I’ve been going through my notes from The New York Times 2020 Travel Show to share with you. A month has passed since I attended what is considered the largest travel show in North America. Much has changed in the world since January. The coronavirus continues to spread, hampering travel to parts of Asia and maybe to my favorite European location Italy.
I debated — is now the right time to write about 2020 trends in travel? Do people still want to travel? According to the experts, the travel industry is resilient. It will bounce back. And when it does dear readers, I want you to be up on the hot destinations and new developments in tourism.
“Where would you go if you could go anywhere?”
That is the question that The New York Times Travel editor Amy Virshup posed to her team last September as she kicked off the 2020 edition of its annual “52 Places To Go” list. I look forward to this list each year and scan all 52 Places to see which ones I have visited and where I’ve yet to go. In 2019, I had visited 11 out of 52, this year only five – Washington, DC, Sicily, The Bahamas, Paris, Copenhagen and Richmond, VA.
Amy said that they look for fresh and compelling destinations, and the places need to answer the question, “why now?” She described themes that emerged as they made their final choices: “This year the two most prominent were the importance of sustainability and the pull of history,” she said. You’ll be hearing more about sustainability in this recap — it was mentioned in almost every presentation and panel discussion.
As for Washington ranking No. 1, Amy said “We thought it was important to mark the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote. While Seneca Falls had its proponents, we decided there was no better place to do that than the capital of the United States.” Sounds like I need to plan a trip back to DC to see the National Women’s History Museum.
People feel good about their ability to keep traveling
Based on the 2019 -2020 MMGY Global Portrait of American Traveler Study, it appears that there is a case for optimism in the travel industry — or at least there was before the coronavirus. Chris Davidson, EVP, Insights & Strategy, MMGY Global, who presented the results, said “Boomers are spending the most on leisure travel, but over the next 20 years millennials will grow and boomers will drop off by 2050.” Okay, Chris, that’s likely because we’ll be traveling to heaven by then!
Key trends in travel
Chris explained trends that are impacting travel. One is about destination brands and local authenticity. It seems that some destinations are doing a better job than others on promoting what makes them special places to visit. “A good brand is like good art. It makes you feel something,” said Chris.
Which cities ranked among the “Top 10 Domestic U.S.”? Hawaiian Neighborhood Islands, Honolulu, The Florida Keys/Key West, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego. Chris noted that Denver, Vail, Austin and Portland also tell a really good story about their city. Sounds like I need to add Hawaii, Key West, Vail, and Austin to my travel bucket list.
What are the influential factors when selecting a destination?
Good value came out on top, followed by food and drink scene, bucket list status, and photo opportunities.
In terms of culinary, people are interested in authentic food eaten by locals, brand new dining experiences, street food such as food trucks, and hard to find foods/dishes only available in the destination. Food and wine tours ranked too.
Engaging and activating communities
Chris mentioned that “home sharing,” like AirBnb is growing but hasn’t taken share from hotels. “However, AirBnB is becoming more mainstream, as people want to experience communities and the price is cheaper,” he added.
Going beyond relaxation
Chris quoted Tina Edmundson, Global Brand Officer and Luxury Portfolio Leader, Marriott International, who said, “The concept of transformative travel – travel motivated and defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection and development – has become more pronounced…This new global explorer views travel as a way to improve physical and mental wellbeing, as well as a means to do good.”
Of study respondents, 77% said “vacation memories are more valuable than any tangible item purchased in the past year,” 72% are “motivated to travel by a sense of exploration and value the resulting exposure to new perspectives and ways of life,” and 91% who are “motivated to travel by experiencing new cultures do so to broaden their perspective and worldview.”
Travel as social currency
Chris noted that every minute there are millions of Google searches, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, tweets and Instagram posts, many about travel. People have become accustomed to seeing social content featuring special travel offers and promotions, beautiful pictures, insider information, contests, and stories from travelers and celebrity influencers. “Regarding influencers, “Some travelers post vacation photos on social media just to make friends and family jealous,” said Chris.
The impact of travel on the world
As I mentioned before, sustainability, climate change, over-tourism, and carbon footprint all play a major role in the travel industry. There is a great deal of work to be done in this area. Some of the ways travelers are changing behaviors include everything from using less single-use plastics while traveling to visiting destinations in off-season to reduce overcrowding and booking trips with environmentally-friendly hotels and companies.
Leigh Barnes, Chief Customer Officer, Intrepid Travel, predicted that big brands will move from sustainability to activism. “When you travel it will help the community,” he said when asked about the future of travel. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises, explained how cruise lines are changing. “Our new Celebrity Edge ship is more sustainable and burns less fuel and we’ve eliminated single use plastics” she said.
Travel is seen as a force for good
Travelers said that “travel helps them increase their understanding of people and cultures different from my life.” It helps “increase awareness and understanding of different perspectives and desire to do more to help people in other parts of the world.”
Boomers are big travelers
From the media panels I attended, it was clear that travel is a popular leisure activity, in particular among baby boomers. Mark Blutstein, Research Analyst, Phocuswright Inc., pointed to the ease of being able to book activities and do research online both in advance of travel and while at a destination. Mark agreed that when it comes to travel, boomers take more trips and spend more. “Boomers like finding out about new cultures and learning about the world,” he said.
“Boomers have 70% of the travel dollars and with retirement have more time to travel,” added panelist Veronica Studdart, Travel Editor and Content Strategist, VS Content Strategies LLC.
Online travel content continues to grow
I was glad to hear about the popularity of online travel content, especially travel blogs. It brings me joy to share my travels with others. I am delighted when someone says they went to a restaurant I recommended or visited a tourist attraction that they read about on my blog or other travel website where I am a contributor. It was rewarding to learn that my feature on Sarasota ranked as one of Getting On Travel’s top five most popular posts of 2019.
Most recently, I was proud to be accepted as a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. If you like to read good travel stories, I encourage you to check out the 28th Annual NATJA Award Winners who were announced today. As for my future travel writing career, I hope I can continue to inspire you with my adventures from around the USA and different parts of the world.
Where are you traveling in 2020?
So dear readers, have you made your travel plans for 2020? Where are you going or where do you want to go? Perhaps this post has sparked your interest in some new places. I’m planning a family trip to Croatia this summer and maybe I’ll make it to Ireland later in the year. BTW, I’ve never used it but one of the panelists at the Travel Show said that Hotwire.com is a great place to find last minute travel deals. For airline reservations I find seatguru.com to be helpful too.
Wherever you go, I hope you have fun and safe travels ♥
P.S. Coming soon I’ll share highlights from my relaxing trip to Sanibel Island. Stay tuned.