Travel Trends for a New Decade

It is the start of a new year. A great time to dream about travel and make plans to check destinations from your bucket list. Before you do, discover the trends that will impact travelers, not just this year, but into the new decade. Some trends may improve the travel experience, while others may contribute to the challenge of going abroad. And a few of the trends are not new, but are reemerging in a big way.

If you don’t think we have started a new decade read this article on TimeandDate.com: When Does the New Decade Start? By Konstantin Bikos. 

  1. Over-tourism and “Second-Tier” Destinations

Modern travel really began after World War II. That is when planes opened up the world like never before. But in 1950, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates there where only 25 million international arrivals. Even just 10-years ago, the number was under a billion. Now, there are over 1.4 billion tourist arrivals a year. And by 2030, the number is expected to swell to 1.8 billion.

This means over-tourism is a trend this decade and a real concern.

This has been a long talked about problem for cities like Venice. This Italian island, that in the 80s was home to some 120,000 people, is expected to have zero permanent population by 2030. A big reason for this is the deluge of tourists, nearly 30 million a year. If you are one of the travelers that journey there, don’t expect to sit down. In 2018, the Mayor proposed a “sitting ban” which would fine a person $590 for “taking a seat in any public space.”

They are not the only popular destination trying to dissuade people from visiting. Amsterdam is a city with population of less than a million and an annual visitor rate of 20 million. To deter people from staying there, the Netherlands took down the iconic “I Amsterdam” sign, limited Airbnb rentals, and banned new tourist shops there. They are also promoting other cities, such as Utrecht, Rotterdam, Maastricht, as alternative Dutch destinations.

Other countries are also promoting “second-tier” destinations. Although, this isn’t a new trend. Travelers have long sought out “off-the-beaten-path places.” But as main sights become unbearable crowded, this trend is sure to increase.

Consider going to the island of Milos in Greece. This lesser-known island gets only thousands of visitors a year compared to the nearly two million that go to Santorini. A good way to find “second-tier” spots is check to see where cruise ships go, and then go somewhere else.

But it is also hard to imagine not going to some of the main sights. For instance, is a trip to Peru complete without a visit to Machu Picchu? It may have to be. In response to the number of visitors at Machu Picchu going from 400,000 to 1.4 million in 20 years, the Peruvian government has now limited entrance to only 5,000 a day. And for those with a ticket there are only two entry times, plus everyone is required to have an approved guide. This makes other impressive, but lesser known, Incan ruins such as Choquequirao, which got only 16 visitors in 2016, seem like a great option.

For a great article on this topic read “15 Beloved Places Struggling with Overtourism” by CNT Editors, on the Conde Next Traveler website, October 24, 2018.

  1. Instagrammable Destinations

It was just ten years ago, in 2010, that the photo sharing platform Instagram was launched. By 2018, Instagram was a verb and Instagrammable was an adjective in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. For many travelers, they already cannot remember a time when they did not evaluate where to go based on the destinations “insta-worthiness.”

There were other social media platforms before and since Instagram. But none have impacted travel as much. There are over a billion monthly users on Instagram and the visual aspect of it makes it ideal for travelers. If you have not used it, Instagram has geotagging so you can save tagged photos to folders and it is like creating your own holiday brochure. Also, the app has great filters that make photos pop. Personally, I love color-bursting my pics. (My Instagram handle is Wild_Spirit_Traveler.)

But there are a few downsides to this trend. First, some travelers will not go somewhere or do something that they do not consider insta-worthy. At restaurants, I have heard waiters say “photos come before the food.” Last week, I went on the Boeing Factory tour. It was amazing and I highly recommend. But it was a smartphone free activity (no phones or cameras aloud). As such, Instagram obsessed travelers would not go on this wonderful tour, which is a shame.

Another issue is the relationship between Instagram and selfies. Selfie takers are damaging sights, blocking other’s ability to take pictures, and injuring themselves. According to Wikipedia, there were 259 selfie-related deaths between 2011 and 2017.

This travel trend also goes with our first issue, over-tourism. Many destinations that get “Insta-fame” became instantly over touristed. Jackson Hole Wyoming has even asked visitors to stop geotagging photos because of this. (Interesting note: over-tourism is not yet in the dictionary which means Instagrammable got there first.)

Regardless of the problems, Instagram’s popularity is on the rise. Instagram Influencers is a real job, and successful influencers make big bucks to share a photo. As such, this trend looks like one that will impact travel throughout the decade. Or at least until the next big social media platform topples it.

  1. Ecotourism and “CO2 Shaming”

One of the biggest travel trends being bandied around at the start of this decade is ecotravel. It is not a new idea, but more travelers seem to be rallying behind it than ever before. And as travelers demand more eco-friendly options, the market is changing to accommodate.

Carbon offsetting has been talked about for years, but few seemed to really care. That is until the rise of flight shaming led by Swedish teen, Greta Thunberg. In Europe, travelers are now switching away from the budget flights and returning to trains that are more eco-friendly. Eurorail is promoting itself as the sustainable travel option, better than planes and cars. They even have an EcoPassenger website where travelers can calculate their environmental impact as they journey through Europe. 

American travelers may find a train-only trip limiting. For us, there are only two countries we could reach via train. As such, my travels will still include some plane journeys. Although, I have long been an advocate of slow long-term travel and using local transport when possible. I may see less than people that zoom around a country, but it helps reduce my impact.

The airline and cruise industries are being impacted by CO2 shaming. Both are know looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Delta Airlines announced this month, that they plan to be the first carbon neutral airline. They will spend billions to off-set their greenhouse emissions. Last year, Norwegian Cruise Line introduced the world’s first hybrid electric-powered ship. Virgin Voyages will debut their first cruise ship this spring. They plan to be carbon neutral by following sustainable practices and carbon offsetting. Travelers can also go to climate-neutral locations. Bhutan is the world’s first carbon-negative country. While Suriname has reached carbon neutrality. Norway and Uruguay have pledged to reach it this decade, while others are trying for dates farther out. See a list at Wikipedia – Carbon Neutrality.

Going to destinations beyond that list, travelers can help by following environmentally friendly practices anywhere in the world. Examples include, traveling with a refillable water bottle, turning down straws, and not using plastic cutlery.

Last year, when traveling in the Philippines, I was thrilled to discover that many hotels no longer provided a free bottle of water ever day. Instead, they often left a picture of purified water for me to fill my own bottle with. Sadly, I heard some travelers complain about not getting the free bottles. Travelers need a mindset shift on this and support eco-friendly activities.

Other eco-positive changes have been slow in developing, but seem to have finally caught on and should be the norm by the end of this decade. In 2002, Ireland was the first country to impose a plastic bag levy. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008. Seattle banned plastic bags in 2012, and last year banned plastic straws and cutlery. In the last two years, the list of countries with plastic bans have grown and include Kenya, Barbados, Bali, Mexico’s tourist zones, just to name a few. Tanzania even bans tourists from bringing single use plastic bags into the country.

So, before you travel think about eco-friendly options you can follow abroad. And as this trend increases, be leery of claims of being eco-friendly. Lots of places are suddenly promoting themselves as this without making sustainable changes. Research what an “eco-lodge” actually does to get that label before booking.

  1. Generational and Multigenerational Travel

As we enter a new decade, it is important to know which generation makes up the majority of the travel market. For decades, it has been boomers but as they age, the oldest ones are now 76, the travel baton has been passed to Millennials.  These travelers are now 26 to 40.

According to Business Insider, Millennials travel the most – averaging 35 days a year. And the Gen Zs which are just now starting to travel are not far behind. They are traveling an average of 29 days a year. You can see these generations impact on the other travel trends. These travelers grew up with social media, such as Instagram. In fact, 90% of Gen Zs say their trip inspiration comes from Instagram and Snapchat. (“Millennials are willing to spend $5000 or more on vacation, making them the age group that spends the most on travel – but Gen Z isn’t far behind” by Taryn Varricchio and others on Business Insider website, April 19, 2019.)

Skip-gen vacations are on the rise

Many Millennials and Gen Zs were introduced to travel at a younger age than previous generations. So, they are comfortable going abroad. The big trip offered by my High school in the 80s was to Washington DC. My nephews all took international holidays through their schools.

Multigenerational travel is also trending, especially what has been labeled as “Skip-Gen” vacations. These are trip where grandparents take their grandchildren. I know my mom, took all her grandchildren on a special vacation when they each turned 10. Many of her friends did this too, however I never went on a vacation solo with my grandparents. But an increasing number of grandparents are enjoying the bonding opportunity.

  1. Mystery Trips

Information overwhelm, that can come from online travel planning, may be behind the next trend – mystery trips. An increasing number of travelers are letting themselves be surprised when they travel. Instead of picking a destination, and doing the research, they simply sign up for a mystery trip. They then turn up at the airport and go. Finding out only then, where they will spend their vacation.

Traveler Dawn, from the International Traveler and Travel Dreamer Meetup Group in Portland, OR, has been going on a mystery trip with friends for years. One woman, who enjoys planning organizes everything, and the rest happily go along for the ride. Apparently, they were not alone in enjoying they surprise.

There are now numerous companies that specialize in secret destination planning. This is an up and coming trend. And as internet overwhelm increases, it seems to be a travel trend that will last throughout the decade. For a list check out “7 Travel Companies That Plan Mystery Vacations” on Outside Online by Megan Michelsson, May 16, 2019.

  1. Heritage Travel
DNA testing trips to complet the family tree

This travel trend, I don’t think will survive the decade, but it is definitely booming now. In fact, it was on my list last year too. More people than ever before are finding out their real ancestry by home DNA tests. Once they discover their heritage, they journey abroad to learn more.

This seems especially true when someone is surprised to find a connection to a new destination. My parents and sister all had their DNA testes, proving what we always thought – that we were mostly Dutch. However, a surprise was that we also have a connection to Georgia in the Caucasus region of the world. I have been to the Netherlands dozens of times. But now, I am curios about Georgia and am planning a trip to “explore my roots.”

As interesting as heritage travel can be, I anticipate this one to fizzle as the thrill of DNA testing wanes. So many people are doing it that soon it will not be needed. According to a report in the MIT Technology Review, by 2019, 26 million had already taken the DNA test.

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by Shyla Esko Bare, International Travel Coach, 25-February-2020 ©www.WildSpiritTravel.com

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