With constant changes in the world around us and everything moving at seemingly hyper-fast speeds, travelers are increasingly turning to their vacations as a way to take things slow. In our internet age it is easy to become overwhelmed— coupled with a post-pandemic desire to explore the world, traveler behavior has concocted a new recipe of changing travel trends. With a strong desire to globetrot while doing less work, an opening has emerged for group travel and pre-planned outings. Nicole recently attended the ABA Roadshow, where she interviewed 12 tour and travel leaders on the future of group travel and shifts in travel desires. Three BIG themes emerged from those conversations. Here are the travel trends we are tracking:
Taking Things Slow
While checking 15 locations off your list over the course of a one week trip might have once been inviting, travelers are increasingly drawn to the idea of staying put. With a constant pressure on productivity in daily life, even the most intrepid of travelers are looking for a more relaxed approach in their vacations. This new travel outlook allows for a more in-depth experience of the places visitors choose to stay in, granting a more well-rounded outlook on a destination and its activities.
A shift towards slower travel means visitors can genuinely enjoy a destination as opposed to just saying they have visited. Before this shift, says Juan Pablo Suarez, travel trade manager for Ottawa Tourism, “People, they really can’t talk, when they get back to their houses and they talk with their families or friends, how they really experienced the place. And not only that, they pass through and they see the building and they took one picture and, and that’s it.” While pictures on a phone might indicate a visit, they do not reflect an experience. More travelers have begun to acknowledge this fact.
Emphasis on appreciating a handful of destinations as opposed to as many as possible allows for businesses to bring in more visitors as they try to truly get to know an area. “For the destinations [it is] awesome because we know that they can stay more time in our cities, more time in our places, and to have more attractions and to have more nights in the cities that we promote,” says Pablo Suarez.
Group travel continues to gain popularity in new and dynamic ways. Gone are the days of massive swathes of people on buses, now being replaced by itineraries which can cater to young adults, families, and solo travelers.
The new uses for group travel
With so many new demographics interested in engaging with a group travel organization, the reasons behind such curiosity are equally diverse.
For solo travelers, group travel means still having a sense of community. “The solo traveler that wants to travel, they’re getting on these group travel experiences so that they’re not solo,” says Dagney Ashley, director of Tourism for the City of Quincy and Discover Quincy. “People are kind of like getting to their bucket list and saying, ‘I wanna travel and I can’t get people to go with me, so I’m just gonna go on this group travel experience.’” With so many more individuals joining travel groups alone, organizations need to ensure the experience can be just as engaging by yourself as with family or friends.
Group travelers also increasingly skew towards younger generations, with more individuals relying on experts to do the planning for them. Among these younger visitors, there is also a strong desire for a more educational approach to travel, learning about the history and culture of a given place.
“What we love is just seeing younger folks…which is perfect for us because we have so much technology in the museum if you want to engage,” says Gary Hahn, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the National Comedy Center and the Lucy Desi Museum in Jamestown, New York. “I’m seeing kind of… broader demographics than I was seeing a few years ago.”
Due to pandemic influences, group travel has also created interest in the domestic travel market, with travelers learning more about the country’s different regions and their offerings. Tina Mount Pleasant, director of Travel Trade Sales for Destination Niagara USA, has noticed an uptick in interest on the US side of travel. “We’ve seen with that border being closed, a huge shift in domestic group travel,” says Mount Pleasant. Even with borders back open and world travel once again widely accessible, the desire to explore your own backyard remains. “[People] are rethinking the way they do their itineraries and are really shifting back to the US side of Niagara Falls…that trend is something we are very excited about.”
Given the changing wills of travelers and their desire to explore one place at a time, collaboration is more important than ever. Through collaborative efforts across businesses, visitors are more likely to choose your destination for more extended periods of travel. Through working with other organizations, companies can also find ways to branch out their markets, appealing to people they had not thought possible. Keith Snodes, Chief Operating Officer of Kaleidoscope Adventures, said of the company’s collaboration with Drum Corps International “It really has brought us new business, but it’s also brought us business that we probably could not have accessed without that partnership.” Snodes says that Kaleidoscope Adventures is increasingly “trying to be where customers are,” and with contacts across companies they are able to more effectively target their audience.
As travelers wish for more in-depth experiences, the success of one is increasingly tied to the success of all, with the combined appeals of many businesses helping to draw visitors inward. Through collaboration, businesses can not only ensure their own growth, but help to bolster their entire region in the process.
A Land of New Opportunities
With a wider array of interested parties and a greater desire to work together, the industry is equipping itself successfully for future projects, ready to cater to the needs of any travel that comes their way—regardless of age, budget, or group size.