Reality Check: We just passed the rapids: Travel Weekly

Richard Touren

Yes, the world is in turmoil. But maybe it always has been, and we just have more media sources to remind us of details. Truth be told, I actually feel a sense of optimism for the future as this noisy year draws to a close.

Think about it: our customers talk much less about the pandemic, as if it were now something in the history books: the era of confinements. Our customers woke up from a deep sleep online. They’re traveling again — they’re optimistic.

Then there’s the ongoing war in Europe’s second largest country, with the continent’s largest nuclear reactor under siege by an invading army that has threatened to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield. The reactor is 1,000 miles from Budapest and Hungary shares a border with Ukraine. But Rhine cruises to and from this city are heavily booked. Europe 2023 breaks records. Our customers are traveling again; they are optimistic.

There are dire warnings about the environment and the need for sustainable travel. Some have described this as the greatest threat facing our planet. But in 36 years, with customers spread fairly evenly across 46 states, I haven’t had a single customer question or concern about environmental issues. Our customers are traveling again; they are optimistic.

In this issue, you’ve read about future trends from our experts in each of the major travel sectors. I would like to share some of the trends that I believe will impact our business in the coming year and beyond:

Bucket Lists Are Back

We see the “majors” getting ahead of the “minors” as to-do list travel is now at the forefront. We are witnessing a time when “think big or stay home” is the slogan that characterizes much of our vacation planning for 2023.

Expedia predicted that 2022 would be “the year of the goat: (greatest of all trips)”. In a survey of more than 12,000 travellers, the company found that an incredible 65% planned to “do it big” on their next vacation, with a third saying that meant taking bucket list trips “now “.

In November 2021, Amadeus reported a surge in searches to “epic destinations”. Top search destinations included Tanzania, Petra in Jordan and Machu Picchu, a search growth of more than 50% since 2020.

Spending is up – dramatically

It’s clear there’s a pervasive feeling among travelers that another pandemic can still happen, so let’s travel when we can. This was highlighted in a joint report by the World Travel & Tourism Council and in 2021 which concluded that 70% of leisure travelers to the US, UK, Canada, Japan and Spain expected to spend more on travel in 2022 than they did. had for all the previous five years.

Travelers will increasingly demand local experiences over traditional tours. I’ve long argued that we underestimate the role of “comeback story writing” – exclusive stories people can tell when they get home – when it comes to travel options. .

Travelers demand authenticity

But authenticity is an overused term. It really is more precise than that. People want to stay in places their friends have never seen, and they want to be guided by locals who live there, not guides on a pre-scheduled tour. Much of travel consists of unique experiences, and this will be a challenge for retail travel advisors. Cataloging local experiences on a website is easier than discussing the myriad options over the phone or email.

The travel advisor’s new focus should be the inclusion of one-of-a-kind experiences that enable exceptional cocktail conversations when guests return home.

Expectations don’t diminish

The hospitality industry is preparing guests for rooms that cost twice what they cost two years ago, without more annoying room service or room cleaning. The airline industry, with severe shortages of pilots and air traffic controllers, is already preparing us to wait less when we fly. But our clients, given their two years of home confinement, just without the anklet, clearly expect more from us, not less.

Our customers all complain about the lack of customer service associated with products and institutions of all sizes. They’re looking for personalization, but I think it’s more than that and a trend that needs to be addressed in the years to come. They want to be treated on a truly personal level. I cannot classify a cruise product, for example, as five stars unless each guest is known to the staff and addressed by name.

Solo travel is a thing, a real thing

In 1960, 13% of households had a single occupant. Today, if we consider households headed by a person aged 50 or over, this figure is 36%. This means that 26 million Americans live alone. More than 60% of mature adults who live alone are women, many of whom enjoy work opportunities, finances and housing that did not exist in previous generations. The high-end unique travel market is a serious demographic that is sure to grow over the next five years.

Motorhomes are going well

We’ve read about camping and “glamping experiences,” but the RV rental market has exploded, and many in our industry have overlooked its growth. Outdoorsy, the Airbnb of RV rentals, had over $1 billion in sales by the end of 2020. That was in the middle of the pandemic.

Luxury Resorts Sail

They observed, they analyzed and they aimed. The world’s most respected hotel brands have decided they can claim a share of the luxury cruise market by building yachts small enough to earn the title but big enough to turn a profit. The Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons brands are already in the running, and in 2025 Aman Resorts will launch Project Sama, a yacht with only 50 suites and the first Japanese garden at sea. The ship will also have two helipads and the first Aman Spa in sea. I have always believed that true five-star ships cannot carry more than 1,000 guests. From now on, 200 guests seem to be the new benchmark.

Advisors, consider fees and focus

The 2022 Travel Industry Survey shows that 16% of advisors who have worked for 10-20 years earn more than $100,000 per year. A fairly stable 5% of all advisors earn more than $150,000 per year. But the survey also reveals that 69% of agents with less than two years of experience earn less than $25,000 a year. I’ll be watching to see if the real estate model that currently dominates our industry will give way to something akin to a “doctor’s model,” with fully paid staff and no one dependent on commissions.

The same survey showed that more travel advisors focus on all-inclusive resorts than any other category. Cruises are second. Despite this, we see a significant number of cruise-only and very few entirely dedicated to the category leader, the growing number of luxury all-inclusives.

Advisors are in demand – high demand. There is no more conversation about being replaced. The question now is how to replicate the incredible advisors who stay at work, catering to an audience so eager to go on vacation that some of us are telling customers they’re over-planning their travel plans.

Have an amazing new year. I look forward to spending time with you again next year as we sit by the river and watch the changing landscape of the journey float past us on hopefully calm waters.

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