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Tracking Today’s Travel Trends

By Lisa Verbeck

With reports of travel and tourism reaching or exceeding pre- pandemic levels in 2022, it is more important than ever to keep a watchful eye on the changing wants and needs of today’s consumers. A recent article likened this phenomenon to bears coming out of hibernation, and it’s true. People are ready to travel big time. As former Director of Marketing at Tourism Australia among other destination roles, I’ve tapped my resources to compile this list of trends to watch in the year ahead.

  • The environment, over-tourism, and climate change are impacting residents’ opinions about tourism as well as the travel choices consumers make. Increasingly, Americans want to buy locally, prefer handmade, and are keen to find ways to give back when traveling.
  • People want to support brands that stand for something and align with their own personal beliefs. According to a Forrester Consulting survey, 52 percent of global shoppers are more likely to purchase from a company with shared values. It’s a great time to invest in your brand and focus on customer retention and lifetime value.
  • According to the WTTC, international traveler spending in the U.S. could see growth of $113 billion, compared to 2020, reaching nearly $155 billion. And all eyes are pointed to China, Australia, the UK, Germany, and Mexico to help in the international travel recovery.
  • After sitting at home for nearly two years, Americans are taking on physical challenges and adding once-in-a-lifetime trips to their travel plans. Travel agents are reporting an increase in YOLO (you only live once) trip requests.
  • More destinations are engaging their indigenous communities as tourism partners. Initiatives like Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Association and Hawaii’s Destination four-pillar plan are inspiring efforts to cultivate anti-colonial travel and expand the traditional faces that dominate travel.

In addition, some trends are rolling up into themes to watch in 2022 and beyond.

The Zoom Boom

The remote work phenomenon, for one, is leading to increased leisure trips in the U.S. where at least 36 million Americans have the potential to become digital nomads, according to Skift Research. If six percent of the 36 million choose to travel, they’d represent a $1 billion market — a sign of the remote work market’s massive potential at a global level.

Gen Z workers are at the forefront of the Zoom Boom work-from-anywhere trend. The rise in remote working has also led to the new development of “workcations,” where people are going on longer vacations because they can work while away, allowing them to extend the length of their stay.

These longer “workcations” have also fed into the trend of trip-stacking, where travelers go from one destination to another, as opposed to home to vacation site to back home. Previously the domain of digital nomads, more people now have the flexibility in their working situations to allow these extended trips.

Integrating work and leisure stays is here for the long haul. Work hard. Play hard.

The Overwhelmed American

The wellness tourism market is expected to recover and grow by 20 percent as Americans look after their mental health. They will turn to nature, looking for happiness and to make lasting memories with their kids. Americans are burned out, physically and mentally. More than 50 of Americans aren’t sleeping enough according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Everyone is feeling the need to take care of themselves and rebuild energy. Many parents are dealing with kids who are suffering from mental health issues after Covid, with stress, anxiety and depression at an all-time high. Getting out in nature is the perfect way to disconnect after two years of zoom fatigue.

The Big Quit

We’ve all heard about the great resignation. More people will be traveling. Digital nomads are here to stay. More young people are talking about not having kids. More than 1 million in January 2022 left their jobs. Countries and cities are embracing remote workers. Early retirement is being considered for people in their 50s and 60s. They are quitting early, likely a trend for the rest of this decade.

Tourists as Locals

In 2020 and 2021 we watched the exodus from big cities, as destinations began increasingly targeting remote workers – with incentives domestically and visas internationally. Talent attraction is not typically in tourism’s wheelhouse, but tourism boards are realizing that they have the chance to take a greater stake in placemaking to elevate a destination’s brand and make it more than just an attractive place to visit. There’s now a chance to leverage a destination’s brand as a place to Visit and Live, helping to increase the tax base and attract professionals who can contribute positively to communities. Tourism boards aren’t just branding their destination for “tourists” anymore.