Around the world in three mega-travel trends

Written by Harriet Evans Webb

Blog |

The travel industry continues to evolve in a post-pandemic world

Our Account Director Harriet has taken a look at three mega-trends we’re seeing around the world, and whether they are being reflected here in the UK: 

Americans double down on domestic tourism

During the Covid-era, leaving the house practically felt like a holiday so has the impact of the pandemic meant we’re more inclined to stay closer to home? Looks like the US, already known for a high level of domestic tourism, is leaning that way for now.

According to 2022 research by Pacaso, 87% of Americans prefer travelling domestically over going abroad and the U.S Family Travel Survey highlighted that most families plan to spend more on domestic travel in the next year, which has been compounded by rising inflation putting pressure on disposable income. In 2026, Statista predicts that annual domestic travel spending for the US is forecast to hit one trillion dollars.

Here in the UK however (and perhaps partially due to easy access to Europe) we’re still packing our suitcases and heading to foreign lands. For now at least, it looks like the Covid-enforced staycation trend isn’t likely to dampen appetite for international travel, with leading OTAs, tour operators and hotel brands showing ambitious 2023 growth strategies. TUI is adding 1,500 hotels across 22 destinations in the next 18 months; Flight Centre is focussed on building its retail footprint in the coming years – just two indicators of the ‘full steam ahead’ approach. The new ultra-low air passenger tax coming in next month does, however, cut the price of domestic flights, so we’ll have to wait and see whether this will have any impact as belts continue to tighten.

Return of Asian travel to boost the global tourism industry 

A major moment in 2023 for the global travel industry is the return of the Asian traveller, after three years of closed borders and restrictions. Chinese travel in particular is a huge money-maker for many destinations, with Globetrender naming China the highest spending nation globally, followed by the US.

Skift, within its 2023 mega trends report, however, has now named India as the ‘new China’, stating that ‘destinations trying to revive their tourism-dependent economies are also looking to reduce their dependence on China (..) India is clearly a frontrunner in this reordering of travel.’ 

Predictions by various other industry leaders from to Walmart support this view. With India sitting low down the list as the sixteenth largest inbound leisure visitor in the latest analysis, it’s yet to be seen as to whether the next generation of Indian travellers will be heading to the UK to spend. With China the second most valuable inbound travel market for the UK according to Visit Britain’s latest review in 2019, domestic travel brands will undoubtedly be hoping India can replicate these numbers to bring two major Asian markets into play when it comes to international visitation.

Flygskam continues to influence

The Scandinavians have always been known as a progressive bunch and that’s no different when it comes to travel. Translating as ‘flight shame’ in Swedish, Flygskam, which has been emerging over the past few years, is a movement that highlights the guilt people feel about air travel and indirectly encourages ‘slower travel’; the anti-fly and flop movement. Swedish plane passengers dropped by 4% in 2019, and since then Sweden’s airline and airport operators have continued to see passenger numbers decline whilst rail operators have seen their numbers boosted. Other European countries are also following suit with France having been given the green light by the European Commission to ban short haul domestic flights at the end of 2022, ending flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than 2.5 hours.

Here in the UK, this attitude is certainly noticeable within the media with the Independent’s travel editor Helen Coffey pledging her fourth year without flying and sustainability editors being appointed by the day. Whilst the noise is clearly out there, it’s seemingly yet to be having a direct amount of impact on most consumer decision making, with the number of people passing through Heathrow back to pre-pandemic levels in February 2023. Sustainability it seems, for now, isn’t proving to be the determining factor for holiday decision making in the UK.

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