Predicting travel trends can be challenging. 2021 turned out to be another frustrating year for the travel industry and for many of the destinations that we work in. While vaccination programmes have opened the door for a widespread resumption of travel, it feels like progress has stalled, with new variants bringing uncertainty and overshadowing any steps in the right direction.
But that door has not been closed shut.
While there may be ambiguity surrounding when widespread travel may resume, there are a few certainties we can rely on. Traveller appetite to explore is never going away. Businesses, suppliers, and hosts on the ground are waiting to offer their services. Discova, as a world-leading DMC, is going to be here, ready and waiting to accommodate clients and customers.
And, if you look a little closer, reasons to be hopeful can be found everywhere.
Tourism in the Americas is booming – travellers to Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic are taking full advantage of restriction-free, hassle-free travel.
Vaccination rates across Asia are incredibly high. While progress may be slow, countries everywhere are moving toward an opening, with Cambodia and Laos removing restrictions and Vietnam welcoming foreign tourists for the first time in almost two years.
We’ve built back better, ready when invited to burst through that metaphorical door and bring your customers with us wherever their destination lies.
But, having said all that, what will travel actually look like this year? What kind of holiday will travellers be looking for when they can take trips? What are we seeing across the industry concerning patterns of traveller behaviour?
We have spoken to industry experts across our business to share their thoughts. And, while we know things are shifting and assumptions shouldn’t be made, here’s what they think will be trending in travel in 2022.
First and foremost, we can’t ignore the circumstances. Customers are understandably wary about booking in the environment of changing restrictions, evolving entrance requirements, and cancellations. This notion of the goalposts constantly shifting for travellers is likely to overshadow the industry for a little while yet.
Recent developments in Thailand, where the brief respite of a widespread opening was short-lived, demonstrate the need for caution.
There are elements of this process that are out of our control as a DMC. We can’t influence government policies, vaccination rates, or the risk of new variants.
However, we can do our best to instil trust in our partners to have confidence when booking for their travellers. We can also ensure that travellers feel safe and secure in-destination. This is likely to be a significant factor for consideration at the forefront of travellers’ concerns in 2022.
To this end, we have extended our 7-day cancellation policy. As Global Director of Sales and Marketing, Andrew Turner explains:
It is vital that, through our services, we offer what we can to support travellers. We hope that by providing the security of short-notice cancellation, we can offer an encouraging safety net, especially with unforeseen circumstances a distinct possibility.
Our rigorous health and safety protocols, standardised across our destinations, should also offer customers some comfort in-destination. Our staff and customers have strict measures to follow, including providing and wearing masks, frequent cleaning of touchpoints, and contact-free services. Check out the video below for more details.
While we understand these elements are not the ‘fun’ aspects of travel, it is paramount that customer safety is the priority in 2022 – it’s likely to be high on the travellers’ list of concerns, too.
A trending concept across the industry is that travellers may be looking for GOATs this year. This is an acronym meaning the ‘Greatest Of All Trips’. It refers to the notion that travellers may be looking to release all that pent-up travel frustration by going above and beyond to enjoy that ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.
But what might this GOAT mindset entail?
One belief is that, for those who can afford it, travellers will be willing to splurge their saved-up cash from holidays and vacations not taken over the last two years. That may mean splashing out on a more luxury/premium hotel option, as Global Director of Sales and Marketing, Andrew Turner, has already observed:
“We are seeing more travellers than usual opting for superior room upgrades, choosing the more expensive hotel with extra services and panoramic sea views, suggesting there is more of an urge to kick back and relax in style.”
This GOAT mindset could also mean taking an extended trip – perhaps with family and friends who have not been able to connect over the past two years.
It could also mean indulging in more experiences – unique activities to make that special trip all the more memorable.
Whatever the GOAT entails, for those in the DMC business offering customisable tailor-made itineraries, this is music to our ears. As and when our destinations in Asia open and welcome travellers, an ever-increasing amount of visitors will be looking to enjoy meaningful experiences in-destination.
Whatever the type of traveller, whether they be cultural enthusiasts looking to explore on a budget, or nature-lovers wanting a luxury outdoor escape, we can cater to these customers and everything in between, with local expert hosts offering friendly, knowledgeable guidance throughout.
As your customers may be demanding more from their travel trips this year, we are only too happy to oblige. Reach out to us, and our tailor-made team will be thoroughly briefed on your customer type and any important brand specifics. This way, they can design itineraries that represent you.
But, in terms of specifics, can we drill down on the type of experiences that travellers will be seeking? Let’s look at two areas that are forecast to be popular among travellers.
The wellness industry has seen a surge in popularity and prominence for many interconnecting reasons, not least because of the mental strain of long-term lockdowns and restrictions. The need for relaxation, mindful behaviour, and time to consciously unwind has never been given more attention in the public consciousness.
Inevitably, this has filtered through to the travel industry as wellness products and experiences are seeing a big rebound. A growing trend for years, it is thought that wellness experiences will be especially sought after in 2022.
Spa retreats, yoga experiences, and other assorted holistic experiences are seen as timely antidotes to what has been a challenging time for so many.
The GWI (Global Wellness Institute) forecasts substantial growth in wellness tourism in its December 2021 report. It points to the increasing necessity for the hospitality industry to cater to customers’ wellness needs.
This is seen through the growing prevalence of spas and massage services within hotels – long a mainstay for luxury offerings but now filtering down to lower range accommodation options, too.
This is something that Discova Europe Sales Leader, Chad Anderson, has noticed through incoming requests:
With Discova, we can offer fantastic accommodation options across our destinations that feature on-site spa services, yoga classes, meditation classes, and a whole spectrum of holistic services.
Moreover, over and above the accommodation options, we offer Discova-exclusive wellness experiences in many of our destinations that can cater to your customer’s needs.
From bathing in the thermal springs on the slopes of Arenal volcano to getting to grips with meditation basics with a monk in Thailand, ask our teams about what wellness experiences we can offer.
Falling into a similar category as wellness travel, experiential travel has long been a buzzword in the travel industry. Nevertheless, it’s more relevant than ever. Given all that has happened over the past two years, we expect a significant rise in customers seeking experiential travel opportunities in 2022.
Our Regional Product Manager in the Americas, Simon Lindsay, has spoken at length in the past on why experiential travel is in demand. His comments seem as pertinent as ever at the beginning of 2022.
He also refers to Bloomberg research highlighting that millennials now make up the largest generation grouping, covering almost 35% of travellers. In turn, the same study claims that over 80% of millennials mark ‘experience’ as vital to their trip, with just under 80% saying they would want their journey to be educational.
Our own data seems to support this desire for experience, with more and more inquiries requesting unique activities. Andrew shares his observations once more:
“It may be an overused term, but the off-the-beaten-track experiences are more popular than ever among our customers.”
“For instance, getting on the back of a bicycle to explore the Vietnamese countryside or the back streets of Kyoto – these types of experiences that go beyond the usual and allow visitors to discover a destination from a different perspective are some of our most popular requests.”
The math is there – a growing number of people seek travel experiences beyond mere relaxation, activities that head into the realm of meaningful learning journeys. The imposed break has only magnified this desire to get out and make the most of visits to a new destination.
Here we can see two seemingly contradictory trends: the need for slower-paced, relaxation-inducing wellness alongside a burning desire for learning experiences and active travel.
Truth be told, we know these can coexist, and while pigeon-holing travellers with labels can be oversimplifying, it makes sense that different people will react in diverse ways to travel after the pandemic. Some will need rest; some will need recreation – and we have the wherewithal to supply both.
Our Americas destinations – Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Mexico – have seen consistent growth throughout 2021. Relaxed restrictions for Mexico, in particular, have seen travellers take advantage of hassle-free and restriction-free travel.
As we shift into 2022, It seems that this trend will continue. Travellers looking for a classic beach destination holiday do not have many options to choose from other than to look to the Caribbean, at least for the short term. So, we expect the Mexican beach resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya to continue seeing high numbers of passengers.
What’s more, with ecotourism and sustainable travel continuing to be a trend, it is rational to see Costa Rica continuing to draw travellers in 2022.
Sustainability is expected to be a growing factor of consideration for tripgoers who are believed to be more mindful of supporting green-conscious businesses and enterprises.
Costa Rica has almost become synonymous with ecotourism with its many protected parks and government-backed sustainable policies, making it the ideal destination for travellers looking to celebrate nature while supporting eco-friendly travelling practices.
This ecotourism label is complemented by a relatively simple entrance process, part of a broader policy from the Costa Rican government to invite ever more travellers. One market the government is explicitly targeting is digital nomads with a new ‘nomad visa’ set to be authorised.
This is indicative of a broader trend encompassing the notion of remote work. Since many people have location-independent jobs, more and more people are opting for working holidays or extending their vacations to allow for work. We expect Costa Rica to be one of many beneficiaries of this growing trend as US remote workers opt to spend ‘workcations’ in these holiday destinations to the south.
From a Discova perspective specifically, our Product Manager for the Americas, Simon Lindsay, is observing substantial growth for Discova within the continued growth for these destinations:
He continues: “To that end, we are rolling out ever-more Discova-exclusive experiences and sprinkling these special activities into our growing portfolio of sample itineraries. Just recently, we signed the contracts to offer exclusive golfing trips in the Dominican Republic, which will be an exciting addition to our product offering there.”
“We are also developing specific packages around noteworthy events in the calendar. For instance, we’re close to announcing a Day of the Dead itinerary to help travellers experience the exciting festivities in Mexico in late October.”
For inspiration and examples of our fantastic experiences in the Americas, check out our brochure below.
Of course, as we head into 2022, many of our predictions for travel trends are little more than educated guesswork. We don’t have heaps of passenger data to back up our claims; we can only observe what is happening through inquiries and limited passenger feedback.
Whatever comes to fruition this year, we will be there adapting and adjusting as needs be, offering our services to the best of our ability.
Don’t forget to check our Discova destinations update page, regularly amended with all the latest developments regarding border openings and entrance requirements.
As ever, our friendly, knowledgeable teams are also available around the clock to offer guidance, advice, or to support any requests you may have.
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