How do you choose where to take your holidays? Are you working your way through a bucket list, or do you seek inspiration from friends and the media? And which do you prefer: luxury hotel or self-catering, seeing the sights or sampling the local cuisine? These were some of the questions being addressed at last week’s World Travel Market in London (one of the world’s biggest travel trade events). I’ve summarised five travel trends for 2018 below.

What are the Popular Destinations and Why?

There are lots of lists of trending destinations, like Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018. But how far do these lists reflect people’s actual travel choices? A recent WTM Industry Report asked 1,000 holidaymakers about their favourite destinations and their attitudes to travel.

This report focused on UK travellers but many of the conclusions are more widely applicable. It found that the most popular destinations were Italy (60% of respondents wanted to go there), followed by Greece (48%). The reasons cited were a wide range of attractions and the safety and stability of these areas. Conversely, 25% of holidaymakers said they were now less likely to visit the US. The survey found that personal safety was a major concern for holidaymakers.

WTM report 2017
The WTM report identified some key travel trends for 2018

Another trend is the influence of cinema and television. 10% of respondents said they would book a trip based on what they had seen on a destination show, or in a TV or cinema drama. Game of Thrones locations are particularly popular, as is anywhere associated with Downton Abbey.

Overtourism is an Increasing Problem

I have written about overtourism before. It is an inescapable fact that some destinations are very popular with tourists, to the extent that they have become unpleasantly crowded. This results in damage to the infrastructure, local residents being priced out of the property market, and an unsatisfactory experience for tourists. This year we have seen protests against tourists in Venice and Barcelona, and the tourist boards themselves are looking for ways to deal with the issue.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Italy is popular, but can get very crowded, as on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Part of the problem is that there is a limited number of places on the “tourist radar”. Of course Venice is fabulous, but Italy is full of wonderful places that are hardly known to tourists. And visitors to the Czech Republic tend to stay in Prague, despite the fact that there are three World Heritage Sites within a day’s reach of the capital. The challenge for the tourism authorities is to raise awareness of some of these alternative locations.

The Rise of the Sharing Economy

One way of countering overtourism is by encouraging a more immersive experience. This means not just going to the major tourist sites, but spending more time getting to know a place. This might include exploring the local cuisine, going to festivals and meeting local people.

There are signs that this is starting to happen. Staying in private homes through sites such as AirBNB is still a minority experience, but it is popular with those who have tried it. And increasingly, there are other ways for tourists to interact with locals. BonAppetour allows people to enjoy a meal with a family in their own home. And now AirBNB has launched a range of “experiences” led by local people, like “See the best of LA on bike” or “Learn all the basics of tapestry weaving”.

Eat with locals on BonAppetour

A Shift Towards Responsible Tourism

There is also a shift towards responsible tourism. Industry executives say that concern for the environment is essential to their business, with a significant proportion of holidaymakers taking sustainability into account when making travel decisions. Carbon reduction is also considered important, although this is less acted upon.

Another aspect of responsible tourism is animal exploitation. 80% of tourists now say they are not interested in attractions with performing animals. There has been a corresponding decline in sites such as dolphin parks, and tour operators are now less likely to offer elephant rides or similar activities.

Wine, Food and Craft Gin…

And finally… World Travel Market has always been a showcase for the best in local and regional cuisine. But this year I couldn’t help noticing an increase in stands promoting wine tourism. There were local beers, too, and even craft gins and vodkas. It all seems to be part of a deeper and more immersive travel experience.

What do you think? Do these trends affect the way you plan to travel in 2018? Are there any major trends that I have missed? Let me know in the comments below.

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