Travel trends for content marketing in 2018

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From authentic experiences to affordable luxury stays, these are the trends shaping the travel industry in 2018.

Kyrsia Bonkowski

Over the years, Hardie Grant Media has produced a range of content, in print and online, for many travel and tourism brands. In fact, we’re a bit of a specialist in this area, so our editors always keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in the travel industry, to understand where wanderlust will take our clients and their customers next.

One way for editors to really deepen connections and learn about emerging trends is by attending major travel industry events. Earliest this year, we were on the ground at the International Media Marketplace in Sydney, while in Adelaide, we mingled with more than 2000 delegates at the Australian Tourism Exchange to learn about the best in domestic travel.

Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve learnt:

The search for authenticity

The term ‘authentic’ is often bandied about in the travel industry. At its core, it refers to the rejection of one-size-fits all experiences.

One of the biggest disruptors in the travel industry that has contributed to this trend is the sharing economy, which often offers one-off experiences at the click of a button. You can book a penthouse apartment and neighbourhood tour with Airbnb, break bread with locals through Eatwith and find a loving dog sitter with Mad Paws.

Traditional tourism services and organisations are adjusting to accommodate this yearning for individualism. Add-on activities such as street tours and cooking classes, often led by local guides, are becoming par for the course from major hotel groups, and small-group tours are supplanting group package trips.

An example is Tourism Australia, which has partnered with industry to create the Signature Experiences of Australia – this encompasses a few hundred bookable niche experiences. Regional hubs, especially food bowls, wine regions and areas abutting rich marine habitats, are benefitting from this interest, with investment flowing in from state and federal government.

Soft adventure

For the past few years, wellness was the watchword in adventure travel. We downward dogged and chugged kale smoothies in isolated retreats, seeking healing on our holidays. Now, the pace is stepping up as soft adventure comes to the fore.

Soft adventure operators lower the barriers of entry for ‘active’ holidays, such as mountain biking. By providing costly equipment and employing guides with the requisite knowledge and training these operators offer accessible adventure, often with a side of luxury. Even the most pampered individuals can now embark on a multi-day hike or mountain biking excursion, with the promise of a glass of fine wine or comfy bed at the end of the day.

Luxe for less

We’re travelling more than ever before, but we don't necessarily have more money in our pockets. Cheaper airfares and changing consumer demands are driving a push for high-end experiences on the cheap.

Glamping is still big and plush bell tents and luxury safari-style camps continue to sprout like mushrooms across Australia and the globe. Now there’s ‘flashpacking’ or ‘glampacking’ – backpacker meets glam – for those who want to save on costs without sacrificing in experience. This is less about high-end luxe and more boutique – think trendy bistros rather than white-linen restaurants – or well-designed hostels with rooftop bars instead of chain hotel brands.

The millennial market is a big driver of this segment, with economic insecurity leading many in this trend-setting demographic to spend the money they may have otherwise put towards long-term savings on travel. On Australian shores, this is translating into a lucrative niche – Tourism Australia has revealed that while the youth market represents only 25 per cent of visitor numbers, it contributes 46 per cent of all spend.

Travel for one

You’ve seen them on social – individuals backpacking through the Middle East, scaling peaks in New Zealand and wandering European backstreets. People are hitting the road solo in record numbers.

In its annual Travel Trends report, which mined more than four billion travel ideas posted to the site, Pinterest noted a 593 per cent increase in posts about solo adventures, and both Airbnb and tour companies such as G Adventures have spoken about the growing numbers of their customers going it alone.

This has also resulted in a rise of solo women travellers. Marketers have long recognised women as the dominant drivers of purchase and travel decisions but now empowered by modern connectivity, and inspired by the adventures of high-profile female influencers, many women are leaving partners/kids/friends behind and choosing to make the travel decisions for themselves. Major tour companies such as REI Adventures, Intrepid and World Expeditions – and a myriad of boutique ones – have responded with women-only offerings.

Solo parents are also hitting the road in record numbers, with many tour companies, cruise operators and hotels dropping the single supplement. Intrepid has recognised this largely untapped market and started offering solo parent trips.

Sustainable travel

As more people travel both near and far, we’re starting to become more conscious of our footprints. As a result, sustainable and conscious travel is moving into the mainstream.

Not-for-profit body Ecotourism Australia represents 1500 eco-accredited travel products, including accommodation and tours. And Tourism Australia reports that 69 per cent of international visitors last year engaged in at least some form of nature-based activities.

The tide is also turning on exploitative animal experiences, with travel heavyweights including TripAdvisor and Instagram taking a public stance. And ‘voluntourism’ is facing scrutiny, with tour companies such as Intrepid, World Challenge and Flight Centre throwing their support behind Australia’s ReThink Orphanages.

Happy wanderings!

To stay abreast of what’s trending in travel here and abroad, check out these resources:

Krysia Bonkowski, editor of Jetstar (ANZ)