Travel trends in 2020: where to holiday this year

We like to think we can pick a trend from a fad. Picture: Shutterstock
We like to think we can pick a trend from a fad. Picture: Shutterstock

I love this time of year - it's when just about every so-called tourism expert trots out a list of travel trends. Some are spot on. Some miss the point. Just because a few companies do something oddball doesn't mean it's a "trend".

What makes a travel trend? Perhaps we should agree what it's not.

It's not a phrase dreamt up in a marketing meeting, like "friendmoon" (a holiday with mates) or "microcation" (a short break).

Real trends show where most of us are heading on our holidays - whether it be a place, an experience or a mode of transport.

The Explore team has been monitoring travel for many years. We like to think we can pick a trend from a fad.

We hope our list of megatrends - broad themes influencing our travel plans - will help you decide where you want to go next.

1. Sustainability

Today's travellers want to tread lightly. Travel technology company Amadeus says 2020 will be the year of "conscious travel".

We want to make sure our holiday dollars have a positive impact. Booking.com's Sustainable Travel Report found that almost three-quarters of travellers believe people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations.

Not just millennials - it was baby boomers who most strongly supported the move to eco-friendly. So pack that reusable water bottle and metal straw!

2. Value

Seems obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how many travel companies don't get it, and still charge for extras that make your break more expensive than you planned. Travellers are focussed on getting bang for their buck.

Now there are brands that share this philosophy. It's about premium cruise lines rather than luxury; premium-economy seats instead of business; and not being "nickel and dimed".

Trafalgar, Travelmarvel and Viking are all strong on value. Ironically, there's a strong surge in all-inclusive luxury because we're tired of trying to understand price comparisons and being slugged with a bill at the end of our holiday.

3. Personalised touring

It really is all about you! Technology and good old-fashioned service make this the year of flexi-touring products and personalised escorted touring.

Intrepid Travel's women-only tours are becoming one of its fastest-selling product ranges. And Princess Cruises introduced the OceanMedallion in 2020, a wearable device that connects your profile to staff, so you always get what you want, wherever you are.

4. Authenticity

Authentic experiences in out-of-the-way places: we really do want to find destinations that touch our souls and allow us to meet genuine locals and learn about their lives.

You just can't get that by following the herd to a village or town that gets tens of thousands of tourists every day.

There are still many places where open arms and open doors mean you do learn what life is like for our fellow travellers on the other side of the planet.

5. The rise of slow travel

Slow down, switch off and experience destinations at a deeper level - making genuine connections with local people and cultures. Enjoy getting to the destination as well as being there.

With more time, you reduce the journey footprint and support more locally run businesses. Take the long route!

6. Fast track the train

Flight shaming, the movement targeting frequent flyers, will get traction in 2020.

Trains are among the lowest emitting modes of transport. From great journeys like The Ghan and the Rocky Mountaineer to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, train travel in 2020 will be something to savour.

7. Going solo

The demographics show the inexorable rise of the solo traveller.

"Marriage rates are declining, and the singles population - those never married and those divorced - is rising globally," says Amadeus.

"Travelling solo doesn't necessarily mean travelling alone and hospitality brands must cater to a desire for social interaction and the need for solitude."

Many tour and cruise companies are already stepping up their offerings, reducing the costs and introducing the means for solos to make friends.

8. Gramping or skip-gen travel

The next phase from multi-generational. In the US, 33 per cent of grandparents have taken their grandkids on "skip-generation" trips - defined as grandparent-grandchild trips. More grandparents than ever are travelling with grandchildren, giving parents time to chill out on romantic getaways of their own.

9. Longer flights

Qantas's obsession with long flights means the days of the long stopover and hours spent looking forlornly at the shops in some strange airport may be finally over.

The airline is carrying out groundbreaking research for its Project Sunrise, which aims to introduce nonstop flights from Australia's east coast to London and New York. Travellers will be more likely to book a direct flight than ever before.

New fuel-efficient, long-range planes such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 have allowed airlines to connect to intercontinental markets that would have been unthinkable for nonstop flights a decade ago.

10. Fit and fabulous

In the past travellers have loosened their belts and accepted the hotel buffet was probably going to mean a strict post-holiday diet, but those days are pretty much over.

A 2020 vacationer expects a gym, hiking and other energetic activities. People will continue to expect their travel to support a fitter, healthier lifestyle.