As the dust begins to settle on the travel and tourism industry’s most challenging period, Praytell’s Zoe Watson and GPJ’s Jess Quiney sat down to chat about the major trends influencing travel marketers this year, where the biggest opportunities lay and what we can all learn to keep delivering work that works.
Zoe: We’re about to hit the halfway point of 2023 and the promises that we’d see a ‘huge year’ of travel are proving spot on. International and domestic trends have earned a place on the national daily news agenda and with good reason: demand is far exceeding pre-pandemic levels, and despite the fact that prices are trending up – with international airfares on average 50%+ higher than 2019 through the end of the year (The Guardian) – Aussies are more motivated than ever to travel.
Jess: In 2022, we heard a lot of talk about Revenge Travel (a term that means travelling as a way of making up for lost time during the pandemic). This trend continues to evolve and, this year, despite rising prices and cost of living pressures, the demand for ‘splurge-able’ experiences has increased. Keen to break out of their comfort zones and encounter different cultures, many travellers are being drawn beyond conventional destinations, instead opting for offbeat alternatives. Global travellers want to experience complete ‘culture shock’ in 2023.
Zoe: These trends are largely being driven by millennials, an ambitious and adventurous cohort of travellers who are fast approaching peak purchasing power. Our desire for experiences over things has been well documented over the years (hello, from this millennial 👋), but the shift to remote work has been the cherry on top. A desire for distinctive travel paired with an ability to travel more often, more flexibly and for longer is putting new destinations on the map.
Jess: We’re seeing clients embracing a number of category trends. First, is adapting how to market to a ‘blended traveller’ (think: ‘bleisure’ traveller on steroids). Work-from-anywhere protocols mobilise agile workers and city-straddlers now describe several locations as ‘home’ (Stylus).
Millennial and Gen Z tourists are particularly inspired by the aspirational idea of living and working in places not yet discovered – and therefore not yet instagrammed – by mass tourism. Brands that can bring to life this appetite for culture shock and the desire for their audience to own ‘firsts’ will have an advantage in cutting through.
Zoe: We’re seeing that translate into efforts by destinations, governments and travel brands to attract these longer term, high value travellers with everything from extended working visas to tax breaks and subscription models. Loyalty programs are ripe for re-imagination – we only have to look at some of the Web3 based disruptors in this space for inspiration.
Expect more regional and seasonal dispersion campaigns from destinations, too. It’s crucial for the recovery and resilience of the industry, but battling prices and crowds, travellers are also looking to shoulder and off season travel. The desire for outdoor and nature-based experiences shows no signs of slowing down and many are leaning into the search for the ’undiscovered’ to spotlight new regions, destinations and unexpected seasonality. Think: Canada promoting Spring, or Japan in the summer. It’s a rich time for travel content and a huge opportunity for lesser known locales to stand out, as travellers are eager to experience life ‘like a local’.
Jess: In a similar vein, wellness tourism continues to gain strength as a travel motivator with consumers looking to soothe stress, fortify fitness and pursue preventative health (Stylus). In fact, wellness tourism is predicted to be worth over $1tn globally by 2030 (Grand View).
Also, while thoughtful travel companies have long supported Indigenous communities, the big difference now is that Indigenous people are leading the way in promoting destinations – and that travellers will be increasingly aware of the cultural provenance of their choices. In Australia, great examples include the Kuki Yalanji people being recognised as the rightful owners of Queensland’s Daintree National Park; the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape along the Great Ocean Road joining UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its Aboriginal cultural value, including ancient Gunditjmara eel farms; or new experiences like the Baiyungu-led tours along Western Australia’s Ningaloo coast, including exploring shell middens with evidence of early Aboriginal occupation (cntraveller).
Zoe: Luxury travel is also having a moment and we can expect high end operators to double down on elevated nature-based and cultural offerings, too.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Zoe: The data on blended travellers is undefined, but if there’s one thing we know for sure: it takes a new playbook to earn their attention and loyalty. It starts with re-imagining business and leisure travel and understanding key travel motivators as these collide. Whether you call it bleisure, blended travel, work from anywhere or a workcation, it’s one of the biggest opportunities ahead.
Jess: Another thing we know for sure is that experiences (particularly live experiences) create real connections that elevate emotions and shift mindsets in powerful, positive ways. The return of trade events, incentive trips and immersive experiences is being welcomed by the industry, because there is no better way to promote a destination than giving people the opportunity to experience it for themselves. Seeing is believing, after all.
Zoe: As travellers seek the path less trodden, how and where we look for inspiration and information to plan and book our next trip will continue to shapeshift. We’re constantly exposed to new destinations and experiences – something Tourism Australia has dubbed “always on discovery” – and finding ways to creatively pull future travellers through the funnel will be key to driving bookings.