T+L takes a look at trends that are transforming the travel landscape and predicts what the year ahead holds.
Most Important Travel Trends of 2012
More Chinese travelers will be on the road, and you’ll find hotels adjusting to their needs.
In the 1950’s, Americans transformed the travel landscape in Europe when they began vacationing there in large numbers. The next wave of globe-trotters? China’s thriving middle class, and this time the impact will be global. With 100 million Chinese travelers expected to go abroad by 2015, hotels are rushing to tailor services for this burgeoning market. The payoff is huge: Chinese visitors to the U.S. last year spent on average $6,200 per person versus $3,000 by U.K. citizens. “The Chinese traveler is our economic stimulus,” says Robert Bobo, spokesman for the U.S. Travel Association, which is leading a campaign to streamline visa procedures for Chinese visitors. Hilton, Starwood, and Millennium have launched programs worldwide to hire more Mandarin speakers, train staff in Chinese etiquette, and provide culturally specific creature comforts: you tiao (fried crullers) and congee for breakfast, and Chinese TV channels in the rooms.
By the Numbers: 1,200 hotels are being built in China over the next two years—more than any other country worldwide
Which of these scenarios is most likely to happen to you in 2012? A) At the hotel breakfast buffet, you find congee and stir-fried noodles along with the usual bacon and eggs. B) You book a cruise for the first time ever. C) You crowd-source your vacation.
If you guessed all of the above, you’re on to something. With the way the travel industry is trending, chances are that you’ll encounter all these situations in the year ahead. To help you better prepare for future trips, T+L’s editors and correspondents gathered together the most compelling travel trends of the year ahead.
For starters, expect major developments in two areas that have redefined travel recently: airport security and the Internet. The TSA is introducing streamlined screening for selected frequent fliers—which means a lucky few will be able to keep their shoes, belts, and jackets on while going through security checks.
Related: Most Important Travel Trends of 2015
In general, the promise of shorter lines might persuade passengers to choose convenience over cash. “More of our leisure clients who normally fly coach on international flights are flying business to ensure access to quicker check-in, security clearances, and boarding,” says Mary Ann Ramsey, the president of Betty Mclean Travel and a T+L A-list super agent.
The Internet’s influence on travel will cut both ways. Turned off by unreliable reviews on TripAdvisor and its ilk, more people will be mining their social networks for travel tips. It will also be easier than ever to log in as we travel with fewer—but more powerful—gadgets. Yet unplugging, too, is becoming an increasingly attractive option amid the overwhelming glut of information found online.
“We’re finding more and more a feeling of ‘e-morse,’” says Thomas Stanley, the chief operating officer at luxury travel outfitter Cox & Kings. “It can be difficult to sift through content to find authentic suggestions and advice.” That’s good news for Stanley as travelers flock back to old-school travel agencies and other one-stop shops to tailor their vacations.
Find out what else is in store for travelers by reading all our trend predictions for 2012.