Looking Ahead: Travel Trends in 2012

December 19, 2011

With the New Year approaching the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries has shared an estimated 68% of Americans plan to travel outside of the U.S. Of that group 54% will visit Europe, 52% will visit a North American destination outside the U.S. such as Canada or Mexico and 12% will visit Asia.

The big question for us as travel marketers is how will these travelers plan their vacations and what types of trips will they pursue?

To address this question we have conducted an analysis of U.S. travel trends for 2012 as forecasted by leading media, tour operators and other industry suppliers. Here is a short sampling of the most reoccurring themes:

Top 5 Trends in Vacation Types

  1. Experiences: Consumers in pursuit of  the “E Factor” remains a primary driving force in travel, particularly among Baby Boomers. Experiences topping the list include culinary and culture, with interest noted in nature, adventure, photography and golf.
  2. Mystery Trips: Within the budget travel category, “Mystery Trips” are projected to be one of the fastest growing trends for 2012. There are so few surprises left in life that travel suppliers are finding that consumers are increasingly interested in booking a trip to an “unknown destination” – provided that the destination is guaranteed to offer experiences that match their personal interests and travel budget.  That’s great news for suppliers who are now better able to move excess inventory without having to heavily discount rates.
  3. Ancestry/Heritage Travel: Top luxury suppliers cite “tracing your roots” trips as popular in the luxury segment.
  4. Tourism Dollars Matter: Across market segments, travel to destinations impacted by natural and political disasters, as well as destinations where cultural sites depend on tourism dollars for preservation, is on the rise. Travelers are becoming more educated about where their visitor dollars have the greatest impact.
  5. Cruising and Island Getaways On The Rise: Cruising and island escapes can expect a resurge in popularity while amusement/theme park trips, lake trips and hiking tips are expected to decline in 2012.

Additional Factors Impacting Travel

Lodging: An increase in vacation rentals, B&B’s, inns and all-inclusive resorts is predicted, while hotel  stays and staying with family/friends is anticipated to decline slightly. In 2012, 12% of travelers will select their lodging based on “green” or environmentally conscious credentials.

Meetings & Events: The majority of global suppliers predict an increase in meetings activity in 2012, while meeting and events budgets are expected to remain static.

Mobile: Consumer use of mobile devices in all stages of travel planning is increasing. In 2012, 44% of U.S. travelers will use their smartphone as a resource. Travelers are looking for mobile apps that are user-friendly, focused on accomplishing specific tasks and replete with more information than ever before.

Taxes:  While service fees have become the norm, increased taxes — departure taxes, increased destination taxes in nightly hotel room rates – should be anticipated in 2012.

You can download the fully compiled the sources of these trends here.  As others are released in early 2012, we’ll continue to augment this analysis. We wish you the best in the New Year – may your travel marketing endeavors for 2012 be fruitful!

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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  • Roni says:

    That is very resourceful information and Uganda has been mentioned as the tourist destination of choice for 2012.We have several tourist attractions that have not seen a huge influx of tourist waiting to be visited.We receive less than 500 000 tourist per year yet we have more game parks,animals,primates, birds, mountains etc than any other country in the East African region,
    How best can we position our self to increase on the number of incoming tourists?
    We have packaged our itineraries to fit zero or less carbon foot print, by encouraging bicycle tourism and community based revenue sharing from the park entrance fees. Nyonza Tour Agency is looking forward to any advice that would assist in our marketing program.

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