The global travel industry: 10 trends for 2018

Solo travel, fly and flop holidays, wine tours? What will be the big travel trends in 2018? We look ahead to discover what’s in store for holiday makers over the next 12 months.

1. Glamping

Glamping, or glamourous camping, has been on the scene for a while but this year is expected to see the biggest demand yet. Airbnb’s bookings for 2018 already show a 700% rise in nature lodges, a 155% rise in yurts, a 133% rise in camper vans, and a 600% rise in Japanese Ryokans.

Airbnb also offers some other incredible non-standard accommodation options: tipis, treehouses, luxury safari tents, and traditional gypsy caravans.

For those looking to get out in the great outdoors without sacrificing the comforts of a real bed, a solid floor, and cooking facilities, glamping is the way to go in 2018.

2. Authentic experiences

Tourists are increasingly demanding experiential travel; an opportunity to be immersed in the local culture.
According to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), extreme adrenaline-pumping activities are now favoured 45% less than ‘experiencing a new culture.’

Airbnb’s Experiences feature, launched in 2016, is aiding this trend, allowing tourists the opportunity to experience new flavours, neighbourhoods, and music with their host. These experiences provide a great way to explore an area with a local and are gaining in popularity.

3. Luxury medical tourism

Travelling abroad for medical procedures is already hugely popular: an estimated 14 million people travel for medical care each year.

While most patients travel for treatment that is either better quality, more affordable, or unavailable in their home countries, there is a growing sector of those looking for elective or cosmetic surgery in exotic locations. 

It makes sense; patients receive first rate medical care combined with a luxury vacation in a high-end recovery resort. Such destinations offer privacy, top quality food, nursing staff, and of course opportunities to lounge by the pool. Ultra-luxurious recovery resorts are emerging in destinations such as Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa.

4. Voluntourism

The idea of combining a vacation and volunteering is gaining traction. More and more people want to use their time away effectively and make a difference while travelling. This can range from lending a helping hand in animal sanctuaries, to environmental conservation such as beach clean-ups or coral reef projects.

It’s not just for gap year students any more – anyone can use their 2-week break to do something positive. In 2015, the American Family Travel Association found that 10% of families they surveyed had taken volunteer trips and 29% said they’re likely to in the future.

As a well-established industry worth $173bn globally, according to ReThink Orphanages, 2018 looks set to welcome many more travellers looking to give back to the places they visit. 

5. Wellness tourism

In line with the global wellness industry, wellness tourism is on a straight and narrow growth path. Defined as travel for promoting health and well-being through physical, mental or spiritual activities, wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as tourism in general, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

Tourists looking to improve their wellbeing can choose from a vast range of options including spas, mindfulness and yoga retreats, and exercise programmes.

6. Multi-generational travel

Multi-generational or skip-gen trips, where grandparents go away with grandchildren, are becoming increasingly common. With more retired people looking to travel, going away with the whole family eases the pressure for parents.

“Families of all shapes and sizes are able to bond and create new memories thanks to multi-generational travel, and many tour companies across the globe are catering to this newfound popularity by offering a wide variety of activities that suit any age group such as cooking classes, walking tours, boat cruises and more,” says Jessica Bisesto, Senior Editor at the travel deals finder TravelPirates.

7. Sustainable tourism

Climate change, natural disasters, and overtourism in major destinations such as Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik, and Amsterdam are just some of the issues facing the global tourism industry today. But the steady rise of sustainable tourism is aiming to tackle them.
Spurred on by the International Year of Sustainable Tourism 2017, more and more travel companies are taking matters into their own hands. Tour operators offsetting their carbon emissions, eco-friendly accommodation, and resorts investing in the local community – there’s a huge variety of ways travel companies are becoming more responsible.
According to a study by TUI Group in 2017, 66% of travellers believe the travel industry should be responsible for sustainability rather than the consumer. However, 55% also believed there is a lack of information and choice on sustainable travel options. This leaves vast scope for companies to offer a bit more for their clients and local communities.

8. Authentic food

Travellers are moving away from fine dining and towards more authentic food experiences while on holiday.

More people are considering the quality and origin of what they eat, giving rise to tours and trips based on culinary experiences, as well as cooking classes and workshops. It’s not only about discovering new flavours, but about taking part in the local community.

Guided tours of local markets are taking off in Asia and the Middle East, while high-end restaurants are being eschewed for eateries offering traditional dishes like Spanish paella, Japanese sashimi, or Georgian khinkali.

Intrepid Travel is reporting a 20% increase in bookings for 2018 for its Real Food Adventure tours offering cooking classes, wine tastings and local market visits, while 29% of Airbnb’s Experiences feature is devoted to food and drink.

9. Destination: South Korea

With the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in Pyeongchang in February, South Korea is expecting a tourist boom. The country has been emerging as a popular destination in recent years, but the Olympic draw has seen cities like Gangneung witness a staggering 2,175% rise in Airbnb bookings.

The Organising Committee for Pyeongchang 2018 is forecasting 83,000 foreign tourists and 75,000 athletes, media, and Olympics officials arrive during the period.

10. Destination: The Middle East

The Middle East could well be 2018’s rising star. Overcrowding has led many tourists to opt for destinations off the beaten path and certain countries in the Middle East and North Africa are reaping the benefits.

According to the UNWTO, three of 2017’s top five fastest-growing destinations were in the Arab world – Palestine, Egypt and Tunisia, which all rebounded strongly from the previous year’s decline.

Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Dubai all sustained growth in 2017, with the Associated Press naming Morocco and Jordan as their destinations to watch in 2018.