Top 5 Travel Industry Trends in 2020

Is your travel business up-to-the-minute when it comes to the demands of your customers? If you’re using words like “local,” “sustainable,” “personalized” and more, you’re already making strides to stay on top of trends in the travel industry for 2020.

Looking ahead, Andrew Sheivachman, who is senior enterprise editor with Skift, a website that covers the business of travel through news and research, says that it’s an exciting time for the travel industry. People are craving new and exciting encounters, and travel is a great way to scratch that itch. He anticipates that 2020 will be a strong year in travel.

“People want to travel. They want to do cool stuff. They want new experiences,” he says.

As anyone in the hospitality industry knows, whether you’re a restaurant owner, tour guide, hotel operator, travel agent, travel planner or anyone else in the tourism business, your job is to give the customer what he or she wants—and that means staying on top of trends in the travel industry.

Want to connect with customers and find new and exciting opportunities in your field? Sheivachman shared these global business travel trends.

1. Going Local

Authenticity will remain a buzzword, and for good reason: For many people, travel is about tapping into the rhythm of a city and connecting with its people. Sheivachman points out that in recent years, many of the legacy hotel companies have opened up smaller boutique brands in neighborhoods away from the tourist zones. Many of these hotels have art by local artists, beer by local breweries, food from local farms. They serve as a kind of local immersion, away from the big-box blandness of large chain properties.

Younger travelers are really concerned about [being environmentally responsible] and they’re willing to pay more for more sustainable travel products.

—Andrew Sheivachman, senior enterprise editor, Skift

In addition, he expects to see more tours led by locals who aren’t professional tour guides, but experts in some other area, such as artists, chefs, baristas and others, who can guide visitors off the beaten path and show them a side of the city that locals love, like a graffiti art walk or a craft brewery crawl. “People want that authentic experience,” he says.

The opportunity: Consider the expertise of your employees. Is there a unique experience that your business could create for guests to showcase locally loved aspects your city and catch the wave of this trends in the travel industry?

2. Enabling Wellness—And Personalization—On the Road

Many travelers want to keep a similar routine to the one they have back home. That might mean eating vegan meals, hopping on their spin bike in the evening or taking a yoga class at night. Hotels are finding ways to make all of these things accessible. Some major chains are placing spin bikes and other workout gear in guests’ rooms. Others offer workout clothes and even shoes on loan. Many will partner with local fitness businesses so that guests can work out for free or at a deep discount in a neighborhood spot filled with residential flavor. A number of hotels and restaurants offer vegan menus (along with gluten-free, dairy-free and other options) with items guests can customize. “They’re allowing people to choose what they want to do and appealing to them to bring their normal life with them,” says Sheivachman.

The opportunity: One-size-fits-all no longer fits all. When it comes to wellness, travel professionals can please guests by helping them to get exactly what they want, when they want it.

3. Discovering Value in Travel Agents and Travel Management Companies

Travel agents never really went away, but they’ve been overshadowed in recent years by online travel planning sites. Now, they’re stepping back into the limelight. “Travel advisors, as they want to be called, have woken up to the reality that they have a huge advantage. They can provide personalized service and find special experiences for people,” says Sheivachman. “Do you want to waste five hours planning a vacation and be screwed when it goes wrong? Or do you want to pay a travel agent $100 and they’ll take care of it all?”

Similarly, he says that more businesses are starting to contract travel management companies to handle their business travel bookings, rather than tasking employees with handing the bookings, themselves. He says that business travel doubles as a job perk today, and when businesses handle it smoothly, and help facilitate positive travel experiences, it could be a good tool for employee retention.

The opportunity: Travel agents and travel management companies can market their services to businesses and individuals to ease the stress of travel planning. Travel agents and travel management companies can also partner with other travel businesses, such as hotels, tour companies, restaurants and more, and work together to offer unique experiences that travelers will remember.

4. Seeking Out Sustainability

Concerns about global warming have ignited feverish discussions of how we should and shouldn’t travel. While flight-shaming is a reality now, Sheivachman doesn’t expect to see air travel numbers drop significantly any time soon. What he does expect to see as one of the trends in the travel industry, however, is younger people choosing to spend their money with travel brands that are environmentally responsible. “Younger travelers are really concerned about this and they’re willing to pay more for more sustainable travel products,” he says.

The opportunity: Make decisions that are beneficial to the environment, and share those decisions with customers.

5. Building Loyalty Through Subscription and Membership Services

We’ve become accustomed to our subscriptions, whether it’s for music, movies, clothing, meals or other items. Sheivachman says more travel businesses are exploring subscription options as this becomes one of the latest trends in the travel industry. In some cases, subscribers pay an annual fee, which allows them access to travel planners who can curate personalized itineraries for trips throughout the year. Airlines are also starting to offer subscription services which, for an annual fee, could allow for more leg room when choosing a seat, pay for checked baggage on each flight or allow access to an airport lounge.

The opportunity: Offer opportunities to travelers to pay an annual fee, which allows them access to something of value, whether it’s upgraded rooms, free hotel amenities or discounts at a restaurant.

Business leaders know it’s important to have their finger on the pulse of the latest innovations, and it’s no different when it comes to trends in the travel industry. By offering authentic, local, personalized experiences, with an eye toward wellness and sustainability, travel industry pros can work to capture traveler loyalty and foster long-term relationships that can grow with their business.

Photo: Getty Images