By Angela Millan Epstein
February temperatures are making us dream about vacations and the time to plan is now with traveling tendencies indicating that 2013 is a year for explorers. With an each day more mobile and savvy population, tourism trends for this year are expected to bring more local flavor, adventure, and altruism. This is the year of ownership of one’s vacations and connectivity is a determining factor on deciding the destinations visited, the activities, and above all the tourist’s expectations.
Curiosity for experimenting local ways of living and rituals is a clear indication that living, feeling and diving into the soul of the destination is a bigger priority this year. On the other hand, the industry associations are promoting traveling, as an important part of our emotional and physical health.
The personalization of travel offered by the industry is a direct result of the access to information and technology adoption. Design of traveling to one’s particular desires and wants is one of this year’s major trends. The industry has responded with logistics and packages that range from adventures in non-explored places, volunteering with causes close to our heart or values, or find new expeditions.
The final objective is the maximization of the experience, as well as the maximization of the emotional and economical investment. Digital maps, digital wallet, or Passbook are tools that came here to assist us and stay. Sharing the experience is easy with Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
These trends are reflected on the offers from the different segments of the industry. Traditional destinations will continue to be there but 2013’s travelers are expanding their horizons. Latin America is becoming hot, and not only Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires or Macchu Pichu. The Amazons is attractive because it is calling the names of those looking for “new.” Galapagos Islands are alluring for their “showcase of evolution” but also for their exuberance. Patagonia and Central America are contrasts of magic and adventure, and visiting the provinces and rural places will become more common than before.
Equally, a new trend includes visiting sacred indigenous places like the Tayrona National Park in Colombia or Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca. The following are the trends we can expect for this year.
River exploration: River cruises have enjoyed great popularity in Europe and is a trend that is becoming global with a richer offer. Brazil, Myanmar, Mississippi and Botswana lead the new destinations. Travelers who are not pressed by time are making these trips flourish.
Timeshare transportation: Time-share and part time transportation have multiplied. It is now common to rent a car or a bike by the hour instead of for days, they can be picked up in one place of the town and dropped at a different locations. Services like Car2go, ZipCar or Capital Bike Share are becoming a serious option in the big cities.
Private homes instead of hotels: Perhaps one of the most notorious changes in the industry is the replacement of the hotel by private homes or apartments. Companies like homeaway.com, airbnb.com or vrbo.com lead this new segment of the industry, and this trend is taking off with hotel chains following suit. Wyndham created its own product to compete with these innovator companies and other chains are getting ready for it.
Unique experiences: To be relevant, hotels, restaurants and bars are offering unique experiences; from dinners at a mine 80 meters underground in Finland, dinners under the sea in the beautiful region of Eilat in Israel, or horseback rides over the Mongolian plains or American Canyons. Just like these are unique experiences, so are outings to family kitchens in neighborhoods like Brooklyn in New York, or European cities like Barcelona or Florence. Companies like Urban Adventures, G Adventures, Tapas Tours or Home Food can help with the search.
Volunteering trips: Until recently, volunteering required a minimum amount of time but that changed this year; we can reserve a couple of days from our trip to volunteer on community projects at the visited places. Organizations like Habitat, REI, Global Volunteers can help us if we want to donate our time while we travel.
Authenticity over luxury: Luxury operators are offering more economic packages with casual plans and programs that enhance local customs and living styles and that include more freedom to explore without sacrificing comfort. So clearly, local adventure is up for a ride in 2013.
Angela Millan Epstein writes for publications in the Americas and is a former Univision Reporter, ESPN and NBC’s Canal de Noticias News Anchor. She worked in IT for IBM and ScreamingMedia, and consults for the communications, media and telecom industries.
Image © Viking River Cruises