Trekksoft (an online booking and payment software provider for tour and activity companies) has released its Travel Trends Report 2018. Tourism Update shares the key findings.

1.Booking trends

Trekksoft researcher, Lucy Fuggle, says: “After researching on their smartphone, 79% of mobile travellers in 2017 completed a booking. That is significantly higher than the 70% who did so in 2016. 49% of direct online bookings are now on mobile, compared with 31% in 2016.”

Phocuswright (a global travel market research company) expects online tours and attractions’ gross bookings to increase from US$9bn in 2015 to $21bn in 2020 and says most of the options will be mobile-optimised. Google’s data shows that more people are staying on mobile to book instead of switching devices.

For tours and activities, the proportion of bookings completed on mobile is lower, but is growing.

Fuggle says 59% of travellers begin researching their next trip between one and three months before departure, says TripAdvisor. “Yet data from Phocuswright shows how 38% of tour and activity bookings are happening on the same day or up to two days before the activity. Many of these bookings take place in-destination, while consumers are already travelling. Only 19% of these activities were booked more than a month in advance,” says Fuggle.

She advises travel providers to allow for planning and spontaneity. She says tourism companies need to consciously manage their reputation online. Nine out of ten travellers think reading online reviews is important, particularly tour and activity reviews on third-party sites, which 95% of travellers trust, according to Stride Travel8, says Fuggle.

2.Solo female travellers

Nicole Kow, Trekksoft researcher, says: “The average monthly search volume for ‘solo female travel’ grew by 52% between 2016 and 2017, averaging 2 900 searches between October 2016 and September 2017.”

In 2015, TripAdvisor reported that globally, 74% of women had travelled solo or were planning to travel solo. While, in 2016, VBT Bicycling & Walking Vacations and Country Walkers reported to Condé Nast Traveler that solo female travellers made up 40% and 58% of bookings respectively, with a 5% increase in female travellers each year.

Kow says safety is the biggest concern for solo female travellers and recommends that operators and destination companies do the following:

  • Involve more local women as guides and hosts.
  • Provide services that ensure safety on arrival, as this is when solo female travellers feel most vulnerable.
  • Share reviews from previous solo female travellers.
  • Run tours for smaller groups and ensure an environment that facilitates meeting new people.
  • Provide safety tips for solo female travellers, especially when they first arrive.

3.LGBT tourism

Fuggle says that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourism has experienced a significant increase in recent years. “Up to 7% of adults are estimated to identify as LGBT and, as the Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism by UNWTO and IGLTA explains, the LGBT segment is recognised to travel more often and demonstrate higher-than-average patterns of spending.”

She gives the following travel trends in the LGBT market:

● Adventure travel.

● Millennial LGBT travellers tend to be more open and comfortable about their sexuality. “They expect the same from travel providers. They are also are most likely to want to be marketed to as part of mainstream advertising rather than as a separate group,” says Fuggle.

● Same-sex marriage is great news for tourism. “Couples frequently travel to get engaged and, or newlyweds embark on honeymoons,” she says.

● Technology has had a great influence on the visibility of and attitudes toward LGBT people and issues. “Hostility towards LGBT people will always damage a country’s brand reputation – not just for LGBT travellers, but all those who support them.”

Research conducted in September 2016 by tour operator, Virgin Holidays, shows that 63% of British LGBT adults refuse to visit places with an unwelcoming attitude towards the LGBT community.

In contrast, the UNWTO Second Report describes how marketing actions targeting the LGBT community, which are backed up with good LGBT-relevant practices in human resources and corporate social responsibility, are frequently received with increased brand awareness and loyalty.

Fuggle says: “Becoming an International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association member will give your business a globally recognised sign of support, as well as tools to better reach this market.”

4.The Sharing Economy

Trekksoft researcher, Sarah Burkhard, says: “The sharing economy is made up primarily of companies like Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, Uber, Couchsurfing, and Lyft. Notably, it ties heavily into the ideals of authentic and experiential travel.”

She says the link to experiential travel will be more pronounced through the success of Airbnb experiences and the gig economy phenomenon, which entertain the idea that anybody could potentially be an experience leader or a tour guide.

Burkhard suggests that operators who want to capitalise on this trend should:

  • Work with the local network of drivers and renters in an area.
  • Consider becoming involved in the Airbnb Experiences community.
  • Read up on recent moves from major players like Airbnb and Uber to better understand opportunities for your business.

 

5.Sustainable tourism

Kow says travellers believe operators and destinations should take charge of sustainable tourism. “In a survey conducted by AIG Travel, 52% of respondents believed that sustainable travel was important. 45% of travellers believe that it is both their responsibility and that of the tourism industry to help people travel sustainably.”

The 2018 trend will see the industry moving away from sustainable tourism and, instead, moving towards ‘regenerative’ and ‘restorative’ tourism.

 “In her writing, Anna Pollock notes that many companies have fallen prey to green washing, tacking on sustainability practices as an afterthought, incorporating it to reduce costs or as a marketing gimmick to charge customers more. Other companies, try to ‘do less bad per unit’, while continuing to ‘expand the number of units’,” says Kow. “Pollock suggests a new way of looking at sustainable tourism, one of positive net benefit, towards a more regenerative and restorative nature.”

Kow suggests that operators put the following in place:

  • Supply better education around sustainable practices, both within the company and when interacting with travellers.
  • Use technology to manage and limit demand. “With ticketing and booking systems, popular attractions can get visitors to book their spots in advance, reducing the waiting time in lines and the number of people who spill out into the streets waiting to get in,” says Kow.
  • Redefining growth. “Performance is typically measured by the number of bed nights in hotels, B&Bs and hostels. But does this really indicate growth? Does it reflect the wellbeing of employees in the local hospitality industry? Does it positively or negatively impact the local environment and community? The industry needs to examine this crucial piece of the puzzle before beginning to put together the pieces for sustainable tourism,” says Kow.