the value of expensive college degrees over and against the life skills and practical learning that can be gained from travel, especially as experiences beyond the classroom and office cubicle continue to make for attractive potential employees in many companies’ eyes. When looking at the most popular kinds of trips with purpose, 68 per cent of global travellers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill, followed by a volunteering trip (54 per cent) and international work placements (52 per cent).
Easy does it
In 2019, “ease” will be the gold standard by which tech travel innovations will be judged. In past years, travellers have heard a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and speech recognition; in the coming year, the winning innovations will be those that can seamlessly offer these technologies as a practical solution. Think keyless room-access with your phone, personalised travel tips or a robotic concierge who can communicate with guests in their mother tongue.
Travellers are more enthusiastic about real-time luggage tracking through a mobile app (57 per cent) and having a single app for all their planning, booking and travel needs (57 per cent) than the prospect of using self-driving transportation in their destination (40 per cent). The extremely complex will power the seemingly simple for whole new levels of travel confidence and flexibility. 2019 will also see more tech developed for use pre-trip at research stage. Almost a third (31 per cent) of global travellers like the idea of a virtual travel agent in their home, using voice-activated assistants to answer travel queries, and one in five want to see technology such as augmented reality helping to familiarise them with a destination before they arrive.
Watch this space – uncharted territories
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) will start construction of its Lunar Space Station in 2019 (launching in 2022) and we’ll continue to see considerable investment in orbital spaceflight. In 2019 and beyond, we will continue to push the extreme limits of where travel will take us and as space technology advances, even the prospect of space tourism won’t seem such a giant leap anymore. Travel and other consumer goods companies will be investing in tests on earth to prepare for a future in space and meet consumer appetite for braving the new frontier. Four in ten travellers confirm they are excited about the prospect of space travel in the future and are open to considering the experience themselves.
Until space travel becomes a reality, this brave new mentality will also translate to travel slightly closer to home with a desire to explore uncharted territories here on Earth. Of most interest is under terra firma, with six in ten travellers confirming they want to stay in accommodation under the sea. 2019 will likely see new, seemingly impossible types of holiday home and hotels start to emerge.
Travellers want to ensure that they can travel in safety, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Up close and personal
Generic, comprehensive travel guides of the past will make way for increasingly short-form, hyper relevant and individualised content, which can be neatly integrated in travellers’ feeds. A third of travellers want someone or something to do the hard work and make travel recommendations for them and around 41 per cent want travel brands to use technologies such as AI to make travel suggestions based on past travel experience. In fact, over half would be excited about tech travel innovations such as a digital tour guide, bringing them a truly bespoke experience.
Reflecting increased global interest in social issues such as human rights, equality and working conditions, 2019 will see a more conscious traveller become evident, with even more questions being asked around social, political and environmental issues in potential travel destinations before making a decision on where to visit. Currently almost half feel social issues in possible travel destinations are of real importance when choosing where to go and over half choose not to go to a destination if they feel it will negatively impact the people who live there.
And as travellers increasingly seek new and authentic experiences, they also want to ensure that they can travel in safety, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Platforms such as Destination Pride are harnessing the power of multiple data sources to provide travellers with a ranking of how LGBT+ friendly their chosen travel destination is, while destinations and organisations will increasingly step up their support for women travelling alone.
A majority of global travellers would be willing to spend some time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay.
Plastic not-so fantastic
The issue of single-use plastic will continue to be a hot topic, but in 2019 environmental concerns will turn into greater environmental action. Millennials and Gen Z travellers will look for sustainable experiences in their destination, while accommodation providers will look to reduce their plastic usage and increase their sustainable credentials. An overwhelming majority say they would be willing to spend some time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay, with over a third willing to clear plastic and litter from a beach or other tourist attraction.
Expect to see a number of new travel start-ups and individual enterprises committed to shaping a new future for our planet’s destinations emerge in the coming year, with intriguing technology at the core of their solutions.
The experience curator
Travel with experiences at its core was one of 2018’s major travel trends but 2019 will take it even further. “Doing” will weigh equally with “going”, if not more, when it comes to travel reflection, and for 60 per cent of travellers, experiences are now valued higher than material possessions. 2019 will see travellers packing in many different and authentic experiences, from where they eat and sleep to how they shop or watch their favourite sports game with an emphasis on creating moments that will bring us joy and comfort long after the fact.
In 2019, 42 per cent plan to visit a destination that makes them feel like a kid again. We’ll see properties looking to add more childlike and playful touches such as ball pits and bouncy castles for adults to cater for a Millennial and Gen Z audience, who are the biggest groups who travel to feel like a child again.
Maximising the micro
Over half of global travellers (53 per cent) report they plan to take more weekend trips in 2019. It’s a year that’s predicted to be all about made-to-measure, bite-sized travel with more curated travel itineraries squeezed into shorter time frames. Less is most definitely more as travellers are offered a more bespoke experience.
The micro trip will become more varied and tailored, making shorter trips more personal and rewarding. We’ll also see a continued surge in desire to stay in unique and remarkable types of accommodation, which offer the chance to make a serious travel statement, even on the shortest of getaways.