Wearable electronics, exotic stays, and booking an evening in a stranger’s home for an authentic meal are just a few of the travel trends on tap for 2015. But who will be the groups dominating the travel landscape this year?
Sharing economy enthusiasts
Scott Wiseman, president – the Americas, for Cox & Kings, one of the world’s oldest travel companies, says the most notable development for 2015 will be the sharing economy experiences. "It’s always hard to pick one hot trend, but from our point of view, we are seeing more and more peer-to-peer matches on a luxury scale." Wiseman makes note that most of the peer-to-peer experiences he sees involve private collectors opening their homes to other collectors, whether it be art or wine or some other item that people are passionate about. "We’ve even made introductions between celebrity Hollywood producers and Indian Bollywood producers," notes Wiseman.
The trend report from World Travel Market (WTM), in association with Euromonitor International’s Travel and Tourism research team, also highlights the sharing economy as a big movement in 2015.
Airbnb has demonstrated the enormous power of local hosting and traveler demand for the authentic insider experience. Indeed, person-to-person interactions when traveling are naturally evolving to include cuisine. New peer-to-peer foodie websites offer eat-like-a-local options in Europe and elsewhere. Eatwith.com, a self-described community of food lovers and world travelers, pairs travelers with home cooks –giving visitors a chance to really sample local hospitality. Eatwith now boasts over 150 participating cities. Another peer-to-peer site, Bookalokal, is an online network featuring locals who offer everything from personal meals to cooking classes and workshops.
Middle-aged men in Lycra
The World Travel Monitor team also reports seeing cycling edging out golf as a travel experience, citing the rise of the MAMIL: middle-aged men in Lycra. Some predict this will have a negative impact on the golf tourism industry, but that remains to be seen. And, cycling is only part of what many of these travelers want; they also seek tips and strategies on nutrition, training and performance. The destination is no longer enough to satisfy; these individuals want an all-encompassing experience that delivers wellness, fitness and adventure.
Hotels are busy ramping up their technological and social media profiles. In fact, your hotel might well hand over a few additional perks in exchange for your postings of the property on social media. Indeed, that selfie by the pool has the potential to reap benefits this year. Consider the Kimpton Karma Rewards program from Kimpton Hotels: in exchange for Kimpton-related posts (on social media) about the destination and hotel property, guests receive special perks such as spa vouchers or free WiFi. Marriot Hotels is now awarding guests additional Marriott points for posting on social media and Omni Hotels are giving guests a shot at additional sweepstakes entries (for a free tip) in exchange for postings.
Technology for travelers is shifting as well. In a report from the Euromonitor International’s Consumer Electronics team, wearable devices are predicted as becoming mainstream by 2016. The charge will be led this spring with the debut of the AppleWatch, a device the tech world expects to be a defining item in the wearable category. Currently, Starwood Hotels is working on technology that will allow AppleWatch users to use the watch as a room key. Samsung Galaxy’s Qunar app (for use with the Samsung Smartwatch) offers booking services and the Starwood Hotel’s app for Google Glass not only allows bookings, but also gives direction to the hotel.
This is also going to be the year of the big comeback, according to Wiseman and his experts. “We are predicting big comebacks for Egypt and Japan,” he notes, adding that “Egypt has amazing new minister of tourism who is really engaged, it’s very stable there and we have more bookings to Egypt in last three months that we’ve had in past year and half.”
Traveling during the off-season, anywhere, is also starting to become more common. In fact, according to Wiseman, “Europe is no longer empty in the winter. People are hitting Christmas Markets; hotels are booked. It’s busy over there.” This flexibility in seasonality is a big departure from the prior mindset of only traveling when things are in season. Notes Wiseman, “The truth is, there are so many things you can see all year-round. Consider the Galapagos Islands. You can come for birthing season or mating season. Now, people are interested and open-minded to the choices.”
The exotic and spirituality also make Wiseman’s list for important developments in 2015. “The more exotic the better. Today’s traveler is getting more extreme.” Cox and Kings currently offers a two-night stay, with personal chef, in a luxury Airstream trailer on the Bolivian salt flats (note, Bolivia is also emerging as a popular destination).
He also cites a hotel made entirely of salt as a popular place to stay. And, along with exotic, Wiseman notes that the traveler’s desire for spiritual experiences continues to increase. Travel likely has its genesis in the spiritual quest; it is no surprise that it continues to be compelling.