8 megatrends are changing the way we travel

airport departure hall

If you look back at all the trips you have done – even if there are only a few of them – you are likely to find changes in how you booked your journey, where you stayed, and what you did in each destination. Trends in travel change, but slowly. The following megatrends identified by Euromonitor are already happening.

Euromonitor International, a market research company, has identified eight strong signals that are currently developing in the travel industry. The company published a paper Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel that explains the trends. Let’s take a look at the megatrends and what they mean for a traveler.

Deconstructing the customer journey

Since an average traveler needs to communicate with an airline or a hotel only a few times a year, travel brands have a challenge keeping their customers close. Expensive customer loyalty programs have been created to do just that, but it seems they are not enough. Travel companies are now aiming at co-operating with non-travel companies. For instance, Lufthansa has a program in Germany that allows on-board passengers to buy groceries at retailer Rewe. Customers order the groceries they want, and the products are delivered before they arrive home.

Our take:
Excellent service that is truly useful for travelers. There is plenty of room for innovation in this space.

Plastic waste

200 countries have signed a UNEP resolution to fight pollution. Among other industries, travel industry has actively started programs to decrease the use of plastic. For instance, RyanAir has announced plans to completely remove non-recyclable plastics from its aircraft by 2023. Biodegradable cups and paper packaging will be used instead.

Our take:
Fast food restaurants are one of the worst garbage producers. Let’s hope they change their processes and thinking how food should be served.

3 hikers on a mountain gravel road

The joy of missing out

Travel industry has quickly identified a business opportunity with people who are concerned that their online life has taken over their real life. The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) highlights the enjoyment of being physically and mentally present at the moment in the real world.

“You need to get lost to find yourself”, says travel company Black Tomato, sending travelers to secret destinations where they will be lost for real. The destinations have been chosen so that it is not possible to log on to Google Maps and locate your whereabouts, or order an Uber car to come over and pick up lost travelers.

Our take:
You don’t have to take a Black Tomato holiday to go back to the nature, but pull on hiking boots and head to a trail. All those El Camino hikers, Appalachian Trail trekkers and weekend walkers are doing their own JOMO, not to mention mountainbikers, road cyclists, people on a road trip from a camping site to the next. They have decided to connect to the digital world only when they need to. Whether on the road or in the nature, you must be present in that location and in that exact moment.

Conservation China

China’s rapid economic growth has produced a massive pollution problem, but the country’s travel industry wants to change that. For instance, in Shanghai, a resort has been created from ancient 50 Ming and Qing dynasty villas that would have been destroyed by an infrastructure project.

Our take:
It is remarkable that travel industry is showing good example in China, but we are unconvinced that the large country would stop polluting or destroying historical sites just like that.

Blurring industry lines

Hotels and restaurants are branching into product retail business. For instance, West Elm and Muji have opened hotels, Equinox Gyms will be opening one in New York, and Ikea has marketed its food and tableware products in pop-up restaurants.

Our take:
Whatever makes life easier for a traveler can be a good trend. Let’s see how these companies manage new business sectors.

tourists on a Segway city tour

Access economy taking flight

The access economy, where consumers are not necessarily buying products to own them, but are paying for the right to access products and services is booming. Travel industry has been revolutionised by the access economy, and there is no end in sight. For instance, Airbnb, Uber, a guided tour with Vayable, or dining with locals through EatWith.

Electric scooters available for short-term rental are coming from California to Europe. At the same time, Moovin provides electric cars (Renault Zoe) in Paris for rent, and Nextmove rents a fleet of electric cars in Germany. All these electric vehicles are, of course, available in a mobile app.

Our take:
Travel industry has been profoundly disrupted by Uber and Airbnb, and electric vehicles are likely to be the next big trend. Autonomous vehicles may also change travel in unexpected ways. The backlash against Airbnb, Uber, and a number of electric scooter rentals has also been hard, and for a reason. Aggressive expansion should not cause problems to neighborhoods where local people want to live their daily lives in peace and quiet.

Seamless experiences

Especially airports and national borders create plenty of friction for travelers as they require people to waste their time in queues and checkpoints. There are valid reasons for the procedures, but new technologies are already being tested to establish seamless experiences in these places.

Dubai Airport has installed a face-scanning corridor equipped with over 80 facial recognition cameras that replace traditional border gates. Facial recognition cameras in hotels, online check-in and keyless entry are other examples of new technologies.

Our take:
Not everyone loves these spy technologies where travelers’ personal data is carefully recorded. Some day, these systems may leak the data out into the wild. Of course, it is a balance between identifying dangerous people and travel comfort of ordinary people, but the Dubai camera corridor is a bit too much.

Trading down

Middle class is rapidly growing in developing regions in Asia and Africa. Chinese tourists have already flooded many popular European destinations, and there is much more to come. At the same time, low-cost carrier flights and new alternatives to hotel accommodation increase possibilities for low cost travel.

Our take:
I have taken many photos for Chinese tourists in European destinations with their cameras – the demand for selfies seems to be endless. Yet, this is just a beginning. Hoards of Asian tourists will visit the most overcrowded tourist destinations, because you have to see the Eiffel Tower and Giza Pyramids before you can visit a less-known destination.

We can identify other trends, like digital nomads, campervan lifestyle, remote work, and taking one year break to travel, but they are not necessarily megatrends (yet).

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