As 2020 dawns, I’ve taken a look at a few trends shaping the leisure travel landscape in the coming year.
The climate crisis has prompted a serious shift towards more responsible journeying, on land, at sea and in the air. While largely indispensable, aviation remains a massive contributor to global warming and in countries like Sweden, anti-air travel sentiment is at an all-time high. Flight shaming is an actual thing, and unsurprisingly, train travel, the greener option, is bullish. There is greater co-operation between air and rail companies, and cross-border and overnight journeys are booking well into the coming year. Taking the train, and exploring locally by bicycle, e-bike or Segway, epitomises slow travel, another significant trend. Wildlife encounters in remote regions remain on the hot list with eco tourists displaying a tendency to travel in small groups to minimise ecological impact and be as non-invasive as possible when observing animals in their natural habitat. When booking a safari in Africa, companies like Wilderness Safaris and Natural Selection are the frontrunners with conservation conscious customers.
Overtourism is prompting the exploration of other cities in close proximity to bucket list destinations. It’s impossible to resist a chance to see Venice, Barcelona or Amsterdam, all cities battling tourist fatigue, but a growing number of travellers are adapting itineraries, going in off-peak season, doing shorter stays and moving on swiftly to equally appealing, less cluttered places. Undersold and fascinating countries on the 2020 radar include Georgia, Uruguay, Oman, Myanmar, Russia and Colombia and, according to an Airbnb report, there is marked interest in Bilbao, Xi’an in China, Vanuatu and Tokyo. As DNA testing reveals ethnicity, a newer trend has emerged – ancestry travel – that is driving the curious into farther flung regions seeking to connect with their heritage in the lands of their forefathers.
Fitcations and wellness travel
Fitness-focused travellers wanting more than relaxation while on holiday, are booking trips where they can offset their indulgences with regular exercise.
Wellness travel is gaining momentum and direct marketing organisations in countries like Thailand and Japan are strongly focused on this sector in 2020, appealing to a wider audience and aiming to disperse tourists beyond urban areas.
As prime fitcation destinations go, Reunion in the Indian Ocean goes beyond the typical island break, offering adrenaline-rush activities that range from subterranean caving to hiking, canyoning and white water rafting.
For foodies, exceptional cuisine is crucial to the travel experience and in many countries, cuisine tourism has become a vital component of the tourism experience. France and Italy have always delivered on this front but be prepared for unexpected food destinations in the new year, like Moscow, where innovative disruptor chefs like The White Rabbit Family’s Vladimir Mukhin are changing up traditional dishes superbly.
Food tours and interactive cooking classes, with special attention paid to the burgeoning vegan movement, is another trend known as immersive travel. It enables people of different nationalities to connect authentically through a common appreciation of great food. Be it fine dining around a chefs table in Russia, or scooping up Creole food with your hands on the beach in Reunion, gastronomy opens another window onto a different world.
Space travel is practically a reality. Of the three billionaire ‘rocketmen’ who have invested heavily in galaxy travel – Elon Musk (SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactica) – it’s Branson who is one step ahead, as usual. In 2019 he unveiled the Gateway lounge at Spaceport America in New Mexico and all going to plan, 2020 should see lift-off of the first suborbital passenger flight, defined as an up-and-down non-orbital trip to 100km above sea level. Tickets on Virgin Galactica’s SpaceShipTwo cost $250,000 for a 90 minute experience and to date 600 well-heeled earthlings have secured their seats.
According to international travel content and marketing specialists Big Ambitions, cruise trips will be big in 2020. Whether on a zero emissions yacht, a small ship, or a mega cruiser, all-inclusive sailing holidays are coming in hot with various lines are refining their onboard offerings to entice a younger market.
Generation Y and Z is eyeing the sexy Virgin Voyages hipster fleet, a state-of-the-art line that comes with tattoo parlours, wellness centres and next level entertainment. Not as fancy but calmer and very satisfying, are self- drive barging adventures on the waterways of Europe such as those offered by the international rental company Le Boat. They sleep up to twelve and provide excellent value for money for those keen on cost effective group travel.
While the use of biometrics at airports is nothing new, travellers can expect to find it utilised end-to-end with increased frequency come 2020. In 2019 Japan Airlines conducted trials using voice recognition and AI to boost efficiency and passenger satisfaction on the ground. In some airports, automated check-ins may include facial recognition (that captures personal data) at self -service kiosks, through immigration and when boarding. At this stage it’s not mandatory but it’s a matter of time before the scanning of hard copy passports and boarding passes is phased out.