What’s ahead for travel in 2010? Longer security lines and jittery fliers, for sure. But five travel experts looked beyond those concerns and deep into their crystal balls.
Kathy Dragon, Founder and Chief Curator at TravelDragon.com
Curators will rule: too much noise, too much information, and too many people talking becomes increasingly overwhelming. In order to make decisions people will rely on people/sites they trust in the travel space (and in all decision making). Blogs, travel bloggers, twitter leaders and niche vertical sites will gain exposure and influence as they turn down the volume. Social Media will be a game changer. Tour providers will invest in developing and implementing social media strategies. Those who embrace, interact, listen and share will see significant changes in customer retention, referral bookings, and resolution/customer satisfaction. Facebook will lead the consumer interaction, twitter will lead the pr, mobile devices will lead content sharing. Get Satisfaction and TripAdvisor will continue to navigate reviews and resolution.
Erik Blachford, CEO of Butterfield & Robinson
The forecast? Travel gets its mojo back in 2010. More people turning off the BlackBerrys and turning up the music. More beaches, more wine, more exercise and fresh air, and less worrying about the world collapsing while you're gone. More sex. More great food in great settings, sunset on the horizon from your balcony on the Amalfi Coast, or from a junk in a Laotian harbor. Less worrying about how a trip's going to sound when you get home, and more expecting what it's going to feel like when you get there. Go see Lance win it again. Order another bottle. Go see the World Cup, and a lion. Go see the Olympics. Cheer until you're breathless, for the curling. Live large, but tread lightly.
Cari Gray, Director and Founder, Gray&Co
There is now an expectation among consumers that sustainable practices be used wherever appropriate, from employment of local staff to proper energy sources/ usage, etc. The affluent are increasingly willing to pay for maximum flexibility and choice before and during trip experiences. Discriminating consumers need help navigating and editing the complicated marketplace that the Internet has opened (now less dominated by larger players). Affluent travelers want to connect with consultants who will listen and interpret their specific desires. They will expect highly personalized trip planning and services that go beyond anticipating needs — trips and experiences that delight, enrich, fulfill, and engage. The savviest consultants will rise to the challenge of providing excellent experiences for good value.
Geoffrey Kent, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Kent
Experiential travel has become much more important in the last year to places like Antarctica, Zambia, Morocco and India. Our guests don't want to simply arrive at a destination and look at things; they want to learn from local experts with an intimate, lifelong knowledge of the area and leave with a new understanding of how life is lived in another part of the world. And they want to be active. That could mean walking and canoeing from a riverside camp on the Zambezi, following the route of Lawrence of Arabia through Jordan, entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, gorilla trekking in Uganda or climbing to the top of the pagoda that overlooks the Old Town of Lijiang in Yunnan. Value is key, but it isn't determined by price — it's how much people feel they have gained from their trip. And an increasing number want to give something back, such as tree planting in the Masai Mara or visiting a school for street children in Delhi.
Mei Zhang, Founder, WildChina.com
International travelers will continue to look for experiential travel that connects them intimately with a country's people, culture and natural environment. They don't want to just passively see sights like the Great Wall; instead, they want to learn as much as possible through authentic, life-changing experiences, such as ethnic minority festivals and village homestays. I think travelers will increasingly wield the power of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to connect with fellow travelers and share their experiences, whether good or bad. This will be the authority voice judging the quality of service providers.