Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman shares his top 10 2020 travel trends

Just as the destinations that we love to visit as travellers change from year to year, decade to decade, so do the travel trends that inspire our trips. Over a decade ago, we introduced local immersive travel experiences to our trips in the form of Be My Guest, and now 10 years plus later, ‘going local’ is not just a mainstream trend, but an essential part of any travel experience. Trends come and go, some we forget about in days, others create a resounding and long lasting impact on what we do within travel industry. As we enter a new decade, these are ten 2020 travel trends that I see evolving the travel landscape this year and beyond.

1. Responsible Travel

I have purposefully not used the the term ‘environmental travel’, which can mean different things to different people, and has become excessively overused. We therefore define this trend as responsible travel; ensuring that travel is a force for good and a positive vehicle for change. This trend has grown in consideration for many travellers, so much so that in a sustainability report released last year by booking.com, “over half (55%) of global travellers now report being more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago”

For us at Trafalgar, and in our parent company TTC, we believe that change can come through improved understanding, learning, and making ourselves accountable.

It’s up to all of us to be conscientious when we travel, and as a travel provider we have a further responsibility to ensure we’re providing opportunities for our guests to make responsible and ethical choices. Through our trips, we are able to support local economies and provide streams of income for individuals and communities through tourism, and we also able to facilitate improved cultural understanding. 

And of course, it’s not just through our travel experiences that we have the opportunity to make a positive impact. Trafalgar teams across the world regularly take part in beach cleans, river clean ups, volunteer days and charitable events.

 
 
 
 
 
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2. Micro Trips

We are all living in an increasingly time deprived world where every spare second is precious. Because of this, nowadays not everyone has the time, money or know-how to plan or take an extended holiday. A common sentiment I regularly hear is that people want to travel, but due to ever growing responsibilities and time constraints they just don’t have the time to dedicate to a long trip. The solution? Micro trips. Championing frequency over duration whilst still being dense in experiences, micro trips (or ‘tiny trips’) are the trending solution for the time poor. Rather than dedicating two weeks to one big trip each year, many travellers are increasingly getting away for one week at a time and are finding they can travel more frequently as a result.

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Under Tourism

We’ve heard alot about overtourism for the last few years, where historically popular destinations are now under threat or being changed irreversibly as a result of mass popularity. So it makes sense that in the wake of this, under tourism is becomingly an increasingly popular travel consideration.

The concept is simple – rather than visit the blockbusters where crowds are inevitable; instead opt to visit an emerging or little know destination. Places like Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria or Slovenia in Europe, Colombia in Latin America, or Sri Lanka in Asia are all beautiful, colourful, culturally rich destinations that have so much to offer visitors who want a deeper, authentic travel experience.

 
 
 
 
 
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4. Meaningful Connections

As much as travel is about seeing new places, it’s also an incredible opportunity to learn and connect with people of different cultures and faiths, and particularly indigenous peoples. I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of cultural appropriation over the last couple of years, and how tourism plays a part in this. At Trafalgar, our mission has always been one of education, thinking about how our trips can help and support indigenous peoples, whilst allowing our guests the opportunity to learn in a respectful, considerate manner. Last year we launched our 7-day Tasmania Footsteps and Trails trip, that includes the Wukalina Hike. This Aboriginal-owned and operated hike takes guests through the sacred homeland of the indigenous Palawa people, offering opportunities for meaningful connection and cultural exchange. 

Similarly, we partnered with Native Americans to create our Southwest Native Trails trip, which offers an immersive journey into Native American heritage, and we also launched our Colombia Rediscovered trip, which includes a rare cultural encounter with members of a local indigenous mountain tribe and is led by Colombia’s leading anthropologist, Dr Giraldo. It’s through experiences like this, our guests are able to learn about history, distinctive cultures and traditions in a way that is mutually beneficial to indigenous peoples.

 
 
 
 
 
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5. Ancestry Travel

A surge in interest in ancestry has led millions of people to send their DNA to labs to find out where they came from. An MIT Technology Review report found that by 2019, over 26 million people had taken a DNA test at home. This new fascination with our ancestry has inspired the rise of a brand new travel trend. Now more than ever we are seeing that people are travelling as a way of connecting with their roots. Our guests are increasingly keen to learn more about their ancestry, and are booking trips to walk in the lands of their forefathers.

 
 
 
 
 
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6. Multigenerational Trips

As our lives become busier, it becomes increasingly difficult to get together and spend quality time with the whole family. To try and counteract this, many travellers are now embracing multigenerational trips, getting away for longer with members of their extended family. Not only do these types of trips help families spend quality time together and create precious memories, they also offer an opportunity to learn.

In lieu of theme park holidays where family members tend to split up to explore different parts of the resort, parents are now keen for children to have a more valuable, educational travel experience. They want their children to meet and spend time with other children from different cultures, taste foods they’ve never heard of, and learn about the world in a tangible, tactile way. Cultural education, compassion and humility are skills that are best learnt out in the world, not in a classroom. 

 
 
 
 
 
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7. The renaissance of train travel

Sometimes trends come full circle, going out of style and then arriving back with a bang. That’s certainly the case for train travel, as more and more travellers opt to take the train over the plane. We’ve seen this trend grow in both Europe and North America, and I doubt it will be long before other regions show similar booking patterns. As well as being better for the environment as trains emit less Co2 than planes, train travel also allows travellers to really see the geography of the destination they are visiting. Slower paced and often outstandingly scenic, there’s a certain romance to travelling overground by train that many travellers are once again beginning to embrace.

 
 
 
 
 
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8. Group Getaways

A 2019 travel trends report from Skift revealed that 84% of travellers would prefer to travel with other people than travel alone. This supports findings from Brigham Young University, which discusses how those who share positive experiences with others feel happier, and claim their lives are more meaningful.

When we travel with others we get to experience the joy of shared experiences, and meet people who share similar passions and interests to ourselves. Group travel is all about being connected; to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. Meeting new people within a travel context helps to spark fascinating conversation, and helps to form friendships that often last decades, and even lifetimes.

 
 
 
 
 
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9. Integration of Technology

As the online and offline worlds continue to blend together, there’s never been a more important time to ensure that technology is enabling travellers to realise their travel dreams. It’s no longer a case of travel companies telling their guests what they want; now travellers are looking for highly personalised, seamless travel experience that speak to their individual needs and interests.

At Trafalgar, with our Parent Company TTC, we’ve developed technology to help us better understand how we can deliver this level of personalisation. My Travel Portal, or MTP is a digital space where our guests are able to let us about their interests and passions. This information is then sent to TOPS, a system created for our Travel Directors, who use the data to help ensure that the service they are providing is unique and bespoke to every guest. For us, technology has allowed us to better understand our customers, ensuring the experiences they get to enjoy on our trips are tailor made to them.

 
 
 
 
 
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10. Insta-Tourism

It’s been 10 years since Instagram first burst onto the social media scene, changing the marketing and digital landscape as we knew it. Today the platform has over 1 billion active monthly users, 500 million active daily users, and an average of 85 million photos shared every day. Alongside YouTube, it is one of the most influential social media platform for travel, with many using it not just as a tool for inspiration, but also location specific research. 

The effect of this is both good and bad. Instagram has provided a platform for travellers to discover remote, off the beaten path and lesser visited destinations, but at the same time it is also a contributing factor to superficial tourism. When destinations become ‘Insta famous’, it’s only a matter of time before more and more visitors descend in search of the perfect shot, fascinated by the desired image, and not the place.

Instagram is a powerful and influential tool that has helped millions explore the world in a new way, however I think for those individuals travelling to a location inspired by social media, it’s important to understand the bigger picture. Instagram is not always a reflection of reality, but rather a filtered version of the real thing. Those inspired through the platform must also ensure they are picking their travel destinations whilst being considerate of other factors – food, culture, lifestyle etc. Instagram is just one photograph, but travel is an all consuming, all immersive experience that lasts far longer than a single shot.

 
 
 
 
 
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This is where I see the travel world going. But most importantly, trends or no trends, agree or disagree, we should never forget the very reason we travel; travel enriches our lives and opens our minds and hearts and makes us fundamentally better people. So, in 2020, ensure you get out and travel.

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