As the days tick by and we look ahead to 2016, it’s important to also look back at the year that’s just passed and the groundwork already put in motion. This is true both in life and in Travel & Tourism. What have the last twelve months meant in the Travel & Tourism sector, and what movements have emerged?
Climate change issues took the global stage just this month, giving a strong end to the year and a promising look at what 2016 will bring for climate awareness. The global impact of Travel & Tourism means that companies operating in the sector are a necessary part of the solution. Our research indicated that our Members have taken substantive steps towards improved carbon efficiency. Issues and commitments discussed among WTTC Members also reflected discussions at the COP21 meetings in Paris. The aviation industry is continuing pioneering research on biofuels, ever searching for a more effective way to transport the anticipated two billion international travellers in 2035. Our recent piece, Accountability and Responsibility: How the Travel & Tourism Sector is Combating Climate Change, dives deeper into this issue while profiling some of the most innovative Travel & Tourism initiatives driving reductions in CO2 emissions within our sector’s leading companies.
This past year also marked a continued increase in the number of companies advocating for a responsible travel experience according to the Center for Responsible Tourism’s 2015 report. That report notes that several prominent tourism companies have noticed a “sustained interest among consumers in tourism products and services that protect the environment and respect local cultures.” Additionally, our Tourism for Tomorrow campaign seeks to address the challenges posed by further strong Travel & Tourism growth over the coming decade. A number of WTTC Members have continued to design and implement sustainable tourism programs that integrate local people, local experiences, and local economies in order to create positive benefits for all sectors of society.
On the micro level, mobile is a huge ongoing trend that continued with strength throughout 2015. While many travel apps are emerging into the market, new integrative smartphone innovations took centre stage this year. More than anything, ease of the travel experience is the heart of the growing mobile trend in Travel & Tourism. For example, Hilton announced their keyless entry technology in August, which allows guests to use smartphones to unlock their rooms. The new technology goes a step further as the hotel chain continues to expand the capabilities to include easy room selection and remote check-in.
While lightly related to mobile, the rise of Instagram cannot go unstated. Instagram continued to see incredible user growth, with 400 million active users per month. And the applicability in tourism marketing is huge. From destination tourism boards to hotels to tour companies, the simplicity of the platform has proved a powerful marketing tool throughout Travel & Tourism industries. As travellers share their selfies and destination shots, it has opened up yet another avenue for customer interaction, acquisition, and viral growth. These customer shots allow for often organic and natural promotion within friend groups of everything from food to accommodation to the travel experience itself.
At the destination level, Cuba took the spotlight as the U.S. and Cuba restarted diplomatic relations this year. Anecdotal evidence suggests a strong uptick in interest. Tour agencies in the U.S. reported an increase in inquiries as Americans seek out additional information on the eased restrictions. Non-U.S. travellers have enjoyed the charms of this Caribbean spot for decades — it’s the second most-visited Caribbean island. To that end, with the increased international focus (and a hope to beat the American tourists), Sojern’s Global Travel Insights Report indicates that European interest in Cuba travel continued strong throughout the first half of the year.
Though far from comprehensive, this look back into the trends of 2015 shows a taste of what the coming year might hold for Travel & Tourism trends. What will 2016 bring for Travel & Tourism? What destinations will become hotspots and what trends will gain traction in the next twelve months? We’ll be keeping you updated here on the WTTC blog.