Just like fashion, travel experiences seasonal ebbs and flows in destination popularity, but unlike fashion - there's no Versace-style puppet master behind the scenes pulling strings that dictate where you'll be journeying to over the next year; travel trends are much more consumer led. That can make the jobs of holiday companies a little harder as they often have to work years in advance, trying to figure out from convoluted sets of statistics which locations are about to surge in popularity, and likewise, which are about to take a nosedive. Some of that in-depth research though can actually make for a very interesting read, and sometimes helps those looking for real adventure discover the hot-spots that, so far, have steered clear from mass tourism. So for all the pioneers out there, here are our top travel trends for 2018.
1) Staycations. According to ABTA, 66% of us are planning to take a break within the UK at some point this year, whether it's our only get away or a long weekend to supplement our main holiday. There are plenty of reasons for this, with heritage celebrations such as the centenary of the RAF and the up-coming royal wedding all playing a part, but also contributing is the growing shift away from London-centric marketing. The traditional seaside holiday is also back in vogue, with towns such as Weymouth and Bournemouth seeing a resurgence in visitors; then of course there's ever-popular locations such as the Highlands and the Lake District.
2) Cruises. For anyone who's turned on the television in the past twelve months during an ad break, it will come as no surprise that the concept of river and ocean cruising has spread in popularity through the generations and wealth brackets. More and more people are coming to understand that a cruise is a wonderfully relaxing way to see multiple attractions and cities, whilst getting to experience landscapes that are pretty much inaccessible by any other mode of transport. And these days it's not all tuxes and baked Alaska (though they are rather delicious, so we wouldn't mind a serving ourselves), as many cruise ships have adopted a more laid-back atmosphere that focuses on history and culture more than glitz and glamour, though there's plenty of up-scale cruises still on offer. In 2018 there truly is something for everyone whether you want to sail to the North Pole by tugboat, go birdwatching off the Welsh coast or drink Port wine by the barrelful along the Douro.
3) Responsible tourism. As mentioned in a previous blog post, our awareness of how holidays impact on the planet is growing, and with it so is our impetus to do something about it; 70% of people believe that travel companies should ensure their holidays help local people and their economies. This rise in public consciousness comes partly from programmes such as the BBC's Planet Earth as well as news coverage about the levels of damaging plastic being pumped into delicate ecosystems. And it's not just environmental factors getting us all worked up, greater visibility for zero-hour contract workers has helped the plight of tour guide exploitation. Many travel companies are now offering multiple options that address these issues such as smaller group sizes, alternatives to plane travel, carbon emission offsetting and social enterprise projects.
4) Unusual destinations. We've seen Venetian gondolas plastered on the front covers of holiday brochures for years, and as the baby boomer generation really sink their teeth into the idea of wanderlust, 'off the beaten track' has become a watch word for 2018. And among the countries/states at the top of people's bucket list are; the steak and wine paradise of South America - Argentina, the home of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, Arizona, the wild landscapes of Canada, and the hidden valleys and castles of Germany. It seems travellers are less and less inclined to re-visit favourite haunts year after year or 'play it safe'. Authentic experiences are also becoming highly sought after, with most of us not wanting to feel like we're having an identikit encounter as the thousands of visitors who came before us.
5) Multiple trips per year. The value of 'experiences' has grown hugely over the past few years, (perhaps as we're faced with the fragile tangibility of our materialism) eating out, travel and one-off events such as festivals and food markets are taking up much of our disposable income, so where as in years gone by, most families would enjoy two weeks in the Spanish sun, now people are investing more in far-flung holidays, and more of them. Whether it's multiple European city breaks or three weeks exploring south east Asia, we're spending longer planning what journeys we want to make, and investing more than ever in making them. After all, one of the objects nearly everyone says they'd save from a burning house is their photo album.
6) Luxury rail travel. We promise we haven't included this one for any nefarious reasons, and to prove it we'll remove any hint of bias from our writing by quoting directly from an ABTA survey;
"With worldwide film sales of 'Murder on the Orient Express' hitting almost $200 million in 2017, it seems that luxury rail travel is back on the map and sales are expected to increase in the next year. Several new luxury trains were launched across the world this past year, including the Twilight Express Mizukaze and Train Suite Shiki-Shima in Japan and South America's first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer. Closer to home, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has announced a new departure to coincide with the 25th Venice Grand Masquerade Ball in February 2018 which is expected to be a sell-out."