In one decade, the travel industry has been radically transformed by mobile phones, online booking sites, the proliferation of low-cost carriers, the rise of the holiday home rental industry, and blurring of lines between business and leisure – or “bleisure”.
Going forward, industry observers expect a greater digitalisation of the industry, with AI and predictive analytics helping to curate more personalised offerings for the traveller. In a report by Expedia and HomeAway, 68 per cent of travel brands invested in predictive technologies in 2019. AI uses your personalised data from previous trips to generate shortlists of hotels, flights and destinations that you might prefer, increasing the chances of a successful booking.
Travel is expected to become much more intimate and digital, with your smartphone playing the role of guide, advisor, translator, compass, photographer, personal companion and much more. It would help you select which cultural experiences you’re more likely to enjoy, whether it is dressing up in period costumes for a Fetes Galantes fancy dress evening in France, rafting on the legendary Nestos river in Greece, or cleaning catfish with a home chef in Vietnam.
While France, Greece and Vietnam are already on many bucket lists, more travellers will also want to visit far-flung locations, second-tier cities and backwater beaches far removed from popular tourist spots. For this reason, Myanmar, Uganda, Colombia, the Caucasus and the Balkans are some of the locations tipped to be big in the next few years.
The biggest trend going in the 2020s, however, is responsible travel. Travel has always contained an inherent sustainability paradox: The more you travel, the more transportation fuel you use, the higher your carbon footprint. But then how else can you experience the big, amazing world if you don’t take that flight?
Travel operators have been tackling sustainability issues in earnest in recent years, opting for reusable water bottles, e-documentation and land travel where possible. According to Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman: “Travellers have evolved and have very different needs from before. Global warming is causing detrimental consequences, making it so important to choose companies taking direct action on sustainability.”
“According to our research, more than 70 per cent of our guests prefer e-documentation. And in honour of each guest that chooses e-doc, we plant a tree in their name.”
Like other leading tour operators, Trafalgar is also walking the talk by supporting sustainable tourism projects around the world. Past partners include the WWF, Conservation International and WildAid. Aware that their longevity as businesses depends on the survival of the world, travel agencies like it are buckling down to safeguard the environment.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.