The Top Travel Trends for 2020
But since I don’t like to repeat myself—a statement that’s true even if my children disagree—what follows are the newest trends, each of which will likely impact how travelers research, book, and enjoy travel.
She’s not alone. As it becomes clearer that humanity must address a looming disaster, travelers are factoring sustainability and carbon emissions into their plans. According to the annual Portrait of American Travelers study by the world's largest travel industry marketing specialist, MMGY Global, 60% of American travelers say their concerns over climate change will likely inform where they go in the next 5 to 10 years. That being said, a later MMGY Global study (calledtravelhorizons) dug into the details of planning and revealed that travelers aren’t as proactive as they could be. While some 44% of people said they’d be willing to use less single-use plastic while on the road, only 28% said that they would go out of their way to book “environmentally friendly tour companies and hotels,” and only 9% were willing to purchase carbon offsets. In that way, Americans may be behind Europeans. There’s some evidence that the “flight shaming” movement that began in Sweden is now impacting how people vacation across the pond. How much, though, isn’t yet apparent.
The obstacle to real action? Chris Davidson, an executive vice president of MMGY, says, “A theme seems to be that people are [only] willing to do things that are relatively easy.”
That may be the case for rental homes, but why is this happening for hotel rooms, too, as booking app Hotel Tonight has found? It reports that residents of Chicago (pictured), New York City, Detroit, Houston, and Phoenix, in particular, are booking an increasing number of stays near home. Is this all a response to climate change, with people trying to cut their carbon emissions by staying close to home for vacation? Or is there a massive boom of people conducting secret affairs?
At this point, GYG has created 23 “GetYourGuide: Originals” tours with these partners and based on its findings, that will grow—as will, undoubtedly, the number of data-driven tours throughout the industry.
It’s a savvy move: According to The Economist, a quarter of 25-to 34-year-old Americans now say they are vegan or vegetarian. Compare that to 2015, when only 3% indicated they were vegetarian, and just 1% were vegan. And Google Trends reports that in the past five years, searches for the word vegan have grown by 500%.
“We’re seeing more and more interest in vegan travel,” says Esther Ardagh-Ptolomey, founder of Kindred Traveller, a tour operator and travel agency for vegans. “[These are people who are] thinking about the impact they have on the world, they’re thinking about ethics, and they’re getting out in the world to share those values.”
Let’s hear it for the YOLD Generation, a term coined by The Economist to describe the “young old.” As Americans live longer and retire later, they’re staying fit and, as many companies are finding, that means adventure travel is no longer just for the under-40 set.
The number of places hosting these weddings is also expanding as fears of Zika steer some couples away from the Caribbean. According to Gretch's research, increasingly popular destinations for nuptials include Tahiti, Greece, Mexico, Dubai, Bermuda, Switzerland, and Spain. In countries with a residency requirement for marriage licenses, couples are holding symbolic ceremonies on the road and making it legal with an appearance at their home marriage bureau.
There are limits to how far this trend can go. I must caution that this strategy won’t work at all attractions, particularly the most popular ones. Increasingly, at iconic sights such as Amsterdam's Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum, those who don’t book tickets weeks in advance find themselves turned away.
"When you talk about the ships that have 4,000 people, you hear a groan over the phone [from many would-be passengers]," says GalaxSea's Webb. "More experienced cruisers care less about what’s aboard a ship and more about waking up to an interesting, new experience in port. And that’s hard with a monolithic ship, as it won’t fit at many docks." Because of this, the longstanding arms race among cruise lines to build bigger boats seems to be reversing somewhat. Recently, Norwegian Cruise Lines announced that its next class of vessels would be smaller than the current one. Royal Caribbean, too, which operates the largest titans in the cruise business, also now has a smaller ship coming out. One of the hottest lines afloat, according to Webb, is Viking Ocean Cruises. Its seven ships (such as the Viking Sea, pictured) carry “just” 930 passengers. And they're a smashing success. “Those ships sell out nine months in advance,” says Webb.
All those millennials and Gen Zers who moved back in with their parents? A lot of them are also vacationing with them. “We’re seeing serious growth in that segment,” reports Melissa Schmidt, Program & Positioning Manager for tour operator Backroads. “In fact, the tours we’ve created [specifically for people in their 20s traveling with their parents] are outperforming all of our other segments. So many more people are signing up than we anticipated [that] we started converting other departures to this sort of trip to feed the demand.” Rival tour operators including Butterfield & Robinson are also offering new products for this "multi-generational" vacation market.