Five key travel and tourism trends you need to know for 2017

Five key travel and tourism trends you need to know for 2017

This month’s World Travel Market (WTM) revealed the mood from businesses and consumers is optimistic as the travel industry continues to grow at an enthusiastic pace – 66% of Brits took holidays in 2016, up from 61% for the previous year. Here, Simon Condon, Consumer Director at MSLGROUP, looks at five of the key travel and tourism trends you need to know about in 2017.

What is a bleisure traveller? Why is ChIIC so important? How you can you get to Australia in 8 hours?

Bleisure and ChIIC: New buzzwords and emerging destinations

Unique experiences have long been a theme – and now “microadventures” and “mancations” (also known as “bro-cations” in the US) are the new terms on the block. Microadventures can mean hiking, kayaking, cycling-type mini-breaks and so destinations suited to these escapes will get a boost. Brands will be smart to target “bleisure” travellers keen to bolt some leisure fun onto business trips, too.

As for specific countries, it’s all about ChIIC (China, India, Iceland and Cuba) next year according to WTM attendees surveyed before the event.

China – 55% of travel companies expect to do more business there. 49% will do more in India, which has spent $300 million on improving its tourism infrastructure. It is upping its female-friendly offerings and upskilling and incentivising women better with projects such as She-Taxi in Kerala, which only has female drivers. Iceland is expected to welcome two million tourists next year which is five times as many visitors as in 2010; the challenge will be balancing demand with a fragile environment. All eyes are still on Cuba after eight US airlines have started flying there, and UK operators urge Brits to experience it soon before the spike in American tourists.

Food tourism is increasingly appetising

72% of people declare themselves foodies. More than ever, eating and drinking are reasons alone for travellers to visit destinations for unique, memorable experiences, and food and drink fans are incredibly engaged and influential. Portland-based Erik Wolf of World Food Travel Association noted food tourism is 59% more important than it was five years ago, and he advises anyone in product development or marketing to take heed – which is why he’s hosting a dedicated food travel event on the West Coast, 1–4 April, Food Trekking.

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Wolf outlined the psycho-culinary profiling of these customers, noting their expectations fall into categories such as authentic, localist, trendy and gourmet – he used stats which say 46% are seeking authentic experiences and only 18% crave gourmet. This means that emerging or under-the-radar destinations have a chance to take on oversubscribed places such as Napa Valley by communicating their cuisine credentials. And when destinations attempt to make waves it’s important they provide content that is culturally immersive, evokes emotion and challenges perceptions.

Being honest about sustainability

2017 was approved by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, so this is a hot topic. The key observation in the industry is that 75% of consumers will say it’s a deciding factor, but then don’t demonstrate this – only 4% of flights are offset. Over half of consumers believe it’s the tourism industry’s responsibility to be sustainable, and almost as many say it is the government’s duty.

Tourism development advisor Doug Lansky calls for better transparency so that consumers can make more informed decisions and vote with their wallets.

He says: “OTAs typically show the type of airplane used for the flights. But it would be great to know if that plane is among the most fuel efficient or least fuel efficient. Then if I’m comparing between a few similar flights, I can pick the more fuel-efficient flight, which will hopefully encourage other carriers to use more of those fuel-efficient planes.”

Technology: Virtual reality, chatbots, and emoji search

Artificial intelligence is growing – especially for back-of-house duties – in particular assisting before, during and after the booking process through chatbots (as used by Booking.com, Kayak and Expedia). Interestingly, airlines are the leading online travel category – worth US$390 billion in 2015 – but while online travel continues to grow, the prediction is that offline travel purchases will have a higher global value than online by 2020.

As well as virtual assistants, virtual reality is playing a bigger role in how we plan and experience travel and it’s changing how travel brands talk to potential customers to give them a taste of the experience and engage them. Agencies such as Kuoni and Tui are going “physital” – blending of the physical with the digital – by offering in-store VR experiences.

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Tech start-up Timelooper showcased its app which uses VR content to let you “watch” moments from history at significant sites through your smartphone, to allow the audience to “see” the iconic 1945 VJ Day kiss in Times Square through 360-degree reconstructed footage.

Brands are also talking today’s language more by including emojis – Cheapflights even allows users to search by cute cartoony characters for 40 destinations and Accor Hotels developed a campaign that highlights your ideal holiday destination and hotel based on the emojis you share on social.

Speeding towards supersonic: Oz in 8hrs

In aviation, Supersonic was the word we heard loudest. Concorde may have been retired from service in 2003, but by 2020 Mach 2.2 will be here. Mach 2.2 is approximately 1,678 miles per hour; a typical airliner right now travels at the comparatively leisurely 560 miles per hour.

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For £5,000 you’ll be in New York in just over three hours (with it taking only eight hours to Australia). Virgin Group is investing in Boom’s new generation jets which are 2.6 faster than normal jets, with engines they claim will be no noisier than traditional planes.

Find out more about the MSLGROUP Consumer Practice. Contact Simon Condon to understand how we help our current travel and tourism clients with their communications challenges.

Contributors

Portraits_Circular_Simon_Condon

Simon Condon

Deputy Managing Director, Consumer

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