As 2019 draws to a close, it’s time for a look at the latest trends driving consumers’ travel decisions. Here are five that travel marketers should keep in mind as they plan their 2020 strategies:

  1. Heritage travel
    The advent of home DNA kits has spurred a surge in heritage, or ancestry, tourism. MIT Technology Review reports that by the end of 2018, 26 million people had submitted saliva samples in a quest to know their roots, and while DNA kit sales have slowed in recent months, the interest in roots-related travel has not. For evidence, look no farther than Airbnb’s new partnership with 23andMe. Others are also answering the call. Irish tour company CIE Tours, for one, has just unveiled a surname search tool on its website that maps Irish and Scottish surnames against counties in their respective countries. By entering a surname into the tool, viewers instantly learn what regions are most likely to hold family connections and which of the company’s guided tours will take them there.
  2. Transformative wellness tourism
    Today’s wellness travelers are looking for more than a temporary respite from everyday stresses. They want an experience that brings lasting change to their lives. Resort spas, particularly those on the luxury end, are responding with immersive wellness spaces and transformative programming—some incorporated into their core offerings and others as one-time events that bring in best-in-class experts. Scottsdale’s Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa recently unveiled Villa del Sol for that very purpose. Accommodating up to eight guests, the private enclave offers its own movement studio, spa treatment room, and a dedicated Sensei in Residence. The resort also recently hosted a three-night Women’s Recharge Retreat with meditation expert Sarah McLean, designed to provide participants with the tools they need to increase focus, vitality, creativity and emotional balance in their daily lives.
  3. Group getaways
    Whether it’s about finding strength in numbers or comfort in common ground, consumers are increasingly choosing to travel in groups. The 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report reports that group travel is gaining ground across generations. For some, group travel entails enlisting friends in their vacation plans (even honeymoons) while for others it’s about signing on solo to a group experience with the hopes of connecting with like-minded travelers of the same age, gender or interests. This is leading to more niche offerings throughout the travel industry, from tour operators catering specifically to women to hotel events like the annual Pebble Beach Culinary Getaway.
  4. Bleisure travel
    The millennial desire for work-life balance is driving a trend to more frequent, shorter vacations—often tacked on to business trips—giving rise to a new travel buzzword: bleisure. A 2018 Expedia study revealed that 43% of U.S. travelers extend their business trips to include leisure—an increase of almost 60% from just two years prior. And of those, 60% say they take advantage of bleisure opportunities because they don’t otherwise take much vacation. These numbers will only continue to grow as millennials increase their domination of the U.S. workforce. According to a Mintel Group study, 85% of millennial business travelers report an interest in extending business trips for personal travel when they can. Hotel marketers can capitalize on the growing bleisure trend by offering amenities and services of interest to both business and leisure travelers, and creating package deals to encourage people traveling on business to extend their stay over a weekend.
  5. Local flavor—literally. Travelers’ desire for authentic local experiences shows no signs of waning. According to Mintel Group research conducted in 2018, a majority of travelers in all age groups, but particularly those under 45, want to feel like a local when they travel. And for more than 70% in all age groups, that extends to eating local food rather than chain restaurant offerings when they’re on the road. For CIE Tours, demand for local culinary experiences led the 88-year-old Irish tour company to add an Irish Foodie Tour to its offerings. Loews Hotels, meanwhile, has taken local flavor to a national level with Flavor by Loews, a brand-wide initiative forging partnerships with artisan food and beverage purveyors in each destination.

So how can your travel business capitalize on these and other top trends? Let’s talk!