Whether you’re a seasoned travel marketer or just starting out, one thing’s for certain: the travel and tourism industry is constantly in flux.
Consumers are seeking new experiences, technology is changing how marketers work, and global trends like climate change are prompting many brands to rethink how they manage and market their destinations.
How can you stay relevant if you’re not on top of the latest trends? And more importantly, how can you market your destination or travel experience effectively?
We’ve reviewed the data, and put together the top 5 global tourism trends for 2020 you’ll want to keep an eye on, as well as how your travel or hospitality brand can respond.
1 | International Tourism Hits Record Highs
When it comes to international tourism trends, more travelers are crossing borders and clocking up air miles than ever before.
There were a record 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)—an increase of 6 percent from 2017. Tourism now makes up around 2 percent of the total global GDP. That's about $1.7 trillion in total.
So where are people going?
France is the most-visited destination, followed by Spain, the United States, China, and Italy according to UNWTO. Meanwhile, most international tourists come from China. Chinese travelers made 143 million journeys abroad in 2018, followed by Germany, the US, and the UK.
How travel brands can respond: If you want to hit home with international travelers, reflect the kind of audience you want to attract. Include people from different cultural backgrounds in your marketing materials—especially on your website, on social media and in ads that target specific audiences.
Further reading: How Hornblower Niagara Cruises built a diverse visual content library that helped them advertise in key foreign markets.
2 | Sustainable Travel Shows No Signs of Slowing
More than ever before, across generations, people want to travel sustainably: 72% of travelers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations, according to Booking.com.
But the growing green movement means more than just saving the environment. Social impact plays a part too. Just hear what Kelly Louise, the Executive Director of the Impact Travel Alliance, a sustainable travel nonprofit, has to say in this New York Times article:
“There’s a lot of people who think ‘eco-tourism’ when they hear ‘sustainable tourism,’ but that’s a piece of the puzzle. Sustainability has a positive impact not only on the environment, but the culture and the economy of the destination you’re visiting.”
From hotels reducing single-use plastics to tour operators offering social impact trips, there’s no shortage of ideas on how your brand can chime in.
How travel brands can respond: To name a few: work with local businesses and communities, promote environmental behaviour, monitor and respond to environmental trends, and disperse tourism throughout the region to help combat overtourism.
For more inspiration, check out the Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan, created by the Jordan Tourism Board and Tourism Cares. The map highlights 12 social enterprises in the country such as eco-lodges and local village tour operators.
3 | Experiential and Food Tourism See a Sharp Rise
Travelers crave once-in-a-lifetime experiences that they can't find in a travel brochure. These authentic experiences let them live like a local, away from expensive resorts and tourist traps.
Part of this involves food tourism, where travelers search for unique eating and drinking activities. A massive 95 percent of American travelers say they're interested in some type of unique food experience. And last year, some operators say they saw a 20 percent rise in food tourism.
"Food is now a main motivation for travelers choosing their destinations," says World Food Travel. "Travelers are spending more time and money on unique food and beverage experiences."
E niente ragazzi ... questo è lo spettacolo che troverete da noi .... 🤣🥳😍 Vi aspettiamo 🥰 #ilpiennolo . . . . . #cetara #mozzarella #pizza #pizzatime#pizzanapoletana #pizzeria #ristorante #pranzo #piattiitaliani #costieraamalfitana #napoli #napolifoodporn #italyfoodporn #pizze #pizzeria #cibo #foodporn #italia #food #fooditaly
How travel brands can respond: Put the spotlight on local culinary customs and cuisine and provide food tours linked to history and culture—wine-tasting, cake-making classes, farmers' markets, and so on.
And remember, experiences must be seen to be believed! Use photos and videos to put these experiences front and center in your marketing.
Further reading: See how you can further benefit from the rise in experiential travel.
4 | Bleisure and Wellness Travel Still in High-Demand
Bleisure—a blend of "business" and "leisure"—lets travelers combine business and leisure time. More than 60 percent of all business trips included leisure time in the U.S. and around the world in 2017, according to one study—nearly a 40 percent increase from 2016.
Wellness travel lets travelers maintain a healthy lifestyle or improve his or her wellbeing. In recent years, there’s been increasing demand for this kind of leisure travel. International wellness tourists spent, on average, $1,528 per trip—53 percent more than regular international tourists.
Weightlifter turned yogi for the week🧘🏼♀️ Goa really does that to you😂 Sunset yoga is a little sticky, hella sandy, but unmissable on Palolem Beach. I joined Summer Hostel’s yoga class for my final night in Goa❤️ @goatourism #GITM2019 #GITM #Goatourism #goatravel #goa #indiatravel #solotravel #girlswhotravel #traveljourno #journolife #panaji #infinitypools #traveljournalist #travelwriter #yoga #yogatravel #wellnesstravel #fitspo #palolemtravel #palolem
How travel brands can respond: Showcase the benefits of bleisure—the opportunity to explore destinations outside of boardrooms and expo centers—and convince business travelers to stay in a location for one or two extra nights. Also consider reaching out to local partners and offer discounts to business travelers who extend their stay for leisure purposes.
On the wellness side, promote initiatives such as spa days, gym classes, and yoga retreats. Plus, you can work with local health and fitness partners to create unique wellness experiences.
5 | Travellers Are Demanding Deeper Personalization
Gone are the days when travelers were impressed when an email included their first name.
Today, over one in three travelers say they will pay more if a travel brand “tailored its information and overall trip experience based on personal preferences or past behavior,” according to ThinkwithGoogle. This means personalization throughout the entire traveler journey, from the moment someone sees your ad, to the email they receive after their stay.
Chatbots, for instance, can resolve customer service problems and suggest personalized travel experiences with minimal human interaction. It's no wonder, then, that 40 percent of large businesses will adopt this technology by 2020, including travel industry companies.
How travel brands can respond: There’s a ton of opportunities for travel brands to look into marketing automation and experiment with new tech platforms. AI and machine learning are helping brands customize the booking process from start to finish and better personalize interactions with travelers.
Further reading: See how you can better engage travelers with personalized visuals in this article.
Tapping into these trends will ultimately help set your destination, operator or resort apart keep travelers coming back for more.
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