The landscape of travel is ever-evolving, and as we move into the next decade, we’ve identified and are keeping our eye on a handful of stand-out travel trends that are driving innovation and determining where we’re headed next. Here are a few of the places, ideas and themes on our radar.
The quest to explore destinations that can offer authentic, unscripted experiences is drawing travelers to places that have previously been untouched by tourism. The increased global awareness of overtourism, especially in places like Venice that have felt its effects, has pushed intrepid travelers to visit off-the-beaten-path destinations.
"Some of the destinations that still allow people to feel like early explorers include Uzbekistan, Albania, Slovenia, Georgia, Romania, Senegal, Tunisia and Ethiopia," says Indagare founder and CEO Melissa Biggs Bradley, "and they are all rich in natural beauty and culture, but don't have a sophisticated tourism infrastructure, so they are best for intrepid travelers looking to discover emerging destinations. Guyana in South America is suddenly more accessible because of new flights on American and JetBlue, from New York to Georgetown. Rwanda has also been drawing more and more travelers: Now that a slew of high-end lodges have opened, like the Singita property near Volcanoes National Park, the Wilderness safari lodge in Magashi and the One & Only property, where you can trek to see chimps. There is much more to see than just the mountain gorillas, which were the original draw for many."
"I also think more people will also be traveling to Poland this year, with new flights from New York and Chicago to Krakow and a new Nobu hotel in Warsaw. Thanks to the first luxury expedition yacht in the region, from Aqua Expeditions, I am going to explore the remote archipelago of Raja Ampat in Indonesia, which has some of the highest marine biodiversity on the planet and very few travelers. Tajikstan and Kazakhstan and are also drawing pioneer travelers who understand the incredible natural beauty there is to see in both countries. I am hopeful that the protests in Lebanon will yield political change and then stability and that we can return there in 2020 as we ran some wonderful trips to Lebanon in 2019 and the country has so much history, beauty and hospitality."
With overtourism comes the need for preservation and a focus on sustainability. Given the current state of the climate crisis, the continuation of heavy tourist numbers in fragile cultural sites like Venice, Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been deemed unsustainable, with careful planning required to protect their longevity. With this in mind, many travelers now want to be a part of experiences that have a sustainable component, choosing to support businesses that contribute to a responsible vision of travel. Impact tourism means integrating industry and visitor support for local communities. This is truly at the core of responsible travel, developing a consciousness about the places we travel, as the future of the industry lies in authentic, unique travel experiences that foster positive impact to the local community.
Christina Beckmann, The Adventure Travel Trade Association’s Senior Director for Strategy and Impact recently explained to the Center for Responsible Travel, CREST, in their annual 2019 trends report that travelers focused on having authentic, local, unique experiences are then exposed to environmental or social issues in the places they visit, spurring them to support local organizations and businesses that have a positive impact on the community. "As well, our research has shown us that travelers want to learn and establish meaningful connections when they travel," she said. "This motivation aligns well with the trend toward more ethical behavior."
Many of Indagare's partners in Africa have created innovative programs in sustainability and social impact that have become models for countries around the world. Wilderness Safaris has invested in career development programs for local staff, which is ensuring that greater economic opportunity and conservation efforts are part of their daily operations. This is something we always look for when it comes to selecting potential partners. Indagare is also in the process of developing a foundation that will support conservation efforts globally, as we send more clients out into the world who are looking to travel responsibly. The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently highlighted an Exodus Travels survey conducted by OnePoll of 2,000 Americans who travel internationally. Although it is a small sample, the results are compelling: 91 percent of travelers state that it’s important to take ethical trips.
Along with the desire for authentic and unfrequented travel destinations comes more opportunities for adventure travel. Safaris, climbing and hiking trips are increasingly popular with travelers who want to get back to the basics in nature. A host of properties in the U.S. ensure just that. From the stylish dude ranch Ranch at Rock Creek that offers 50 miles of trails, mountain biking and horseback riding or glamping at Paws Up, both in Montana, to Tennessee’s Blackberry Mountain with rock climbing, fly fishing, and hiking in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, properties have more integrated adventure offerings for travelers not content just to wile away their trip on a lounger.
The mother of all adventure travel experiences, the safari is also becoming better than ever, particularly in Rwanda with a host of new properties like Magashi Camp, One&Only Nyungwe House and Bisate House, all featuring an eco-conscious element to their offerings with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for gorilla-trekking. New lodges and camps in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique and Kenya are also allowing for a tremendous range of varied experiences and animal encounters.
With impact tourism in mind comes a more “woke” way to be conscious of what you leave behind. The state of California’s ban of single-use plastic bottles for toiletries in all hotels goes into effect in 2023, and other countries are introducing similar laws. In the hotel sphere, Marriott is vowing to eliminate single-use plastics in all its properties world-wide in 2020. Eco-conscious travelers are becoming increasingly more aware of these contributions and adjusting their behavior, and the industry is taking notice. One of the most ambitious hotel properties in the luxury market in terms of carbon offsetting is The Brando in French Polynesia. Utilizing solar power, biofuel, and a unique Sea Water Air Conditioning system, the property is almost nearly carbon neutral. In Costa Rica, Kasiiya Papagayo is spearheading sustainable tourism (with high luxury and privacy) and appealing to an increasing number of travelers looking to support those practices.
Airlines are also committing to make a difference. Qantas Airlines has committed to eliminating 100 million pieces of single-use plastic from its flights by the end of 2021, and Cathay Pacific has specific requirements used on its flights, with single-use plastic products being required to contain a minimum of 25 percent recycled content or be able to degrade in two years. They are also addressing the environmental impact of fuel and introducing options for travelers to offset the carbon cost of their trips. By donating to an offset fund, you can pay to have a number of trees planted equivalent to the carbon miles produced by your flight. In order to avoid “flight shaming” altogether, however, many travelers are opting for the rails, as romantic visions of the night trains like the Orient Express are seeing a renaissance in Western Europe. A range of modern, accessible trains designed for ordinary travelers and tourists with a climate conscience are seeing a resurgence, with a new Vienna-Brussels connection set to open in early 2020, and additional routes later in the year.
For travelers themselves, smarter, more strategic packing is also at the core of eco-conscious traveling, with the end goal of bringing with you only what you need. Planes use more fuel depending on how much cargo they’re carrying, so traveling light is one way to personally contribute to the reduction of fuel usage (and when it comes to fuel, every little bit helps).
In general, far-flung destinations are becoming more appealing to Indagare members: The Maldives, Bhutan, Shakti, Japan, Antarctica, Kilimanjaro, Patagonia, among others. This may speak to the continuing need to escape and unplug. Personalized experiences go part in parcel in these destinations, largely because they are logistically open-ended, allowing travelers to create their own ideal journeys that feel tailored uniquely to their own interests—from cooking classes to neighborhood tours, to guided art walks. Privacy seems more important than ever—whether that means traveling by private jet or yacht (Aman, Four Seasons, Blade and NetJets, along with smaller, more private boat experiences, like Aqua Expeditions and Prana at Atzaro in Raja Ampat); more unique and over-the-top, full-service villa/residence options and hotel stays (Palmasola in Mexico); plus one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes access in key destinations (private guided tours of tombs and access to new excavations in Egypt).
According to Indagare founder and CEO Melissa Biggs Bradley, "As people become more conscious of overtourism and flight-shaming, slow travel and backyard travel will continue to increase. Many Indagare members are investing in long-term travel planning, in extended trips (including multi-country sabbaticals), as well as more family travel and more unique and personalized one-off experiences that may even include mini expeditions. They are actively investing in experiences and in creating lasting memories for their families. We are already seeing people committing to stay in places for longer periods of time, renting apartments or houses and figuring out how to immerse themselves in the local community. We call these resident vacations. They are spending more time getting to know regions close to home and pooling their short vacations into longer ones where they settle in a place for a month at a time, whether they are living like a local in Paris or Wyoming.
We’re also seeing the flip side of this trend at Indagare, with the rise of the Microcation. Microcations are typically two- to five-night trips that are increasingly popular with younger travelers (particularly millennials), who either can’t be away from work for a long period of time or don’t want the stress of planning an extended trip. This is happening for both honeymoons and babymoons as well. It is now common for couples to take a mini-moon several days right after the wedding and then a longer, more traditional honeymoon some time later, when they have more time (and are less exhausted). With that, comes the ability to take shorter, more frequent trips year-round as opposed to the traditional two-week chunk of time off in the summer.
Popular destinations include “flop-and-drop” getaways like Antigua in The Caribbean, a wellness-oriented self-care sanctuary like Sedona’s Mii Amo, or exploring some wide-open space in Wyoming’s laid-back resort town Jackson Hole. The ever-growing wellness tourism industry aligns with the microcation format, allowing travelers to push pause on life for a few days and spend some time detoxing or rejuvenating with integrated fitness, dietary or mindfulness regimens. Getting to know a city closer to home is also an option: Montreal is geographically close to many East Coast American cities, but feels much more European and has a thriving culinary and arts scene. Further out, flights to Cartagena, on Colómbia’s Caribbean coast are barely over five hours from New York. Whichever type of trip you choose, there is no question that in 2020, the options are wide-open.
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