With a multitude of travel trends right now, I was having a tough time picking just one to write about. So I thought it would be a great time to share some thoughts on four key trends to focus on to help your travel or tourism business thrive in 2015. Since we all read 10 articles a day about mobile and social, I am going to cover some other hot segments that tend to get less coverage.
1. Culinary Tourism
I am going to start with the trend that looks like it doesn't belong but after you see some stats you'll want to pay some attention to this movement. According to Mandala Research, half of U.S. leisure travelers are interested in discovering unique local dining experiences. That's a lot of people and they are not only gourmet seekers. This makes sense because for many destinations the food or wine contribute as to why a traveler might want to visit. When I go to San Fran I love to pop into Chinatown for that authentic flavor. While in New England you would certainly sample the fresh seafood. And the list goes on and on. Food and the culture around it make up the very essence of many destinations.
2. Millennial Travel
We all know tailoring your brand to appeal more to the younger crowd is a must for growth. What stands out to me is that this age bracket is twice as likely to upload videos, photos or reviews. That means as they experience your destination, enjoy your tour or stay at your hotel, they are documenting a big chunk of it across various social media channels to somewhat show off to their friends where they are. It also means you better get your travel product and experience right. For a deeper dive on Millennial travel habits, browse my earlier piece, “How to Attract More Millennials.”
3. Big Data
Yes, I know this term is tossed around almost as many times as mobile and social but the reality is that many in our industry are still not leveraging big data. According to Forrester, companies only analyze 12% of data collected through big data. Airlines, hotels and all types of travel suppliers are sitting on amazing data about their travelers. The challenge might be in connecting the dots as some data is in a CRM system while other key attributes can be found in the email platform or other third-party applications. Successful travel brands are layering in first- and third-party data to make their digital advertising campaigns smarter.
4. Alternative Travel Options
It used to be that the travel industry revolved around the airlines, GDS and travel agents. It is healthy for the industry as a whole to expand beyond just a few players. Now the industry is much wider and encompasses not just the hotels, cars and cruises but also the destinations, attractions and tours. Travelers are no longer staying solely in traditional hotel rooms as they migrate to Airbnb, HomeAway, tripping.com and other alternative lodging players. Plus, we are seeing an increase in the number of options when it comes to bus and train travel. I think you can take a no-frills bus from New York to Boston for little more than the price of a cup of coffee.