2012 has all the makings of an exciting year for the global travel industry, despite the current economic and financial climate. So what exactly are the travel trends forecast for 2012?
The latest travel trends report from Euromonitor International reveals that the prevalence of social media marketing is likely to dominate 2012 with hoteliers and hospitality operators clambering to develop a social media strategy and embrace the trend.
Key travel trends for 2012 include social media, a new rent-a-garden concept and the gamification of travel.
Travel Trend 2012: Global Village: Social Media
In 2011, social media was at the frontline of tourism marketing activity, leveraging offline events to engage online audiences. Social media encompasses loyalty programmes, bookings, concierge and customer service and the aim is to capitalise on its power and friends/followers’ influence to drive bookings and build loyalty. Hotels are rethinking their marketing strategies to reach online audiences in a more personalised and intimate way. Uncertainty, however, remains about how to determine return on investment.
Travel Trend 2012: Gamification
Gamification, or the integration of gaming dynamics in non-gaming environments, started in the US entertainment industry and is now spreading to the travel and tourism industry. By encouraging consumers to join competitions and share their experiences, photos and videos, the trend generate brand awareness and loyalty for travel companies. It works through the offering of points, badges and real-life gifts, with some websites allowing web users to explore the country’s attractions, complete challenges and win trips to the desired country.
Travel Trend 2012: UK: Rent-a-garden
With high household debt of five percent in 2011, the rent-a-garden concept provides extra financial support to cash-strapped homeowners. campinmygarden.com provides the opportunity for homeowners to rent their gardens, which can be used as campsites by travellers seeking to save money. The idea appeals to travellers wishing to experience the local community and go back to traditional and modest forms of accommodation. Rental demand is expected to increase during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Travel Trends Beyond the UK
In Europe, a new kind of luxury tourism is emerging in Europe – more authentic and ethical. Luxury customers now choose providers offering responsible holidays and trips respectful of the environment. Having given something back, consumers can happily enjoy a luxury break guilt-free. European travel retailers are expected to place greater emphasis on helping local areas, offering, encounters with local craftsmen, musicians and communities.
In the Americas, the desire to take the excitement of travel to the next level is fuelling a rise in mystery trips that are premium in price and tend to be for special occasions. The mystery trips range from customers bidding on packages with an unknown destination and hotel name, to being handed a smartphone unveiling the itinerary day by day, according to their preferences and budget as discussed prior to the trip with specialists. Travellers pay only 50 percent of the sales price and suppliers benefit from selling excess capacity without undermining their brand.
In the Middle East there has been volatility and the rebranding of Arab Spring countries has become a primary travel trend. In 2011, political protests erupted across the Middle East amid calls for reforms and regime change, with clashes turning violent in some countries. Tunisia and Egypt have started to reinvent themselves in a new democratic era with a successful transition in place. However, Libya and Syria are far from recovery. The tourism rebranding process is complex due to each country’s unique political, economic and social conditions, with the major challenge being how to send a positive message.
Africa, a region with 489 million mobile phone users, is leading the world in m-commerce, which in turn is boosting demand for travel services. There are 7 million smartphone owners in Africa and 60% of mobile web users use phones to purchase goods. This mobile boom creates a demand for travel operators to develop mobile websites and applications to increase online reservations, raise brand awareness and promote destinations. Airlines will profit from implementing mobile capabilities, allowing passengers to customise their airport and in-flight experience.
The final key international trend is the growing influence of China. Spending by Chinese travellers on travel accommodation domestically and abroad is expected to increase by 20 percent over 2010/2015 to reach US$67 billion, second to the US. Hotel companies are customising their brands in China, partnering with Chinese companies, and creating programmes to cater to the Chinese abroad. They plan to continue to expand in China and use their experience in the Chinese domestic market to feed best practices to properties abroad in key destinations for Chinese travellers.