These Are 6 Key Trends Shaping the Travel Industry in 2018, According to Experts

Experts on the AFAR Travel Advisory Council share their insights

Expert Insights on 6 Key Trends Shaping the Travel Industry

We recently met with The AFAR Travel Advisory Council, our network of luxury travel advisors, to talk all things travel. Here are six trends they say are shaping how we travel today—and how we’ll travel tomorrow.

1. Here’s How Destinations Can Bounce Back from Natural Disasters

In the wake of several natural disasters over the past year, from hurricanes in the Caribbean to volcanic activity in Hawaii, the topic of how destinations can bounce back and reassure travelers was top of mind amongst travel advisors.

Advisors lauded the swift response of the Turks and Caicos following Hurricane Irma. “Days after the hurricane they sent a drone up in the air to take actual time and date stamped photographs of what was happening on the beach,” said Ignacio Maza, Executive Vice President of Signature Travel Network. As a way to clarify misconceptions about the severity of damage, destinations should respond quickly with visual proof that they are back on their feet and ready for visitors. Destinations and their hotel partners should work together to speak to the industry as one united voice, presenting real-time and frequent updates on ongoing restoration efforts. “I think what matters in their communications is clarity and consistency,” Maza added.

2. Traveling for Good is Becoming a Priority

Destinations, hotels, and itineraries that include ways for travelers to positively impact local communities are on the rise. Multigenerational travelers in particular have embraced the opportunity to help local infrastructure, protect endangered lands, and engage with locals over authentic experiences.

“Travelers today want to come away not only recharged and restored, but also with some sort of enrichment in their life, engaging with something new so they come home feeling better,” said John Galante, Luxury Travel Advisor at SmartFlyer. Advisors cited luxury safari company Singita as a great example of sustainability in action, as guests can feel good about the company’s commitment to preserving a million acres of land across Africa. Increasingly, hotels and trips are offering guests simple ways to understand and support the local infrastructure, whether that means giving out reusable water bottles upon check-in in areas without reliable water access, or having guests work alongside scientists on cruise ships.

3. Destinations Can Rise in Popularity as a Result of Current Events

With terrorist attacks hitting major cities around the globe, travelers wary of visiting destinations that have been a recent target of an attack often seek alternative destinations that are deemed “safer.” Following several terrorist attacks in 2017, countries in Scandinavia saw a spike in travelers, who were reassured by this region’s reputation as safe and secure.

And in response to natural disasters, alternate destinations in the Caribbean and beyond have received a positive boost to their tourism through greater awareness of their destination. Granada, for instance, is suddenly trending thanks to its coordinates that place it further south—and at low-risk of being hit by a hurricane—than other Caribbean islands.

4. Social Media is Inspiring Itineraries

Scroll through Instagram and you’re likely to see photos of amazing destinations and dinners, with influencers garnering thousands of likes. Social media has become a conversation starter for travel advisors, who receive requests from clients to plan a trip around something they saw on Instagram.

However, the dialogue of planning a bespoke trip goes far beyond liking a photo on Instagram—it requires a back and forth dialogue with expert advisors who understand a client’s tastes, travel companions, the time of year, and more. Advisors can go beyond influencer posts by surprising their clients with a resort or destination they didn’t know about, allowing them to experience the magic of a new place before it plays out on Instagram.

5. Adventure Travel is on the Rise

Places like Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar have become increasingly popular as a refreshing alternative to the “been there, seen that” mentality of more common destinations. Travelers are looking to fully immerse themselves in their destination with hiking, biking, and other means of exploring the geography of a place without the barrier of a tour bus window.

Mombasa is a great example: with new charter flights now flying into Moi International Airport, demand for adventure trips to Kenya’s coast is on the rise. Backpacking trips, safaris, and local cultural immersion offer travelers an active way to experience a part of Africa they haven’t visited before. And in the cruise industry, adventure travel is opening exciting new destinations in the Bering Sea, Siberia, and Borneo, with nimble expedition ships sailing into more remote areas.

6. Overtourism is an Opportunity for Smaller Cities to Shine

From Venice to Dubrovnik, overtourism has been a buzz word over the past year. Travelers seeking authenticity without the crowds are increasingly asking for less trafficked cities. “We added 150 ports in the last couple years because baby boomers are traveling all the time. They have done Rome and Florence and they want to go back to Italy, but they want to see a different Italy. The same with Asia and smaller ports. We are seeing a real uptick in what would be considered a third or fourth trip to that country,” said John Delaney, President of Windstar Cruises.

Destinations are also seeking to reinvent themselves by educating travelers on locations outside the capital city. Hungary Tourism’s current campaign focuses on taking travelers beyond Budapest, for instance. Travel advisors can help shape this story about discovering a new side of a place with lesser-known—and sometimes even more magical—places on their clients’ itineraries.

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