The Multiple Faces of Travel Are Accelerating

What will world travel look like three years from now? How about ten years from now? The field is changing almost faster than we can report it, but this article attempts to catch at least a snapshot of what we see unfolding before our eyes. It’s exciting and exhilarating, and I suspect only touches the surface of what will really occur.

1. First, let me lay your mind to rest. The travel industry isn’t faltering nor is it ripe for a downturn. In fact, leader, John Pittman, believes 2010 will be a year of recovery with many travel agencies expecting to rebound nicely. Dr. Rach of the NYU Tisch Center states that “the global demand for travel and tourism provides unprecedented opportunities going forward.” Travel is a $7 trillion industry and, within the next decade, some expect that figure to possibly double as baby boomers blast off and travelers around the world multiply exponentially.

2. American travel will continue expanding and Europe is expected to be delivering 730 million travelers by 2020. However, tourism will no longer be dominated by Westerners. Travel is beginning to boom in China, India and the Gulf States, and hundreds of millions more citizens from these areas will begin traversing the globe.

3. The internet is playing a key role in over 80% of travel-related research and bookings as more and more turn to the convenience of doing such online. Forty-three percent of all online spending is for travel, making it the largest category for e-commerce, and it’s growing all the time. Also, more people are traveling based upon consumer-led, peer-to-peer input and advice. In other words, people are depending more on fellow-travelers to search out a diversity of new and interesting destinations and experiences. Some call it the democratization or the deep personalization of travel.

4. More people want to authentically experience new locations, unusual adventures—that is, get to know the locals, the idiosyncrasies of a place, the culture and grittiness of real life. This also means that many will not only fly but will make journeys by train, boat, bus, or even bike/motorbike. They will savor the entire experience instead of anxiously rushing to a destination, then rushing back home. Many will be content to explore the nooks and crannies of their own nation, while others will want a more international or “foreign” experience.

5. Some nations not known for being great tourist attractions may turn to casinos or gaming to draw more tourism. However, other nations will draw in tourists simply because of the charm, novelty, pricing, or immensity of what they have to offer. Within 20 years, China is predicted to be the number one tourist destination. Others surprisingly expected to draw large numbers are Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Qatar, Slovenia, Slovakia, and, of course, Brazil.

6. Detailed choices will increase for travelers. Individuals are already able to instantly locate individual inns that cater to specific whims, to buy tickets to perhaps an amusement center or a sporting event across the globe before even leaving on a trip, to find out the closest gym or spa to where they will be staying in India or Japan. They can check the menu of an obscure but delightful restaurant on the other side of the globe. Thus, planning a vacation or business trip is taking on new meaning as the specificity of choices becomes more and more detailed.

7. Twelve million new users sign up on the internet every day—and, believe it or not, most of these live outside the United States. As the earth’s population nears seven billion, approximately 23%-25% are on the internet and only 5% of these users are in the U.S. At only about 15%-16% internet saturation, Asia is poised to sign up hundreds of millions more users in the next few decades. Many of these will be researching and booking travel online.

The Travel Train is just pulling out of the station. Surely you don’t want to get left behind. Begin gearing up for your own odyssey across the globe. Travel is fun, increasingly affordable, and you know you haven’t seen nearly enough of this planet yet.