Every January 1st represents a new beginning with new possibilities, and the industry appears to be ringing 2014 with a genuine sense of optimism. For this special issue, Travel Agent reached out to suppliers, consortia and tourism organizations to get a picture of what’s new and trending in the year ahead.
A common theme on the pages that follow is a proliferation of new and future hotels — even in Hawaii which tends to keep a low profile in this regard. This trend would seem to indicate an expectation of better times in 2014 and beyond. Hawaii, meanwhile, is at the forefront of the LGBT weddings market. The state’s new law to allow same-sex marriage in Hawaii is expected to boost tourism there by roughly $200 million over the next three years.
On land or by sea, exotic and remote destinations are lighting up travelers’ radar screens. Asia is a major focus, particularly places such as Cambodia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Bhutan and Mongolia, although cruisers are setting their sights on the likes of Iceland, Antarctica, the Galapagos, Black Sea ports and the Russian Far East.
What may prove to be the most significant trend, however, can be summed up in one word: Millennials. This generation of 18-to-35-year-olds is making its mark both as consumers and travel agents.
As potential clients, Millennials are 95 million strong (compared to 78 million baby boomers), representing nearly a quarter of travel consumers and spending $200 billion a year on travel. They also represent a challenge to agents, being a group that came of age in an era when booking travel via the Internet was a given and brick-and-mortar travel agencies were disappearing. According to MMGY’s 2013 Portrait of American Travelers, Millennials’ use of traditional travel agents is on par with that of matures and greater than that of Xers or Boomers. On the other hand, their plans to do so during the next two years are trending downward.
Facebook and other social media is a key to capturing this market and halting that slide, a fact well known to agents who are themselves Millennials. Groups such as Young Travel Professionals and Millennials in Travel are taking the travel industry by storm, showing off new methods of promoting their business, promoting themselves, and selling travel. It’s a whole new game that is fueled by social media and technology, and it has changed the way these agents and their clients view leisure travel. That is why Travel Agent hosts a Young Leaders Conference just prior to the annual Luxury Travel Exchange International. Alumni of these conferences have an active Facebook page.
A survey conducted for the US Travel Insurance Association (USTIA) in 2012 revealed that one in eight U.S. adults — 12 percent of travelers — had their travel impacted, or considered changing their travel plans, because of natural disasters or world events. Yet, of those affected, only 29 percent had purchased insurance. This represents a significant source of untapped revenue for agents.
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the 1,700-plus Ensemble Travel Group members who responded to the consortia’s annual Ensemble Insights survey say they expect an increase in sales of travel insurance in 2014.
Interestingly, the USTIA survey indicated that Millennials are the group most likely to have their travel plans changed or impacted by natural or other events.
Our Top Forecasts for 2014
Without further ado, here are our top predictions for 2014, broken down by region. Click on the links below to find out what's next for top hotspots around the world.