Just as in other industries, travel and tourism experiences trends: a certain type of trip becomes incredibly popular, or a previously unknown location becomes a must-see destination. While some trends stick around from previous years, others seem to come from nowhere, reaching critical mass in no time. As 2016 gets underway, we take a look at 7 of tourism trends, both old and new, that are likely to be big for the year ahead.
7. Crowdsourcing Luxury Hotels
Traditionally, the construction of hotels has been financed by banks and investments, but the luxury hotel segment has been increasingly turning away from these sources of financing toward a new option: crowdsourcing. With a potentially long lead time on funding, individual luxury hotels with unique features are finding that appealing directly to the people interested in what they have to offer enables them to secure financing that might be denied by more traditional routes. Through crowdfunding, individuals interested in different hotel concepts can directly invest in the development of these new properties. One example is the Prodigy Network crowdfunding real estate firm, which is currently planning to construct a 194-unit space in downtown New York. The hotel will offer space for both short- and long-term stays.
6. Smart Travel
The advent of wearable tech is ushering in a new era of travel and tourism, according to some industry reports. While apps have provided some customization and reviews from individual travelers have offered tourists more and more information about the best places to see, eat and sleep, apps like TripAdvisor for the Apple Watch can send push notifications to users, with information about nearby attractions, highly rated restaurants in the user’s vicinity and more. Google Now also offers suggestions, using geo-localization to keep its suggestions relevant to the user, while also taking note of the user’s past behavior. The result will be an increase in customization that makes travel suited to your individual preferences—which, in theory, should make your trips all the more enjoyable.
5. Growing the Sharing Economy in China
Sharing-economy companies like Uber and Airbnb have become popular with travelers in the West (although they’re not without controversy). In China, there’s also growing interest in the sharing economy styled by such Western companies, although there’s a definite preference for the home-grown; 2014 saw a rise in the number of Chinese companies following the sharing-economy model, a trend that continued in 2015. Local media sites like Weibo and WeChat are used for reviews, while Tujia offers short-term rentals of luxury apartments. Ride-sharing and private rental companies are also on the rise in the country. That said, these start-ups have faced challenges and a shaky start, but it seems as though 2016 will be a year of exponential growth for the sharing economy. Travelers to China can expect to find more of these services and to hear more about them as well.
4. Iran Opens Up
Since the revolution in the late 1970s, Iran has been fairly closed to the rest of the world. The country has been especially hostile toward the West, meaning that tourism has been limited for nearly 40 years. Global relations with Iran have been improving over the past couple of years, in part due to a call for increased cooperation among Middle Eastern countries. Although Iran receives millions of visitors each year, foreign travel companies are now ready to enter the market, thus opening it up to increasing external tourism and potentially making the country one of the must-see locations for 2016. With 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there’s plenty of reason for tourists to head to Iran, the seat of the former Persian Empire. Other attractions include over a dozen ski resorts and important pilgrimage sites for Muslims.
3. Solo Travel
Traveling alone is nothing new. What’s new is that more and more people are interested in traveling alone—and that the people most interested in going solo are millennials. An MMGY Global Survey of American adults found that 37% of millennial respondents planned to travel by themselves in July 2015, an increase of 5% from 2014. Some suggest that millennials travel more than their parents and grandparents, simply because travel is more affordable and accessible than it was in the past. While it’s certainly true that travel is almost a way of life among younger generations, partially because of affordability and access, that doesn’t explain why so many go it alone. The leading reason for solo travel is that it’s quite simply easier to plan a trip for 1 than for 2 or more.
2. Americans Take More Time Off
Many U.S. corporations have long held the idea that working harder is a good thing. Growing evidence, however, suggests that not only are vacations important for workers, they’re also beneficial for companies from a financial standpoint. Unused vacation days create a financial burden should an employee (or a bunch of employees) suddenly decide to “cash” in on their paid days off. Many companies are also finding that workers who have paid time off are more motivated and loyal—which means better productivity and creativity while they are in the office. The result is that more companies are encouraging their employees to ensure they take all of their vacation days, and to take time off with some regularity. Some companies, like Netflix and Virgin Group, even offer unlimited paid holidays to their employees.
1. Hipster Holidays
While some of us might be jaded by hipster culture, the tourism industry is looking at an increase in the number of so-called hipster holidays. Today’s travelers are growing increasingly tired of the largely commercialized and over-frequented centers in Europe’s major cities. Visitors to Berlin and Budapest, for example, are now looking beyond the traditional tourist areas, inquiring more about local hotspots where they’re more likely to be able to interact with locals, enjoy traditional food and find local handicrafts. Travelers are also looking beyond the cities that are usually considered must-sees on a European tour and are heading to centers like Riga, the capital of Latvia, instead. The hipster holiday is all about getting off the beaten path, doing something different and discovering authenticity—something many tourists feel is missing during trips to London, Paris and Rome.