Emerging Travel Trends

TIME Magazine’s Global Adviser recently had a look at some travel trends, and it makes for interesting reading. Here are some of those emerging trends.

Solo Cruising, and the Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest ship, the Norwegian Epic, has 128 cabins for solo cruisers, who can now avoid the dreaded single room supplement. Mind you at 9sqm they are cozy.

Loyalty via Social Media. Because the Web allows you to compare fares and room rates more easily than in the past, especially on meta-search engines like Kayak, airlines and hotels are desperate to retain customer loyalty. The latest way is to offer last-minute discounts via promotional codes, through email newsletters and on Facebook and Twitter.

Private Sales. Price transparency has also made it harder for the travel industry to fill seats and rooms at rock-bottom prices without everybody knowing it, but hotels and to a lesser degree airlines don’t want to cheapen their image or alienate customers who paid full price. Hence private sales, in which a controlled group, like Facebook friends or Twitter followers, gets a deal.

Non-refundable Deals. Hotel chains are offering extra-low rates with a catch – they’re non-refundable and can’t be changed. These offers allow brands to dangle tempting bait online,“rooms starting at $149”, knowing that many travellers will end up choosing more expensive, cancelable reservations. Travellers have also been getting wise to last-minute price cuts, so by locking in your dates, these rates prevent you from cancelling and rebooking at a lower amount.

Airline Fees. Airlines have been “unbundling” fares for years now, making passengers pay a la carte for food, seat selection or even a pillow. And they aren’t done finding new ways to monetize flying. Expect more and more charges.

Phone Boarding. The boarding pass is headed for the recycling bin. As the industry embraces bar codes (instead of the relatively expensive magnetic strips on old-fashioned boarding passes), where those bar codes are stored has ceased to matter. They could be on a pass you printed at home, or just as easily on your web-enabled phone. Continental Airlines now leads in the adoption of smart-phone boarding pass technology, offering it at 56 US airports.

New Taxes. A sluggish economy means governments big and small need to find revenue somewhere, and tourists are considered fair game. The US government, for instance, now charges certain foreign visitors $14 to enter the country and is looking into increasing the “passenger facility charge” added to every flight segment from $4.50 to $7. In 2011, Germany will start asking airlines to pay a tax of $10 to $53 per passenger on flights leaving the country (the exact charge depending on the length of the flight). Ireland still has our own troublesome €10 departure tax. Cologne has recently imposed a tourist tax on hotel guests at a rate of 5% on the gross room rate, while tourists in Rome will have to pay a €2 tax per night in 2 and 3 star hotels, and €3 in 4 and 5 star hotels from January 1st, a practice certain to draw a negative response from potential visitors.

No-Clip Coupons. There’s nothing like a recession to help remove the stigma of coupons, according to TIME. Groupon, a website that gives away daily 50% to 90%-off coupons for purchases like spa treatments and restaurant meals (as long as enough people buy into the deal), now operates in 25 countries. BlackboardEats has finagled 30% (and sometimes deeper) discounts at upscale restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

These are just some of the trends identified by TIME, and doubtless more will emerge in this keenly value concious post recession era.

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October 21st 2010

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