In-Scope: How and where we are travelling in 2019

Matilda McMaster is a Data Analyst from OMD Create Sydney, offering comprehensive end-to-end marketing and consumer driven research solutions.

Anyone who knows me in the office would know I am a culprit for the yearly routine trip to Europe, escaping winter is well worth the minus leave days. And I am not alone, as wanderlust shifts to a societal norm and we begin to see increasing flexibility in our workforce. As I begin to plan my next routine trip for 2019 (sorry Tom!), I am overwhelmed with indecision so, when asked to write this passion piece, I thought it would be well worth my own self exploration to learn what Australians will be doing for their holiday plans next year. I hope this helps to ease your own travel anxiety, but also helps to guide your clients and brands on the changing consumer travel journey and travel marketing considerations and efforts.

What you are about to read is a little experiment I have put together using OMD Create’s intelligent data approach to identify the top trends in travel, and verify the most sought-after destinations for 2019. Before we get stuck into the findings, lets take a step back and summarise this approach:

At OMD Create we forecast trends through a blend of Art and Science. Our approach involves a combination of data sources and world class tools to aggregate signals and analyse thematics, affinities and behavioural shifts to isolate patterns.

We aim to identify cultural movements before they hit critical mass, but also help our clients to track a trend through its lifecycle, providing the strategic intel on when to jump onto a trend, how to interpret it as your own, or when to disregard (due to fatigue, or late involvement). By using this identification approach and lifecycle analysis, this enables us to be in first, and to further watch how a trend evolves.

So, where are we going in 2019? If you refer to the funnel below, this indicates how a trend emerges. It also details the relevant tools used at each stage. To identify the top destinations to chart for 2019, I have looked mid-funnel using influencer and content analysis, including content aggregators, to understand what locations are being featured in content. To then verify the growth trajectory and travel intent, I have used a combination of search demand and social listening to analyse the increase in searches and the % increase in conversation (YoY). Once a trend begins to develop at the top two levels of the funnel, we can presume this has or is beginning to reach the mainstream.

The below data identifies all locations having received a % increase in buzz (compared to the previous year period) and with trend lines continuing to rise. I have also included the search increase for Japan only, to exemplify the output analysed. Given such growth and ongoing interest we can expect these destinations to reach the mainstream for travellers next year – time to start planning!


Looking at the data, you can see there is continued interest for NZ. Japan has also seen significant growth in 2018 and is expected to be one of the top destinations for 2019. Turkey is where significant opportunities lie. Although the following two destinations are not charted due to lower volumes of buzz, both are seeing significant growth: the Maldives (+49%) and Antarctica (+107%).

We now know what will be the most prominent destinations, but what about the hidden gems and new emerging destinations? The following locations are yet to hit the mainstream, meaning we need to apply a slightly different approach – instead, I’ve looked at the bottom of the funnel from Artistry up until Talent, using trend forecasting software that helps to aggregate global experts in the field and content creators. From this analysis, I suggest the following be added to your bucket list:

Using the same approach as the emerging destinations analysis, I have identified 8 key travel trends for both tourists and brands to consider moving into 2019:

  1. Booking with Blockchain
  2. Small-ship expeditions
  3. The homely hotel
  4. Sustainable tourism
  5. Crowd-sourced luxury
  6. Pet-friendly travel
  7. Affinity tourism
  8. Solo travel

1. Booking your travel through Blockchain:

Many in the hospitality industry claim online travel agencies and alternative accommodations (like Airbnb) are driving booking prices up to make up for third-party booking fees. Enter: Blockchain. The goal of Blockchain technology in hospitality and the hotel industry is to remove third-party costs, by encouraging direct provider to consumer interaction. Already we are seeing the development of companies like Pally and Trippki who are creating platforms that cheaply and transparently connect customers directly to providers without the need of the middle agent, thus reducing prices. TravelChain, another travel disruptor, provides a decentralised data sharing platform where users are incentivised with rewards to share their travel preferences with hospitality and hotel companies.

2. Small-ship expeditions:

2019 will see continued growth for smaller ships (think yachts and boutique cruise vessels) taking guests to rarely visited and hard to access locations; the trend taps into the desire of rare and exclusive experiences. This is the new modern-day explorer, where travellers can experience some of the world’s most pristine and untouched locations, whilst still experiencing the luxury and comfort of a boutique cruise line. This type of trip will offer a range of bespoke itineraries for travellers from stunning scenery, wilderness experiences, cultural explorations, food & wine, and adventure expeditions. Locations vary from Antarctica and the Amazon to the Pacific Islands. This trip highly resonates with a millennial audience, a crowd who may not be the typical “cruise goer”.

3. The homely hotel:

In 2019 we will see the line blur between home, home share and hotel. Stay providers are looking to invest in warmth, personality and community to appeal to travellers as the “home away from” concept increases in the demands of the contemporary traveller, particularly in relation to the rise of the extended stay with guests needing longer-term solutions.

Hotel spaces are being (re)designed to resemble a home, aiming to treat guests as temporary residents, or as if they are staying with a thoughtful friend or family member. Whether its smaller details in design elements such as a doorbell, pot plants and candles; or the social and communal spaces that are becoming of greater importance in hotel redesign to encourage communal socialising, relaxing, and co-working. E.g.: Soho House, and a more local example, Paramount House Hotel in Sydney, where sofas and greenery give the feeling of warmth in comparison to a traditional hotel. The complex also offers a range of communal areas and activities.

As we move into 2019, a key area to keep your eye on is co-working brands who will also be increasingly branching into the hotel industry. The Assemblage in New York is one of the first examples as they look to integrate a 79-room hotel into their co-working spaces designed for long stays.

Paramount House Sydney.

 4. Sustainable tourism:

This trend speaks to a few varying elements of sustainability: over-tourism and the impact on environment, but also on protecting cultures, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Whilst over-tourism and protecting cultures is important to note, these are both significant global issues that don’t appear to have a clear or collaborative solution. But for travellers or brands, there are certainly short-term actions to consider in relation to CSR initiatives (and this is my pick for the most impactful trend of 2019).

We will continue to see a significant shift away from the use of straws, and the removal of single-use plastics – a trend that will impact airlines, cruise operations but also hotels and hospitality brands.

Conscious travellers will look to travel brands and providers that are associated with a socially responsible cause for their booking preferences. We will see a continued rise in conservation wilderness tours and travel operators. There is also a key opportunity for new ‘do-good’ hotels (e.g.: Good Hotel London), and for existing hoteliers to shift their efforts to drive positive change for their communities. This could be through initiatives such as training unemployed locals, supporting local businesses by sourcing ingredients, art and labour services.

 5. Crowd-sourced luxury:

The accessibility of flying private is increasing. New apps like JetSmarter and BlackJet (Uber co-founder created) show empty jets for booking seats on private planes for a single flight and often at a fraction of the price. This particularly explores the role of curated travel for small groups and promotes the idea of shared experiences for accessible, luxury travel. An area that is predicted to grow based on occasion-based travel i.e.: wedding, honeymoon, bachelorettes/bachelor parties.

6. Pet-friendly travel:

As pets play an ever-growing role within the modern family, and with pet parents also less inclined to leave their fur babies at home – we see a rising demand for pet-friendly hotels, holidays and travel services where pets can join, and owners feel no guilt for having to leave them at home.

Hotel ‘pet’ amenities and gourmet travel dining are two key areas of interest. Pet-friendly hotels are going above and beyond to impress owners with an expanding selection of amenities. Beds, bowls and treats now come as standard – while pet concierges can cater to an owner (or pets) every whim, from grooming services & pampering (with pooch spa treatments), walking, day-care, dietary requirements, training, pet room service menus and dining options.

We see this trend on the rise specifically in the UK and Europe, where there is an influx of hotels listed as pet-friendly, alongside dedicated areas in transportation options. In terms of our domestic interpretation, overseas travel remains quite difficult due to regulations and carrier policies, although we can expect to see this relax in the coming year. As a result, we are beginning to see an increased demand for pet-friendly staycations (with both hotels and holiday rentals). In Sydney, Pier One Sydney Harbour welcomes four-legged friends to select waterside accommodation, offering a bed, water, and food balls with the option for a mini bar loaded with dog-friendly snacks. The Langham, Sydney, offers pets the same renowned 5-star service as guests including pet-sitting and dog walking services.

7. Affinity tourism:

As we move into 2019, affinity tourism will receive much hype, as curated trips, experiences and destinations aim to serve the needs of travellers’ passion-points.

This trend covers a broad spectrum of interests, from the smaller curated experiences, such as: touring a museum with the curator, or having a Sex and The City Shopping Experience in New York. Or, to richer curated trips and destinations that offer an immersive and often intimate experience, such as a pilgrimage to a cultural provenance, a food & wine experience in Bordeaux or a coffee experience in Colombia.

In 2019, we predict a continued growth of wine tourism – particularly targeting a younger audience (2018 State of Wine Industry Report). Next year, domestically, the Mornington Peninsula will be a key wine region of interest, with our neighbours in Queenstown also hot on the list.

The craft beverage market has made consumers more passionate about provenance and moving into 2019 we can expect to see a rise in interest for Brand Pilgrimages as a continued response to the experience economy. Several high-profile drink brands are extending their HQ to offer a boutique hotel experience, take Hacienda in Jalisco, Mexico, the home of Patrón as an example. The 20-room boutique hotel offers guests a 5-star luxury resort with on-site distillery. For brands planning for 2019, consider exploring these immersive branded experiences.

We begin to see a shift in vintners and bar owners becoming hoteliers, but also fine art enthusiasts, scaling up their operations to provide a one-stop destination and immersive experience for visitors. Jackalope, a vineyard in the Mornington Peninsula, targets Millennial connoisseurs with luxury interior designed accommodation and sculptural installations along with a unique cellar door and fine dining experiences. In Paris, we see an emergence of the nightlife formula ‘bed and beverage’ e.g.: the extension of Bar Luciole in Cognac, France being developed into a five-room hotel.

8. Solo travel:

Although this type of travel is nothing new and has been within the top 5 travel trends since 2015, it is still important to note. As we move into 2019, we see solo travel move towards becoming an evergreen macro trend. What will be particularly of interest next year is the popularity of Solo Tours (my first thought was does this defeat the point of solo travel? But no, it enhances it and makes it easily-accessible for those who may be slightly reserved to the idea); this is where we see travellers go on tour solo for the purpose to meet like-minded people whilst still having the freedom to explore and self-discover. Factors driving the solo tour trends include the support, safety, value for money and flexibility. This trend also involves the rise of smaller group tours, ensuring solo travellers are still having a unique and immersive experience.

We will see the rise and penetration of singles networks and apps (not the dating kind) that aim to facilitate connections between like-minded, lone travellers or locals, hinged on the principles of the sharing economy. These apps appeal to the experience-hungry millennials, looking to discover unique experiences, but also lone business travellers looking to connect with other professionals for sharing, collaboration, workshops and experimental holidays. For example, the Feastly app, connects travellers and locals to enjoy food together and Solotraveller instantly connects travellers with other likeminded travellers.

By approaching trend analysis from a data perspective, you provide a quantifiable backing to what has typically been viewed as a subjective, opinion-based practice. I hope you have found this useful for both your own travel dreaming, but also implications for your clients and brands!

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