|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
As the year draws to a close, here's a look at what to expect from traveling consumers in 2014. For more tips to get ahead next year, don't miss our Forecast Issue, which will be available in late December and will offer a look at top travel trends, new product news and the latest destination developments for 2014.
Who will the traveling consumer be in 2014?
We’ll be looking at someone who has researched their hotel so extensively that by the time they walk into their suite they’ll feel they’ve been there already. No wow factor for them. So they’ll be seeking out local, authentic activities and cuisine to be really impressed.
By the time your client comes to you in 2014, they'll have crowd-sourced the to-do's on their itineraries from strangers they’ve found on social sites. You'll get to tell them what's right or wrong for them and if what they've chosen to do is actually do-able.
The millennial traveler will want their days filled with lots of flexibility. A car and driver for an entire day to explore a city will make them feel too confined; they’ll prefer to go biking for the afternoon or to spend their money in an entirely different way.
While we’re used to speaking about clients in terms of their age groups — Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomers and Seniors — we shouldn’t be doing that at all. Travel is about psychographics, not demographics. Your clients’ mindset, not their age, should dictate where they go. Keep that in mind in 2014, before assuming your 75-year-old would never stay in a W or an Andaz. The fun lifestyle vibe percolating there might be what they’ve always found lacking in more traditional hotels. That 20-something client might desire all the elegance of The Gritti Palace because they want to experience the iconic hotels now, not wait until retirement age to earn that right.
Everyone now has a travel “bucket list” that you'll need to constantly keep adding to so that your future business remains robust. Destination education for you and your team is vital for this reason.
Recognition remains supremely important to consumers; an in-person greeting from the general manager upon arrival still puts the most affluent clients over the moon, even if they’ve paid a king’s ransom for their trip. Continue to build your relationships so GMs will accommodate such requests.
Personalization takes on a new meaning now. Beyond the FIT, the traveler of 2014 wants to meet real people when they go to new places. They share information about themselves with people all over the world via social networks and they’re curious and comfortable about meet-ups with their counterparts thousands of miles way. Determine your clients’ interests and see if you can match them up with locals in new places who may practice a similar trade or have the same hobby.
FIT tour operators tell me they’re finally seeing a longer booking window re-emerge, with planning for exotic trips in some cases extending to a year and a half prior to departure. But when they go, clients will want to make the most of their time by having both a town and country experience or by visiting many regions of a large country, such as India, to get up close with its many cultures.
Multigenerational travel will get bigger in 2014. The family groups that started the trend have impressed their remaining kin with their Facebook postings and now everyone wants to join in the party. Watch for family reunions to reach upward toward 100 in the coming year; just be sure you’re booking every member of the clan, grab the whole piece of that pie.
Here’s to a great 2014!