2017 Top Travel Trends: Staycations, Wellness, Solo Travel and More
What does modern-day travel look like? Not long ago, the answer to that question would have involved mentions of travel agents, guide-led tours and annual visits to distant family members. While each of those factors still play a role in how people choose, plan and book vacations today, 2017 has brought a noticeable shift in worldwide travel trends. Here’s a deeper look at some of those trends and how they’ve changed how many of us look at and experience travel.
While the concept of blending business and personal travel is not brand new, “bleisure” travel has grown in popularity in recent years. In today’s culture-first work environments, organizations are consistently seeking new benefits or perks to offer their employees to make themselves attractive to prospective new hires, while working hard to retain the team in place. Providing staff the flexibility and freedom to bring their families with them when traveling on business is a hot trend in both travel and employee benefits packages.
With the employer covering the cost of the employee’s travel, the family’s overall vacation cost can be significantly reduced. Many corporations are also including Airbnb as an option in addition to traditional hotels, so families can enjoy more space at an affordable rate, often subsidized by the employer. In fact, many individuals and families are opting for alternative accommodations, like Airbnb, over hotels in general, with more than one million guests staying in Airbnb listings around the world on most nights.
Modern travelers have discovered that you don’t have to go far for an unforgettable vacation. Many travelers are finding that staying close to home and exploring their local region can be just as exciting as traveling abroad. Staycations can also come with less stress, hassle and expense, and when your vacation days are numbered, a staycation can be a great option that doesn’t require additional time allotted for flying or driving to your destination.
Staycations have become particularly popular amongst Millennials. This group tends to travel more than other segments, but typically does so on a smaller budget. And, with a tendency to embrace unique experiences and adventure over traditional vacation activities, many Millennials find some of the best adventures can take place in their own hometown or within an hour’s drive.
Social media allows people to stay connected, which can provide a feeling of security — you are never truly alone. Looking at Google Search trends, the number of searches for the terms “solo travel” and “travel alone” hit a peak in the first week of January 2017, 25 percent higher than the same period last year, and it’s continuing to rise. Particularly on the rise is women traveling alone, not for nightlife or shopping, but rather to explore a destination on their own or learn a new skill.
Dr. Carol Logan, Central Florida’s premier boutique optometrist, often does both, honing her photography skills, a new hobby, while enjoying some of the most picturesque destinations in the world. “Traveling alone frees the ties of being strapped to a schedule and allows me to experience the world with spontaneity,” says Logan. “Having the ability to change paths at any given moment seems to take me to some place and time that will be fondly remembered and offers the chance encounter of meeting someone who will never be forgotten. Afterwards, there is always a fascinating story to tell.”
Ecotourism as a concept means making as little of an impact as possible on a destination — take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. Today’s travelers are choosing to respect and protect the environment and culture of their chosen destinations, and consistently look for more sustainable travel options. From opting for outdoor activities that get them closer to nature, to demanding hotels be more environmentally conscious, travelers’ desire to connect with their surroundings while protecting natural resources has created a massive new segment within the travel industry.
In response to these demands, many destinations have begun offering packages with adventures paired with hotels that respect the environment. Hotels are putting in policies to reduce their carbon footprint by recycling, growing their own food, reducing water consumption and doing business with environmentally responsible companies. The United Nations has even declared 2017 as the International Year for Sustainable Travel Development.
Wellness and Medical Tourism
Wellness destinations have become highly sought after for travelers seeking a rejuvenating experience as part of their vacation plans. Beyond simply offering spa packages, many destinations have placed a focus on overall wellness and self-improvement in efforts to appeal to this rapidly growing group of travelers. Discover the Palm Beaches (the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County, FL) has designated October as its first Spa & Wellness Month, and the Saint Lucia Tourist Board has declared November as the inaugural Adventure and Wellness Month. These destinations are catering to health-conscious travelers by offering exercise/fitness activities and outdoor adventures, as well as inner wellness activities like yoga, massages and spa days.
In addition, the high cost of medical care in the US has created an increase in people traveling for medical treatment. By some estimates, US citizens can save up to 90 percent on their procedures by traveling to another country to obtain treatment. Especially popular is traveling to get elective medical treatment, such as plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure. Travelers are also seeking out exotic locations for medical services not yet offered in the United States. And, as medical costs continue to rise in the West, so too will the number of people turning a medical procedure into an international vacation.
Prior to the Internet, one of the only ways to book your travel was to use a travel agent. In a recent survey of travelers, just 6.25 percent of people say they will use a travel agent in 2017. With information just a mouse click away, prospective travelers can research and book their own vacations in an instant. And, with access to virtual tours, drone photos to view locations and countless consumer reviews, travelers have never been more knowledgeable about booking trips online.
Many travel apps even allow the booking of hotels and flights via smartphones just hours prior to a departure, providing travelers last-minute discounts when they bundle services like air, hotel and rental car. The ease of booking travel makes it easy for travelers to get what they want, when they want it and at a price that can often increase the number of days of a vacation, or even the number of trips per year.]
Travel search engines have also grown smarter in recent years, storing your travel preferences and recommending things that should meet your needs when you book your next trip. In many cases, it can be like having a virtual travel agent.
The reasons why we travel may have changed, but one thing is certain — exploring new cities, countries and cultures will remain a cherished way to spend time with loved ones or getting to know yourself a bit better, in 2017 and beyond.