Travel is back in a big way. With many countries loosening Covid restrictions and tourists regaining confidence in traveling again, industry numbers are poised to outpace even pre-pandemic levels. To get a better understanding of where they're headed and why, I explored five emerging travel trends for the summer.
1. Family vacations
After two years of on-and-off quarantine, and having to delay or cancel major milestones such as birthdays, weddings and graduations, many are anxious to reconnect with extended family. In fact, about two-thirds of consumers say they are planning to travel more with family in 2022 than 2021. And now that vaccines have been authorized in the U.S. for children under five, I anticipate these numbers will only continue to rise.
But are families bee-lining straight to long-standing favorites like Disney World and Disneyland? Those aren't going away, but I do think that the historic definition of "family travel" is evolving to be more multi-generational to make up for the time and memories missed. As such, we will see families broadening their horizons beyond the confines of the traditional "kid-friendly" destinations to include locations and experiences that are educational and entertaining for all ages. For example, Yellowstone National Park, Boston, NYC, Cancun and Cape Cod.
2. Bucket-list destinations
Whereas in 2021 we saw travelers gravitating toward domestic itineraries, 2022 seems to be the year of the international, once-in-a-lifetime trip — earning the designation of "The Year of the GOAT (Greatest of All Trips)."
Think: dream destinations like the Maldives, Bora Bora, Petra and Machu Picchu — and luxury price tags to match. All age groups, but millennials especially, are ready to spend big on dream destinations, and after two years of saving and planning, many can afford it.
Why the sharp shift? Even as countries continue to lift restrictions, and we embrace Covid as a new (somewhat) navigable normal, travelers remain wary of what comes next, but they also understand the importance of seizing the moment. In that same vein, travelers have also become more comfortable booking a trip that they may have to modify, or even cancel, based on pandemic-related restrictions.
3. Impact tourism
Impact tourism might be one of the defining buzzwords of 2022 travel. This growing trend represents a movement from travelers to prioritize destinations and activities focused on environmental sustainability and local community investment.
While the concept of impact tourism certainly isn't new, it remained a relatively niche market leading up to the pandemic. However, today, more and more established hotels are adjusting their marketing, programming and practices to attract more discerning guests. From partnering with local vendors and non-profits to offering guests low-impact activities to promoting carbon offsets, major chains are ready to adapt to keep dollars coming in.
Take Costa Rica, for example. With white sand beaches that mirror its Caribbean neighbors, it's also a world leader in sustainability, with more than 98% of its electricity coming from renewable sources and 26% of its land dedicated to conservation. And vacationers are flocking. Though, it may also help that Costa Rica was the first country to reopen its borders to visitors after the initial lockdown and the first to drop mandatory Covid testing to enter.
4. Back to Europe
While some European countries will still require visitors to show either proof of vaccination or recovery upon entry, many countries have eliminated restrictions completely. And the world is rushing back in to take advantage.
Some are predicting that travel to Europe from the U.S. could climb as much as 600% compared to 2021. In particular, Americans are looking to celebrate summer vacation in Greece, Italy, France and Spain.
A trip to or across Europe won't sound revolutionary to most. However, many of these countries enforced some of the strictest, most extensive Covid-19 restrictions and have only begun to relax protocol over the last few months. At the same time, 8 out of 10 Europeans expect to travel across the continent between now and September. This sharp increase in travel could bring some vacation destinations back to their pre-pandemic prime. Though, balancing crowds could be key to attracting guests and keeping them coming back for more.
5. Wellness travel
With the enduring focus on all things self-care, it should be no surprise that wellness-focused travel is having a moment. In fact, wellness tourism is growing at a 50% faster rate than conventional tourism. Six Senses Ibiza's Andy Barge told Forbes, "Wellness and well-being are no longer being looked at as an indulgence and are instead considered responsible investments and priority components of people's daily routines."
But today's wellness isn't limited to yoga, spa treatments and health-focused menus. One interesting trend within the larger wellness travel category is couple therapy and intimacy retreats. And tourism companies and hotels are getting creative to accommodate this growing market.
While destination and motivation vary, one reinforced theme comes through clearly across all five trends: intention. The pandemic has definitely shifted how we approach travel. And today's traveler is more conscious than ever of how they spend their money and their time. So, where are you headed this summer?
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