Travel had always been a luxury of the well-off, well-heeled and urbane crowd. Globally (and generally) speaking, it was usually people from the Western world who went exploring the far corners of the world.
But the rise in the world’s middle-class population has changed the profile of the international traveller. They may not be super-rich but can set aside enough to travel comfortably and even alone, if they’re feeling so inclined.
What do companies in the travel sector need to know about these new tourism trends? Here are some pointers:
Many Eager First-Timers
Today’s traveller is most likely stepping out of her country for the first time, but you can bet she’ll be coming back for more. This newfound appetite for travel is fueled by
- low-cost carriers: Sure, some observers say that tourists who arrive by low-cost flights don’t spend as much. But the sheer number of new tourists is too huge for anyone to ignore.
- aspiration: What Bollywood did by taking viewers to Switzerland, it now does for many countries in the world. But Indian travellers aren’t the only ones who aspire to travel to cinematic locations. Lost in Thailand, a low-budget Chinese comedy, is expected to increase the number of Chinese tourists travelling to that country by 10%. Similarly, Mauritius hopes to get on the radar of the Chinese tourist with Five Minutes to Tomorrow.
- slowing Western economies: There is much to gain by selling unspoiled wilderness, now a rarity in many parts of the world, along with clean and safe urban destinations.
The Well-Connected and Tech-Savvy Tourist
Gone are the days when the travel agent’s advice was gospel. The modern tourist shares the “connected consumer” trait. She has so many online sources from which to do her pre-trip research – research which continues well into the trip itself. The new, connected tourist taps into multiple sites and apps to read up on locales, food, shopping, and activities. User-generated content is taken just as seriously as branded content.
Rise of Hybrid Travel
Multitasking doesn’t just exist in today’s world – it has become the new normal. No surprise, then, that travel is increasingly becoming multi-purpose. More and more these days, you might see business travellers taking some time off to explore the countryside, or students from emerging economy countries making quick trips to nearby cities or countries. There’s also medical tourism to consider.
Shift from Product to Experience
Mass or packaged travel still exists, but individual travellers are the new trend. Travel to them is more about an experience and less about a product. Which also means that they crave customization more than ever before – in many cases, they’ll customize their trip themselves. By incorporating customization options into their existing services, travel companies can stay relevant to the modern traveller.
Tomorrow in our travel series: The Chinese middle-class tourist. Watch this space to learn why the growing number of Chinese tourists is not to be ignored.