Make The Most of 2018's Hottest Tourism Trends
In a report conducted by Trip Advisor, which involved reviewing all the bookings in 2017 for products under $150 per person (out of a total of 100,000 bookable experiences), the world’s largest travel site put together a list of hottest tourism trends right now.
But beyond identifying these highlights, what can you really do with them?
So I asked Konstantina Boutsioukou—Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company—how technology can help you make the most of each trend in 2018.
#1: RISE OF UNIQUE, LOCAL EXPERIENCE
Global travelers are looking for more than run-of-the-mill visits to iconic sites; they want an alternative, local experience. In addition to a 125%-growth in bookings for more interesting options (think trolley tour of Newport’s famous mansions, and a combination tour of Tulum’s ruins plus snorkel trip in the cenotes), one of the fastest growing trends in tourism is food-related. Activities—ranging from cooking classes with a local chef in Barcelona to guided street food tour in Rome—see the most growth in gross booking value in 2017, with American tourists responding especially well to the gastronomic experience.
Authenticity is the most talked about trend in the industry as consumers are gradually being transformed from ‘tourists’ to ‘travelers’; they want to experience authentic local cultures and live like locals. Technology can play a key role in connecting locals with tourists and we see a growing number of players leveraging technology in an attempt to capitalize on key tourism trends. For instance, Backstreet Academy, a peer-to-peer travel platform allows tourists to connect with locals in several Asian countries. Depending on their interests, travelers can meet locals who are masters in arts and crafts and learn about traditions, activities, cuisine and the culture of their destination. The platform gives travelers the opportunity to meet people that would otherwise be impossible, undertake unique and authentic activities and hence gain a genuine insight into a different culture. The case of Backstreet Academy acts as an example of how sharing platforms can leverage the knowledge and skills of locals to enrich the traveller’s experience, but most importantly boost the income of host households and communities. Other popular apps aiming to bring together travelers with locals are Vayable, PartyWith and Withlocals.
#2: ICONIC SITES REMAIN WILDLY POPULAR
Sure, there’s certainly a market for new and alternative experiences, but when it comes to tourism, iconic historical sites remain classic for a reason. Just take a look at the most booked tours of 2017, and you’ll see that the top ten are many of the usual hot spots such as Vatican Museums, St. Peters, and Sistine Chapel, Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State Building.
It is true that traveling for ‘culture’ and visiting key historical sites and monuments remain very popular. Players across the industry, including cities, tourism boards and museums are increasingly investing in apps that provide visitors with information and tips in order to plan and enjoy their trips. Some of them are going a step further by embracing virtual and augmented reality for booking and buying processes, plus adding a new layer to learning experiences. Expedia for example is working on VR, to offer a more immersive booking process for its customers, such as viewing prospective rooms, getting a feel of a new city, or checking the distance of their hotel from attractions. In addition, many museums such as National Air and Space Museum are incorporating VR in apps to facilitate a more interactive experience.
#3: MORE OPTIONS TO SKIP THE LINE
One of the obvious downsides of visiting these busy landmarks is the number of people there with you. So naturally, with travelers becoming more time-conscious, many skip the line tours have ranked high on the lists of most popular and fastest growing trends in 2017. For instance, guides and operators added 30,000 new experiences to TripAdvisor last year, increasing the number of experiences, tours and attractions by 50%. In total, the website offers more than 1,200 skip-the-line tickets globally, featuring locales such as the Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia, and the London Eye, to name a few. At the end of the day, what these tours promise is more than a time saver, but also a higher quality experience where tourists could “see more than just the back of someone’s head,” said Laurel Greatrix, Director of Communications at Trip Advisor.
Since skip-the-line tickets are ultimately about saving time and providing a better experience, technology can offer more innovative ways to streamline the process. In Canada, there's an app called SKIPT, which uses geo-location services that allows users to skip the waiting time by buying someone else’s spot in line. Here's how it works: Users in North America can post a spot for sale in any line, while setting a minimum price for the spot and the time that they are expected to be waiting there. Buyers can review the available spots, make bids, and communicate with the sellers through an instant messaging chat within the app. One can safely expect this type of app to grow rapidly since its geo-location technology can be adopted by museums, clubs, bars and even stations and airports. Another example is Disney’s MagicBand—a wearable, customizable, radio-frequency identification (RFID)-equipped MagicBand that connects to the theme park’s infrastructure. It can reduce waiting times and track guests’ locations and activities, so guests can reserve rides, book restaurant tables, pay ahead of time; plus tap their bands on readers to access the services.