Listen Up Hoteliers: The Top Travel Trends of 2019
Expect consumers to be booking last-minute micro-trips and pop-culture pilgrimages in 2019.
By Ashley Pearson
Like everything else, travel trends are always evolving - and for hoteliers it’s vital to stay ahead of the curve. From the growth of frictionless travel and demand for personalisation, to the rise of micro-travel and trips that offset their environmental impact, we reveal the trends shaping the way travellers will roam the globe in 2019.
2019 will be the year of 'bite-sized travel' - squeezing curated itineraries into shorter time frames. Travellers will take more trips in 2019, thanks to better flight routes, transport and on-demand car rentals, along with a desire to fit more experiences into a fixed holiday allowance. This presents an opportunity for hotels to put a new twist on their destinations and create micro-trips to draw in travellers.
2. Make it Personal
Personalisation will be key in 2019. Today’s travellers are looking for a deeper level of customisation and one-of-a-kind experiences; they need new ways to feel special and hotels must increasingly tailor stays to guests’ preferences. Highly personalised itineraries, amenities and curated experiences are all more in demand. From specific seats on planes to particular hotel rooms, meal preferences and car rentals, travellers are increasingly vocal about their quirks and preferences. It’s no longer just the restaurant reservation, it’s an exact table, as well wine shipped-in to go with the meal. This extends to intimate in-room details pioneered by The Carlyle in New York, which will hand-stitch pillowcases with guests’ initials ahead of their stay.
3. Frictionless Travel
Keyless room-access using smartphones, real-time luggage-tracking apps and concierge robots which can communicate with guests in their mother tongues – these innovations prove technology has the potential to create a new golden age of travel. In 2019, we can expect passwords, check-in queues, keys, currency exchanges and roaming charges to become a thing of the past. Next year we will also see a rise in customised digital tour guides, and travel companies will be using technology to curate and deliver picture-perfect holidays at the click of a button.
4. The Next Big Thing
NASA begins construction on its Lunar Space Station in 2019, but until space travel becomes a reality, many are seeking unchartered territory here on Earth. Experiential travellers are looking for destinations off the beaten track and unusual accommodation options, like sleeping under the sea, in a cave or treehouse, a jungle tent, an igloo or even a bubble nestled in nature so they can gaze at stars before drifting off to sleep.
5. Travel with Purpose
In 2019 there will be a rise in consumers’ desire to connect with their destination. Travellers now want to contribute to charitable initiatives and pick up a skill during their time away. This might include volunteering to build schools or clean up beaches. Today’s traveller almost universally values experience more than material possessions, and in the coming year, we will see them chase increasingly authentic activities.
6. Last-Minute Travel
One key trend among luxury travellers – which is proving tricky for hotels and trip organisers – is the rise of last-minute bookings. More and more travellers are making decisions less than five days before departure. Our digitally connected lives mean travellers no longer feel the need to plan ahead. Brands and hotels would be wise to speak to this trend by offering last minute packages.
7. Plastic Not so Fantastic
The amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is nearly 5 million tonnes according to WRAP, and the environment will remain a concerning topic in 2019. Millennial and Gen-Z travellers in particular will seek out sustainable options and hoteliers will continue to reduce plastic usage and boost their eco-credentials. Travellers are also expressing more interest in animal-related experiences, such as visiting conservation facilities or observing wildlife in its natural habitat.
8. The Instagram Effect
Photos are no longer just for memories – they are to ensure bragging rights across half a dozen social media portals. More and more travellers are seeking captivating backdrops for Insta-worthy content, and hotels are serving that demand with on-site photography sessions and guides to replicating picture-perfect shots admired online. Forward-thinking hoteliers will add in-room menus listing must-snap photo stops, make destination-relevant props available to guests, install better lighting in restaurants for meal shots, and engage with guests on social media.
9. Restorative Water
Travellers have long sought out activities on beaches, lakes and rivers, but in 2019 they’ll be seeing water in a whole new light. From the Dead Sea’s restorative properties, to Thalasso therapies and natural hot springs to promote inner healing, as well as sound baths, wave meditation, and underwater yoga – all of these offerings will be on the rise in the coming year.
In 2019, the trend for multi-generation travel groups will continue to grow. It’s no longer just grandparents, parents and children either, it’s also mother-daughter and father-son pairs. Hotels across the world are meeting that demand by introducing larger suites and villas, while those in urban destinations are adding more connecting rooms to accommodate larger groups. Additionally, savvy hoteliers are creating multi-layered itineraries so that every member of the family gets their own preferred experience.
11. Pop Culture Pilgrimages
The interest in travel generated by books, TV and films will continue to make an impact in 2019. Filming locations will continue to be big business in drawing the interest of next year’s travellers. Game of Thrones has sent an army of fans to Croatia, Iceland, and Spain, while Mamma Mia is driving tourism in Greece. Downton Abbey fans continue to visit Highclere Castle and Crazy Rich Asians has caused a jump in visitors to Singapore. Stay on top of the latest releases because this trend isn’t going away any time soon.
12. Conference Cool
Hotel conference spaces will be getting a makeover to reflect the changing way we do business. From meeting room with yoga mats to gourmet lunches and break-out rooms with massage stations, hotels are waking up to demand from business guests to bring not only the latest technology, but personality and wellness into the boardroom.
13. Authenticity is Everything
Travellers increasingly want experiences that allow them to feel and live like a local. They want to peel back the layers of a destination; to go beyond museums and landmark sights. Now they want to explore local neighbourhoods with a guide, go on a food safari or eat dinner with a local family. Luxury in 2019 means authentic experiences that allow travellers to feel like natives – hoteliers would do well to create these opportunities for their guests.
As a journalist with 20 years’ experience, Ashley can be seen on ITV, Sky News, NBC, Today Show and BBC Breakfast and writes for several national publications including Tatler and Mail on Sunday.