Manon Paga, Senior Brand Strategist at FutureBrand Paris, shares her ideas on how the rise of telecommuting, the emergence of Web3, and a heightened focus on making the world a better place will shape the future of tourism.
Natural disasters, travel bans, endangered places: these health and climate crises have profoundly impacted the tourism sector, which used to contribute 10% of the world's GDP and 9% of jobs in the world. The market lost roughly 62 million jobs in 2020, and while this scenario improved in 2021, the sector still reported around 44 million fewer jobs worldwide compared to 2019. Is a more sedentary life, therefore, becoming the new normal? The answer is probably, but that doesn’t have to be the death knell for the travel industry. It could be its most significant opportunity yet.
New travel formats like eco-tourism, solo travel, e-tourism, micro-adventures, and life-long travel are emerging to meet increasingly fragmented and personalised needs. Players in the industry continue to push the boundaries by exploring new relationships with time, space, and purpose. Our collective notion of travel is evolving, giving brands a powerful opportunity to help shape its unique value and symbolism in society.
New relationships with time: from one hour of escape per day to “forever travel”
The situation is more nuanced and less binary than before the pandemic and in the aftermath. But the last two years have revolutionised our ways of working and, in doing so, shake up our relationship with time. Tele-commuting has allowed many people to invest in second homes, to insert exercise sessions in their workdays, and to reorganise —- physically and psychologically — the distribution of time worked and not worked.
The slash generation is increasingly embracing “bleisure,” a contraction of business and pleasure. The practice was already widespread before the pandemic and has increased since. Not only are younger people utilising business trips to be a tourist, but employees are increasingly providing opportunities to work from anywhere in the world for some of the year as part of their benefits package.
Large hotel chains such as the Hilton group have observed an apparent increase in bleisure among their clientele, and the sector is responding accordingly. Some now provide family activities in hotels with a historically professional clientele, while family-orientated vacation clubs are installing meeting rooms and video-conferencing facilities. The "all-inclusive" concept now takes on a whole new meaning.
At the same time, long-term travel is increasingly a way of life for some, and that’s what Wander is betting on, with its network of smart homes scattered worldwide. Wander members can embrace their inner nomad by combining travel and work year-round for the same price as rent, making wanderlust more accessible and seamless.
By creating more flexible and hybrid travel opportunities, the “stretching” of time opens the possibility for brands — in tourism and beyond — to integrate themselves more frequently and seamlessly into people's daily lives. But by blurring the boundaries between work and leisure, individuals may risk losing the joy of their escapes or fall into the trap of the permanent in-between.
The future challenge for brands is creating extraordinary moments in increasingly fragmented lifestyles while clearly defining the boundaries between work and play.
New spaces: from endangered places to new travel territories
During the pandemic, governments banned long-haul flights and restricted worldwide travel. And it looks unlikely we’ll return to the same levels as before soon. So what if more complicated, distant travel becomes the luxury of tomorrow? To challenge the downturn in mass tourism, brands have created increasingly extravagant options to tempt the world’s elite. From Antarctic honeymoons via Atlas Ocean Voyage to space station staycations through RocketBreaks (not to mention “dark tourism,” which offers trips to the most dangerous places in the world), a range of options for those with deep pockets has opened.
But in a more responsible society, aware of long-haul travel’s contribution to the climate crisis, how will brands be able to justify their impact on environmentally and socially fragile territories?
The sustainable solution lies in virtual travel via the metaverse. According to Gartner, by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse. In addition to the virtual trips already available in the gaming world, NFTs now provide exclusive options for travel enthusiasts in the real world. For example, the Lucky Ape Travel Club NFT collection offers members privileged access to specialised travel experiences in the real world and the metaverse.
We are only beginning to scratch the surface of brand opportunities linked to the advent of a virtual space, but what’s clear is that tomorrow’s world is closer than you’d imagine. Whether it's immersive tools to prepare your trip, a 100% metaverse trip from your living room to reduce your carbon footprint, or the ability to discover places lost to time, technological advances mean that our imagination only limits the options.
New reasons to travel: from discovery to introspection
Beyond travelling to a specific destination because of the usual tourism tropes, travellers are increasingly booking trips seeking introspection and a sense of well-being or pursuing a particular passion. Some destinations have historical links to sports (golf, sailing, skiing etc.), but today, the offer is becoming more refined and sophisticated. For example, The Courts provides visitors access to four tennis courts in a luxury clubhouse in the middle of the California desert.
Thierry Teissier, one of the pioneers of exceptional travel, developed the concept of ephemeral travel. His latest creation is the 700'000 Heures hotel, a name that corresponds to the average number of hours of our life on Earth. 700’000 Heures, the world’s first itinerant hotel, changes location every six months to preserve the local landscape while creating a legacy for local people during each residency. This concept is timely because Booking.com’s recent research into sustainable travel indicated that one in four people would be willing to pay more for travel activities to ensure they give back to local communities.
To that end, trips that aim to repair the damage caused to the world by global warming are gaining popularity. In March 2022, The Explorer's Passage enabled experts, journalists, and academics to work together to advance the debate on global warming during an Antarctic cruise accompanied by polar explorers. Combining activism with pleasure has become an attractive way for engaged citizens to balance the negative impact of travel (financial and environmental) with a more altruistic outcome from a trip.
The pandemic may have grounded the world, but it has also been a catalyst for change as the tourism industry considers the future of travel. The new experiences proposed by travel brands reflect profound societal changes that encompass our relationship with the environment, time, and the value of work and play. How we travel is not just about how we spend our leisure time but increasingly reflects the values of an entire society. It is now up to brands everywhere to take up the challenge of a new era and influence the direction of travel.
This article originally appeared in Crush Magazine