Ask anyone within the travel industry about how impactful 2016 was and you’ll likely get a spirited answer about the number of trends, technology innovations, and shifts in customer demographics. To be sure, 2016 was a landmark year for the global travel industry in which travel agencies, tour operators, suppliers, and others across the value chain experienced significant changes in the way they operated internally and externally. The continued rise of mobile apps and functionality, further development of integrated travel ERP systems, and evolution of emerging markets made 2016 one of the most influential 12 month spans in recent memory.
But with all this development and maturation, where does the travel industry go in 2017? How do travel agencies, tour operators, and others within the travel landscape build on the progress and successes made during 2016? What are the challenges, opportunities, and trends these major players are likely to encounter during the next months? These are the questions being asked by everyone from CEOs of hotel groups to small, independent travel agencies as the industry prepares for what looks to be another busy year.
With this mind, here are a few of the travel trends likely to develop during 2017 and the significance of these trends on the major industry players.
Advanced search tools will improve
If 2016 was the year travel companies truly embraced mobile apps and other forms of online or ‘on the go’ tools and integrations, 2017 will be the year travel companies deploy in robust fashion advanced search tools for customers and suppliers based on artificial intelligence and automation. While travel companies have previously relied upon desktop - and increasingly mobile - search capabilities to finalize and complete bookings, the development of advanced and intelligent search tools means customers can utilize voice-activated search modules that provide enhanced real-time visibility into the current supply of of products and services. Not only will this make it easier and faster for customers to research and complete bookings, it will make it increasingly easy for customers to complete bookings and travel plans on the go. In addition, voice activation and artificial intelligence has the capacity to streamline communication between customers and travel companies and increase the efficiency of transactions.
Vanishing destinations will take top-billing
It’s something of a recent trend in travel destinations, but the idea of the vanishing destination is set to become a major driver in the products and services today’s travelers desire. The urge to visit certain destinations before they disappear or irrevocably changed either by climate or geopolitical factors will not only push travel agencies and tour operators to expand their offerings into more niche territory, but it will also encourage them to market more directly to the customer base most enticed by these destinations - .i.e. millennials, younger travelers, etc. These destinations will also create interesting opportunities for tour operators to create unique travel packages designed to attract a younger generation of traveler.
Attraction bookings will go digital
Hotel, flight, and other more traditional bookings have been digital for some time now, but 2017 is set to see a sharp increase in attraction bookings also jumping on the digital bandwagon. Everything from restaurant reservations, guided tours, and other activities are increasingly utilizing digital booking platforms to streamline their internal activities and provide the customer with greater power in choosing when and how they complete these bookings. This will also allow restaurants and other activity-based players the ability to leverage spur of the moment offers and promotions customer can only access by completing a booking via a digital platform.
Continued growth in new markets
China. Cuba. Eastern Europe. Southeast Asia. These new and emerging markets are set to see robust growth in tourism during the next 12 months as more and more travelers expand their knowledge-base and interest in these destinations via access to the internet and social media. With airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and others quickly making a play for stake in these countries and their developing tourism markets, the availability of products and services in these countries in on track to spark continued interest from suppliers and travelers alike, particularly in countries like Cuba who have only recently opened their doors to international tourism. To keep up with the rapid growth, travel companies will have to continue to leverage powerful computing and booking systems to avoid confusion and bottlenecks at the supplier and customer service level.