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We wanted to hear from you, the travel experts, on what’s buzzing, so we conducted a Travel Trends survey on in which we asked a range of questions touching on topics from cruises to solo trips. We wanted to know everything from what motivates your clients to travel to what the most popular reason for clients to take a cruise is. Here’s what your peers had to say about trends in the marketplace. Incidentally, the survey had 22 questions, the majority of which were multiple choice. The destination questions were fill in, and in many instances, the multiple choice questions allowed the respondents to check all the categories that applied to them. 

Why Do Your Clients Travel & What Motivates Them
So what motivates your clients to pack those suitcases and hit the open road? According to the Travel Trends respondents, there are many reasons people travel the world, but the top reason—with 85 percent of respondents pointing to it—is to visit a new destination. And as you’ll see when we touch upon trends in destinations, the places your clients are visiting range from Iceland to Cuba. Your clients are also interested in seeking out new cultures and getting some much-needed R&R—with more than 55 percent of respondents checking these categories off. Fifty-three percent of respondents pointed to milestone celebrations as a reason travelers are taking a vacation, and, no surprise, honeymoons came in as a top reason to take a vacation. The growing skip-gen vacations scored high, as well, with 32 percent of respondents saying their clients choose this style of vacation, while girls’ and guys’ getaways got 31 percent of respondents saying their clients are opting for this sort of getaway. When choosing their destinations, travel agent Essie Sidlow mentioned that her clients are “now looking for safer places to go,” and travel agent Auvis Cole pointed to “sports tourism” as a motivator for his clients’ travels. And do many of your clients come in knowing what they want out of a vacation? We asked this very question, and most of the respondents mentioned that their clients come in with an idea after having read it on a travel site or publication, although some respondents did say that clients also take vacations based on what’s trending with friends and family. Travel agent Sandra McLeod said that her clients are coming in requesting their “bucket list items.”

Fastest Growing Travel Segment
Travel niches—from eco to multigenerational—are becoming more robust with hotels, tour operators, and destinations creating programs and packages that speak to specific niches. This year is the “year of wellness” in the Caribbean, for example, and sustainable tourism is all the rage with Millennials and the Gen Z crowd. So we asked the Travel Trends respondents what the fastest growing travel segment for their bookings was, and many pointed to—no surprise—river cruising (it got 53 percent of respondents hitting that button). Cruising is also still trending upwards, and of course, multigenerational family travel is on an uptick with 34 percent of respondents saying that that’s their fastest growing travel segment. And surprisingly, solo travel got more respondents excited than wellness, with 18 percent saying solo travel is on an uptick.

The top client base for our readers is the Baby Boomers generation, with 61 percent of respondents saying that most of their bookings are for this age group.  

Cruise Bookings
Cruising is by far one of the most popular vacations and many times the heart and soul of a travel agency, so we asked several questions on this topic, including why your clients choose to take a cruise. The top reason here, again, was to visit a new destination, with 65 percent of respondents pointing to it. Of course, no surprise that taking a family vacation on a cruise (55 of respondents pointed to this reason) and celebrating a milestone celebration (46 of respondents pointed to it) is also top of mind when your clients come to you wanting to sail away. But why is cruising so popular? Travel agent Rigoberto Acosta said that “it’s all included,” while travel agent Patricia Liebau mentioned that travelers “unpack once, and the destinations come to you.” Jackie Johnson, one of the other travel agents who responded to the survey, also noted that cruising offers “very competitive pricing,” and travel agent Robert Terzick echoes that reason, noting that it’s “good value, and allows them time to relax. You visit multiple destinations without having to fly in-between.”

So where are your clients headed when they take a cruise? The Caribbean is still the top region for cruising, according to those who responded to our survey. Forty-seven percent pointed to this beach-draped area of the world, while 31 percent of respondents said that Europe was the most popular cruise destination for 2018/2019 among their clients. The most off-the-beaten-path destination when it comes to cruising? It ranges from Antarctica to Iceland, Cuba, Vietnam and the Panama Canal.

Of course, river cruising is immensely popular, but why are travelers going on river cruises; what’s motivating them to opt for this style of cruising? Sixty-eight percent of those who responded said that their clients are looking for locally immersive and cultural experiences, while 69 percent of respondents said that their clients are seeking a small ship experience. And more than 50 percent of those who took the survey said that their clients were interested in the food and wine experience they can have on board a river cruise. Other reasons? Travel agent Shari Kavalin said that clients choose river cruising because it’s a “totally inclusive experience: no nickel-and-diming,” while “seeing the interior of Europe,” is a motiving factor said travel agent Mary DeSantis. The “Christmas markets,” too, spur travelers to opt for a river cruise, says travel agent Sheila James. Baby boomers, of course, have been on the river cruise bandwagon for some time, but now there’s talk of Millennials showing interest in this type of travel, so in the survey we asked the respondents which demographic, besides Baby Boomers, is requesting a river cruise, and we listed as options Millennials, Gen X, Immediate Families and Multigenerational family groups. The demographic that respondents pointed to the most was multigenerational, which garnered 32 percent of the responses. Gen X got 26 percent of respondents clicking away, and only 13 percent of respondents pointed to Millennials. Immediate families? They got 21 percent of the vote, and some agents clicked on “other,” pointing overwhelmingly to “older than Baby Boomers.”

Top 3 reasons
for taking a cruise
1.  Visit New Destinations
2. Family Vacations
3. Milestone Celebration

Why is cruising so popular?
Travel agent Rigoberto Acosta says that “it’s all included,” while travel agent Patricia Liebau mentioned that travelers “unpack once, and the destinations come to you.”

On a cruise vacation, clients get “good value and it allows them time to relax. They visit multiple destinations without having to fly in-between.”
– Travel Agent Robert Terzick

Going Solo
Solo travel is gaining momentum, with many travelers opting for this type of vacation when they “want to be on their own, and want a totally relaxing, do-anything-they-desire vacation,” says travel agent Cheryl Dworman. Another reason, the majority of survey respondents said, is for clients to unplug from their life (52 percent pointed to it) and travel agent Shari Kavalin said that many of her clients are taking solo trips because they are “divorced.”

Tour Vacations
According to our respondents, Baby Boomers are the number one demographic requesting tour-style vacations, with multigenerational groups coming in second.
Makes sense when you factor in that a tour vacation is a great option for clients who want to visit museums and cultural attractions. In fact, 52 percent of respondents said that it’s the reason their clients opt for a tour-style vacation. Other noteworthy reasons include the customization that clients receive on tours; the small group options that are available; the VIP access to attractions; and the luxury that is included in many of the tour operator packages. Twenty-two percent noted that their clients opt for tours because of the shopping opportunities and 19 percent noted the tie-ins with festivals and concerts.

Northern lights in Iceland.

Destinations: From Emerging to Most Popular
No need to point this out—Iceland is hugely popular. It nabbed the top place among our survey takers in both the top emerging destination for 2018/19 and the top off-the-beaten-path destination for 2018/19. It also had quite a few respondents pointing to it as the most popular destination, booking-wise, for 2018/19. In fact, one agent noted that “Iceland is super hot and will continue to be for 2018/19.” But what other destinations are moving the emerging destination needle? Croatia, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Portugal. Cuba, too, still ranks high among the respondents, when it comes to a destination that is still in the emerging stage.

Although it feels as if travelers have stepped foot on practically every inch of the world, not all travelers have discovered off-the-beaten-path destinations. Survey respondents were all over the map when it came to choosing a destination that remains under the mass tourism radar, but Croatia, here again, got lots of entries, as did several countries in Latin America, including Belize, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. In Asia, many respondents pointed to Thailand and Vietnam, while in Europe they pointed to the Azores. One travel agent even noted that “many people have not had the opportunity to visit the smaller islands in the West Indies.”

When it comes to the most bookable destinations for 2018/19, no surprise that destinations such as Alaska, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Hawaii, Italy, Jamaica, and Mexico got the most entries. In fact, the Caribbean as a whole was the most popular “destination” for bookings among survey respondents, with many pointing to the DR and Jamaica, as we noted, as well as Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, and Grenada. In Europe, Italy soared to the top, but the region as a whole got lots of entries, and within that, France got quite a bit of love as did Greece and the UK.

A Wellness Escape
Due to the rise in popularity of wellness vacations, there’s now a Wellness Tourism Association so what once was a trend is now a booming tourism industry. We couldn’t survey our readers without touching on this topic, so we asked them what a wellness vacation means to their clients in 2018/19. The top reason their clients are going on a wellness vacation, they said, is for some spa pampering—48 percent of respondents pointed to this. Twenty percent said that their clients envision a wellness vacation as being a mix of sightseeing with outdoor activities, while 20 percent said that their clients’ expectations involved yoga and meditation. Travel agent Linda Reidinger noted that her clients are looking for “healthy eating with a mix of activities.”

On a wellness vacation, clients are looking for “healthy eating with a mix of activities.”
– Travel Agent Linda Reidinger 

Top 3 Reasons for a Wellness Vacation
1.  Pampering at the Spa
2. Mixing Sightseeing with Outdoor Activities
3. Yoga & Meditation

Hotel Trends
In their majority, today’s travelers are seeking out hotels and resorts that embrace the property’s surroundings rather than going for cookie-cutter hotel stays. But we wanted to get a bit more granular than that and asked which hotel trends clients are most requesting, allowing respondents to choose from a range of trends—from wellness hotels and villa rentals to all-inclusives and those hotels that best offer an authentic local experience. Seventy percent of respondents hit the all-inclusive button, indicating that this type of hotel stay is really at the top of clients’ requests. Travelers are also looking for a boutique stay, as well as an authentic experience, with 40 and 41 percent of respondents, respectively, pointing to these two options as hotel preferences among their clients. Also popular? Hotels located in a unique city neighborhood; villa rentals; and inviting public spaces (think rooftop bar).

We knew an all-inclusive stay would rank high among our respondents, so we asked a secondary question specific to this segment, as we wanted to know what those clients seeking an all-inclusive vacation had in mind when doing so. Interestingly enough, the majority of survey respondents said that their clients were seeking an adults-only all-inclusive resort, with 75 percent of survey takers pointing to this reason. That said, 57 percent said that their clients were seeking a family-friendly all-inclusive vacation, with more than 30 percent saying their clients were requesting destination weddings at all-inclusive resorts. Travel agent Nicole Alford mentioned that her clients are seeking “seclusion”—makes sense if an adults-only getaway is a popular reason—and travel agent Frank Quass said his clients are looking for gourmet cuisine when they opt for an all-inclusive stay.

Top 3 Hotel Requests
1.  All-Inclusives
2. Boutique Hotel
3. Access to Authentic Local Experiences

Clients looking for an all-inclusive stay are looking for “seclusion.”
– Travel Agent Nicole Alford