You would think that working for a well known Travel magazine certainly increased my chances of being able to write about the ‘Future of Travel’ for Digital Cortex but not until I had actually sat down, pen in hand, or more aptly, fingers poised, did I realise how difficult it is to identify the future trends of such a broad, generic, well-loved topic as Travel.
Everybody has their own opinions on Travel, from the 2.4 children working class family on a Malta Bargain break to the AB’s of this world who can afford such luxuries as Carrier and Seasons bespoke holiday packages. Not to mention the difference between the ‘gap yah’ boom to the off-the-beaten track anti gapper’s, who consider themselves the “real travellers”, and all those in between. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t think about their next holiday or escape from the real world, and so it is with great trepidation that I dip my toe into the murky waters of travel trends.
Despite this apprehension however, it is fair to say that the recent economic downturn has affected people’s overall attitudes on Travel, and it is this fragility of the economy that has created certain market changes that I believe will stick for many years to come after it has recovered.
Firstly, it has become evident that people are far less content to have a ‘fly and flop’ holiday. More and more people are looking for authenticity in their travels, and, most importantly, experiences that are unique to them. This may seem like an idealistic ambition from the backpackers’ world but it has now quite clearly extended all the way through to the luxury sector – with tour operators such as Abercrombie and Kent offering luxury photographic expeditions or bespoke, private safaris. It is this ‘Travel as a Narrative’ that people are beginning to demand – not only are they looking for authenticity, but because of this ‘fear factor’ induced by the recession they are investigating exactly what their money will purchase and whether this constitutes added value. Or, more importantly, a unique emotional experience.
With the help from The Future Laboratory, the trend forecasting company who have identified and coined the aforementioned ‘Travel as Narrative’ phrase, I have also explored a few other market trends that are likely to grace our travel horizons in the not too distant future…
The new and improved male traveller, the Renaissance of Man or ‘Menaissance’ are the men who are now seeking cultural or gastronomic pleasures on their travels, rather than simply getting hammered on cheap booze. It is this strong desire to be seen as connoisseurs in sectors such as gourmet food, fine dining and wine that is the driving force behind this new breed of travelling male. They want to return from their travels as well informed, interesting human beings with a new level of cultural understanding and intelligent conversation. As The Future Laboratory reported – ‘If the ‘New Lad’ was about hedonism, and the Metrosexual about appearance, then ‘intelli–gents’ are all about celebrating the cerebral’.
This may be a piece on the future of travel, however, it turns out that one of the future travel trends is harking back to the past- back to the fabled, golden age of travel when it could often take days and days to reach a destination by train or ship. As consumers’ lives speed up and become more superficial, they are seeking a deeper more cultural experience – they want travel to be sophisticated, glamorous and cool again. As opposed to the utter stress and hassle most people associate with flights etc of the journey, they want to enjoy the simple pleasure of actually travelling, whether this be in a car through Europe, or the slightly more adventurous trans-Siberian railway.
Conscience Travel & Voluntourism
The rise of the Eco-Traveller, although seemingly evident with the choice to off-set carbon emissions on flights, is still a far from being a reality. Although being green and eco in other aspects of life is already being practiced, only 1% of 1,263 respondents to the The Future Laboratory survey said that they had taken an Eco holiday. But there is still hope, as 44% of the respondents said they were thinking about taking an Eco holiday/travelling. Some companies are already promoting these however, for example The Ritz Carlton’s Give Back Getaways programme where guests can spend half a day contributing to environmental projects. It is getting involved in the local communities in this way that makes people feel like they are ‘giving back’ whilst also enriching their holiday experience and essentially having a story to tell.
It would be foolish to talk about the future of travel and not touch upon the new realms of aviation that have been very recently bestowed upon us – slipping Earth’s gravitational bonds into space. Not cheap and incredibly exclusive, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo unveiled last year takes six lucky paying passengers up and away into the unknown, whilst the Astruim Spaceplane created by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company will take four people to a height of 60 miles above the planet to experience four minutes of weightless joy one can only dream of.
Despite briefly looking at Astro-Travel, overall it looks like unless we can create SOS–Travel (Sub-Orbital Slingshot planes that will cut the travel time to anywhere in the world to a maximum of two hours) the future of travel will be slow, cultural and green, with the emphasis on gaining a unique story to tell around the dinner-party table when you arrive home.
A message from Tom: Thank you FutureHarriet for this great contribution to my series ‘The Future Of…‘ Readers, let us know in the comments your thoughts on this piece, the trends you may have identified, or the most exciting holiday destinations you think we’ll be passing through in the near to distant future.