Travel trends 2017: 5 future trends keen travellers should keep an eye on

2016-12-11 13:28 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - South Africa is one hot destination for travellers heading into 2017. That’s the only conclusion to draw following a leading luxury network’s trends report.

Virtuoso Travel Trends is based on analysis from over 390 agencies with more than 11 400 advisers in 41 countries throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East - and it shows that South Africa is not only the top adventure destination for 2017, but also the second top global destination and fourth must-see emerging destination.

We live in a country that has so much going for it and could we ask for a more stellar note to enter the New Year on?

Following are some travel trend highlights we’ve been keeping an eye on - where and how will you be finding your escape in 2017?

1. In search of the lesser-known destinations

As we map and geo-locate every inch of our planet, it should come as no surprise travellers are yearning for more off-the-beaten track experiences.

In 2016 Iceland saw a massive surge in travellers after this sort of experience, however for 2017, the emerging destination of note is undoubtedly Cuba - and Americans aren’t the only ones curious about the island nation. With Iceland now in second place, Croatia and South Africa follow suit.

There cannot be a better time for South Africans to enjoy their own country more or for us to wow the world with our diversity and affordability.

From SA’s exciting urban renewal initiatives, to wildlife and adventure experiences par excellence, not forgetting our up and coming foodie scene ramping up its image to match that of our excellent winelands offerings.  Your travel 2017 must-visit list should be starting closer to home for sure.

SEE: Turkish Airlines launches new flights connecting SA to Havana, Cuba


2. Iceland

3. Croatia

4. South Africa

5. Japan

SEE: WATCH: HFFH couple does SA proud skinny dipping in Iceland

2. Green and sustainable vs endangered and rapidly changing destinations

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has marked 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

In essence, travellers are seeking a deeper appreciation for the world we live in. Now more than ever before tourism is a journey to “greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations “ says the UNWTO, "offering an appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”. And following all the terrorism in 2016 - we could do with more of that.

SEE: New Fair Trade volunteer criteria launched in SA

Travellers are more inclined to want to invest in experiences that not only broaden their own horizons but where it can make a difference to the people, nature and wildlife of the places they visit.

Added to this, Virtuoso analysis shows that while emerging destinations are exciting as is the case with Cuba, it can also reach a point of being a hazard. Concerns include how will Cuba stem the tourism influx and retain its rich cultural heritage.

Endangered destinations are also seeing a surge. The polar regions of Antarctica and the Arctic are facing climate change threats as are Australia’s Great Barrier Reef - yet their fragile shift means more people want to visit before it is too late - highlighting the catch-22 of this particular tourism trend.

SEE: WATCH: RIP Great Barrier Reef

Top Endangered/Changing Destinations:

1. Cuba

2. Antarctica

3. Great Barrier Reef

4. Venice

5. The Arctic

3. Travel security and effects of terrorism

As  mentioned, terrorism and its devastating effects on millions of people across the planet have made their mark on the year of 2016.

We were all shocked to the core by the young face of Syria's war, zika, Brexit, Turkey, Bangladesh, Orlando and more all made an impacted. The price of oil, global warming - and the US election - all have us all looking at the border lines of the world differently.

In South Africa we’ve certainly stepped up our intent to secure our borders and modernise our travel processes - admittedly with some ill-fated consequences. But the trends show that the democratization of global travel cannot be ignored. 

SEE: Home Affairs modernised: Data intelligence with far reaching effects

Rafat Ali, CEO and co-founder of Skift, a global leader in travel industry trends analysis, has pegged the industry of travel as the geopolitical centre of the world.

“Travel and technology together are the most disruptive forces on the planet right now.”

“The democratization of global travel is one of the biggest forces changing everything we know about how we grow up, live, work, and die. It is now the world’s largest sector if you add the sum of all direct, indirect, and induced effects of all of the subsectors in it.” For Ali, he says a "wholesale change in mind set is needed on how travel is structured and marketed, enmeshed and embedded in all the glorious imperfections of the planet".

SEE: The Top 10 safest holiday destinations on the globe

Likewise, Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar and chairperson of The Travel Corporation in South Africa, wrote that during his recent trip to Paris he walked past the bronze sculpture of Charles de Gaulle, where he was struck by the timelessness of words of one of the inscriptions, from the General’s war memoirs  for their (translated from French): 'There is a time-honoured pact between the grandeur of France and the liberty of the world.' 

The world is realising it is time for the grandeur of travel and the liberty of the world to form such an unwavering pact. In essence, apply for the passport and visa and push back on those making you afraid to explore the planet.

4. Shift of how we search and book our travel in a hyper personalised cloud

If you can dream it, there is an app for it.  If you’ve not downloaded Google Trips, chances are you have the new Airbnb experiences on your mobile or tablet or at the very least Uber.

SEE: How I ruined Uber on my first ride...

If you’ve been concerned about all the personal information you have to share with various platforms across the cloud - it is interesting to note that all the artificial intelligence is actually going to result in easier choice, better and more affordable search options for you.

All this is expected to evolve into voice-directed bookings, currently in early stages for the likes of Expedia, with CheapFlights and Lufthansa playing around in the messenger chat booking space for example. While the full development of voice bookings might be a few years out - expect an increase in AI taking on customer service through the likes of Facebook Messenger to pick up routine inquiries and simplistic reservations changes. 

Personalized metasearch results will start moving away from the review and price-centric defaults to be more relevant to your tastes and habits within your particular budget. Such as if you prefer a kitchen or a bath rather than a shower for small children - search results are moving towards being tailored to a person’s individual preferences, according to Skift analysis.

Virtual reality, 360-degree in-destination experiences - essentially you will be able to plan and sample destinations and experiences in an immersive and startlingly way - including Google’s imagery and maps.  

5. More travellers seeking direct air access and easier connectivity

Direct air connectivity is on the up and up in South Africa, as Acsa reports a more than 4% increase in international arrivals - and Cape Town International is set to surpass the 10 million passengers in 2016 milestone. 

The issue of air connectivity across Africa and the world at large is a hot debate - as South Africa will be a participant in the planned early implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, with IATA’s 2035 forecast for African aviation pegged at 5.1% with growth of 192 million passengers in a market of 303 million.

But connectivity and fuel pricing continue to influence trends. At the moment SA is seeing a 10 to 15 percent reduction across domestic and international flight pricing, this is according to online global flight and travel search platform, Cheapflights.

South Africa's major airports have all seen marked route activity enhancements in 2016, with Singapore Airlines recently launching a new Cape Town direct flight to Asia, BA has added a direct route to Gatwick from Cape Town and Turkish Airlines has added a seasonal flight to Durban. Emirates has increased its flight schedule to Cape Town and will also increase capacity from Joburg when it adds an Airbus A380-800 to one of its four daily flights between Dubai and Johannesburg from February 2017. While Lufthansa has added a new direct route to Frankfurt and Ethiopian airlines has also just added more direct flights to the year-old route, taking its frequency to 10 flights per week. 

WATCH: SA enjoying the best deals in air travel right now - Cheapflights

Whether you plan on taking advantage of the competitive connectivity or simply want to road trip to all the adventure on offer in SA - make 2017 your year to travel more!

Highlights from the Virtuoso Travel trends survey:

A total of 772 advisors from Virtuoso travel agencies in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and the Middle East took the survey.  

Top Global Destinations: 

"Italy’s eternal appeal lands it in first place among the world’s top destinations for the coming year. Next, South Africa rises to number two, boosted by its unique array of wildlife. France, a mainstay of the top global destinations list, takes third place. Iceland, a fast-growing luxury destination, lands on the list for the first time. Finally, ever-popular Australia, with its variety of urban and nature experiences, rounds out the top five."

1. Italy

2. South Africa

3. France

4. Iceland

5. Australia

Top Family Travel Destinations:

"Some families seek an adventure with cultural or historic charm, as is evidenced by Italy’s continued reign at number one and fifth-place England. Other families look for a carefree warm-weather escape, with Mexico and Hawaii placing second and third. Orlando, with its world-famous family theme parks, finishes in fourth place."

1. Italy

2. Mexico

3. Hawaii

4. Orlando, FL

5. England

Top Adventure Destinations:

"South Africa is the world’s most popular adventure destination, according to Virtuoso’s expert travel advisors. Travelers crave active experiences tailored to their interests and abilities. And they’re venturing all over the globe to find them. South Africa retains its spot as the top adventure travel destination, followed by the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and New Zealand. Peru and Iceland (new to the top 5 this year) tied for fifth place. And Iceland in particular is seeing remarkable growth as one of the world’s top destinations."

1. South Africa

2. Galapagos Islands

3. Costa Rica

4. New Zealand

5. Peru/Iceland (tie)

Top Honeymoon Destinations: 

"Italy wins its third Luxe Report category as one of the world’s top destinations for its appeal to newlyweds searching for a romantic Old World experience. The other four on the list – all usual favourites – beckon for their sun-and-sand appeal and gorgeous tropical settings."

1. Italy

2. Maui, HI

3. French Polynesia

4. Maldives

5. Mexico

Top Cruise Itineraries

"The allure of a Mediterranean cruise holds steady, topping the itinerary category again. As well, pristine destinations where nature takes centre stage, such as Alaska, performed strongly this year. So it’s no surprise that the state takes the number-two position among cruise itineraries. Next in third: European river cruises, a favourite for their intimate ships and immersion into historic destinations. Finally, two tried-and-true island itineraries, the Caribbean and Greece, round out the top five."

1. Mediterranean

2. Alaska

3. European river

4. Caribbean

5. Greek Isles