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What’s Trending in Travel?

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© Getty Images Australia continues to be trendy for clients looking for unusual experiences.

By Joe Pike, TravelPulse

In an effort to keep both advisors and clients up to speed on the latest travel patterns and popular tourism products, TravelPulse highlights some of the hottest travel trends worth paying attention to.

Here's what we found.

Trending Destinations

Rachel Sullard, an advisor with Sunflower Travel in Wichita, KS, told TravelPulse the two hottest Caribbean destinations for her are obvious ones, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The Bahamas, specifically Great Exuma, is also picking up steam due to the popularity of the destination’s commercials featuring swimming pigs.

As far as Europe goes, Sullard said Italy, Ireland, Scotland and England are all currently popuar vacation options. On a broader scale, Sullard told TravelPulse the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia are all selling well.

Ryan Doncsecz, an advisor with VIP Vacations, Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also points to Australia and New Zealand as being hot destinations, while also noting that Bali, Africa and Dubai are also gaining traction amongst travel savvy Millennials.

“I think the Millennial traveler is evolving in taste from sun and fun to unique and exotic,” said Doncsecz. “I do think that people will always want to get away to an all-inclusive, but as time goes on, and the longer I am in the industry, the more I find that people don't want to do what their neighbor Stan just did. They want to brag about something different.”

Daniela Harrison, a travel specialist with Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Arizona, told Travelpulse that expedition and experiential travel remain hot. In fact, she said clients are requesting more off-the-beaten-path activities on the itinerary.

“We see a growing interest in expedition-style cruising and harder-to-reach destinations,” she said. “Next summer, we have multiple travelers headed to Mongolia for the Nadaam festival, and to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We see an increase in travel to South America, Russia, Japan and the South Pacific.”

Harrison also said a growing trend is including two destinations in one itinerary.

“I’ve been selling more trips that combine destinations, like the Galapagos with Machu Picchu and the Amazon to create a month-long trip rather than two to three shorter trips or combining an ocean cruise with a land tour and a river cruise,” said Harrison.

Buzzed-About Hotels and Resorts

It’s a good time to be an all-inclusive resort, according to most of the agents we spoke to. From resorts offering unique inclusions, such as spa and golf, to fresh resorts catering to young parents, all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean continue to trend upward.

“With the idea of the ever-present internet, clients are finding newer hotels that they want to travel to," said Doncsecz. "[UNICO 20°N 87°W - Riviera Maya] has been a hit, and I already have requests lined up for the new Dreams [Resorts & Spa] that will be coming to Puerto Rico.

“The Hyatt Ziva and Zilara properties are opening new hotels in different destinations. With the massive success of Cancun/Rose Hall, we already have guests lining up for info on the others.”

Mitch Toren, owner of TripGuy.com, which is based in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, also said there’s been buzz surrounding some openings in 2019, including a Secrets Resorts & Spa property in St. Martin; Nobu Cabo, Royalton Riviera Cancun and a Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts in the Riviera Maya.

Of the trending product that was launched this year, Toren points to Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica, Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, Haven Riviera Cancun, Excellence Oyster Bay and Melody Maker Cancun.

“New product means new ways that we can impress our clients with our product knowledge and differentiate ourselves from [online travel agency] transactions,” said Toren. “Agents have to be aware of, and knowledgeable about, the new product to sell it to the right customer.”

What’s Hot in Celebration Travel

Well, there isn’t anything explosive to report on this front as the celebration travel market is currently being dominated by the usual suspects - weddings and honeymoons.

But what are clients specifically looking for when it comes to these niche markets?

“All-inclusive and relaxation still lead the way in the type of honeymoon vacation [that people are booking],” said Sullard, “but I look forward to the few who choose to be more active and adventurous in their honeymoon with a trip to Italy or France versus the all-inclusive lifestyle.

“After that, I’d say generational travel – grandparents wanting to bring the kids and grand kiddos and have one big family hurrah,” added Sullard. “We’ll get a lot of cruises for this type of travel.”

Sullard also noted that Alaska is a popular destination for this type of family travel.

“The trend this year is that there really isn’t anything new,” said Toren. “The drivers of our business continue to be growth in destination weddings, celebration birthday trips, and our core customers wanting to experience the nicest and newest resorts that open each year.”

Current Booking Patterns

Heather Christopher, owner of Heather Christopher Travel Consulting, LLC in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, told TravelPulse she’s been seeing a lot of last-minute bookings, less than 60 days from the vacation day to be exact, on mega trips. In fact, she said she recently booked a four-week Australian honeymoon that was confirmed just three weeks prior to departure.

But although Christopher was able to pull off a miracle, Harrison said last-minute bookings are a lot more challenging for cruises as most vacationers do not realize how far out these type of trips need to be reserved.

“Some cruise lines just released their spring 2021 itineraries and I have to say the hardest part of my job is explaining the need to book far out,” said Harrison. “I just had a client inquire about a sailing in the fall of 2020 and I had to tell them it is sold out. Consumers are not prepared for this and when I stress the factor to inexperienced travelers, they almost don't believe me.

“It takes some getting used to for the consumers and we need to do a thorough job at teaching them the benefits of booking early; such as early booking discounts, first pick at cabin location, added amenities, price protection, etc. We generally recommend to book between 12-18 month out for cruises, and between 10-12 months out for land-based vacations.”

What Travelers are Asking About

While most of the questions agents told us they are receiving lately have to do with concerns regarding the Zika virus, hurricanes in the Caribbean and speculation of unsafe travel conditions in Mexico, Sullard said she’s also seen a recent spike in Airbnb-related inquiries.

Specifically, she told us one common question she gets is whether or not her agency can book Airbnb.

“The answer being no for different reasons,” said Sullard. “Airbnb’s are not contracted through tour operators. There is no contract between our agency and the Airbnb owner. We have to hope they follow rules of Airbnb and I’ve heard stories of that not working out in the travelers’ favor.”

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