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Trends in Travel and Tourism 2020

We’ll be taking it slow and trusting technology more in 2020, if the trends in travel and tourism are meant to be trusted.

Numerous articles and studies are released every year about the top trends in travel and tourism for the upcoming year. We’ve identified a few common themes emerging. Trends towards making more eco-friendly choices, being more present and “taking it slow”, venturing away from the mainstream and putting our decisions in the hands of technology are at the top of the list.

Here are the top trends in travel and tourism to look out for in 2020.

1. Technology Continues to Dominate

In 2019 we saw significant advancements in smart technology and artificial intelligence, especially the integration of these advancements in our everyday life. The websites we visit, our trusty virtual assistants, smartphones and other smart devices are growing in their capabilities as is our trust in them. In 2020 we will see an even greater increase in people using technology to decide upon key aspects of their travel decision-making.

An independent study conducted by Development Counsellors International found that 54% of respondents are interested in asking a virtual assistant (Siri, Alexa, Google Home etc.) for information about potential destinations to visit. These results were driven largely by Gen Z and millennial respondents, the majority of which (64%) were interested in discussing destinations with virtual assistants. Gen X and Boomers were much less interested (44%).

In a similar light, revealed that 44% of global travelers will use an app that allows them to pre-plan their activities, 46% state they will use an app that makes it fast and easy to explore and book activities in real-time while travelling, and 59% claim they want tech to offer them wildcard/surprise options that would introduce them to something entirely new.

In 2020, expect to see greater reliance on technology for influencing travel decisions and improvements in technology’s ability to offer suggestions on places to visit, things to do and where to stay based on your prior travel history, personal interests and preferences.

An increasing number of travelers are reliant on technology to assist them in travel

2. Eco-tourism: Less a Trend, More an Imperative

Growing climate concerns have made sustainable lifestyles all the rage. From buying metal straws to adopting eco-friendly diets, consumers’ environmentally conscious choices are extending to almost every industry including travel. A study by on global travelers finds that almost three quarters (74%) of travelers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations. Travelers have, and will, continue to opt for more eco-friendly accommodation, transportation and destinations.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old making waves on climate change, has inspired millions of people internationally. Notably, her decision to sail across the Atlantic for two-weeks on an emission-free boat instead of taking a plane to the United Nations Climate Action summit helped draw attention to the extent of carbon emissions from planes. Although the aviation industry has already begun to respond to these concerns through allowing travelers to purchase carbon offsets to reduce their personal carbon footprints, other modes of transportation, such as trains (which we’ll get to later) or boats, are gathering public interest.’s 2020 Predictions study found that 48% of travelers are planning to take longer to get to their destination to reduce their environmental impact. Initial travel options to the destination are difficult to control, but eco-friendly alternatives transportation choices within destinations are easier to market or provide. Germany, for example, showcases its well-connected and eco-friendly public transportation system through a brief YouTube video making it clear that every spot, country side or city, can be easily and sustainably accessed by high-speed train.

Beyond transportation choices, travelers are seen making sustainable choices in their accommodation as well. found that half of respondents agreed that if there was an option to offset the carbon footprint on their vacation accommodation, they would do it.

Like airline companies, hotels have also begun to give guests the option to opt for certain eco-friendly initiatives. For example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts has a program called Make a Green Choice which allows guests to opt out of housekeeping for a reward, either extra points or snack/meal vouchers. Still, 73% intend to stay at least once at an eco-friendly hotel that implements sustainable measures throughout their entire business. This is the fourth consecutive year that research has seen this number increase, indicating a trend towards eco-friendly accommodation choices.

Another way that travelers are seen making sustainable choices is through choosing lesser known destinations to reduce over-tourism, pollution and environmental damage to certain places. found that 54% of global travelers want to play a part in reducing over-tourism; this number is slightly higher (56%) among 18-25 year olds. Similarly, 51% state they would swap their original destination for a lesser known alternative if they knew it’d leave less of an impact.

Despite these eco-friendly aspirations, 37% of global respondents agree that they do not know how to make their travel more sustainable. Meanwhile, 42% request that travel companies offer tips on how to be more sustainable. DCI’s blog explains how to better understand the meaning of sustainability and incorporate it into an everyday destination strategy.

3. Train Travel Chugging Forward

The growing trend towards eco-tourism, along with the general trends towards experiential travel and taking things slow have brought about the recent renaissance of train travel. In 2017, a quarter of global travelers put “going on an epic rail journey” as one of their top travel activities. Now in 2019, 56% said they wouldn’t mind spending longer traveling to their destination if they were taking a unique mode of transport and 62% said they wanted to go on a trip where transportation is part of the experience. The generational differences also suggest growing interest in train travel given Expedia’s finding that earlier generations are more likely to travel by train. The company reported that 13% of Gen Z traveled by rail for their latest trip, compared with 9% of millennials and 8% of boomers. Travelers are increasingly choosing to travel by luxury, historical or scenic trains.

Train/rail travel companies are basking in this sudden glory as CountryLiving detailed. Austria recently launched its Nightjet overnight trains throughout Europe. Likewise, the Swedish government pledged £4.3 million to research new overnight routes into Europe. There is also a £150 million renovation of the Caledonian Sleeper and more suites being added to the Orient Express.

In today’s dynamic and fast-paced world, many travelers want to slow down and bring a different type of relaxation to their vacation. Trains offer a unique and slow way to explore, allowing travelers to sit back and see the sights as they go from the comfort of their quaint and warm cabins. Luxury and historical trains in particular oftentimes have interiors reminiscent of the days when train travel was an elegant affair, coupled with breathtaking views they make for unique travel experiences (and Instagram posts!). It’s no surprise 64% of global travelers are interested in taking a historical train journey.

Most importantly, choosing to travel by train over airplane reduces our carbon footprint and is a big reason why many are expressing interest in rail travel. Unsurprisingly, the Swedes, who take tackling climate change very seriously, even have a word for someone who chooses train travel over air: tagskryt. 2020 is the year of rediscovering train travel and everyone is ready to jump aboard.

Glacier Express Train, feeding trends in travel and tourism towards railway exploration 

4. No Taboo Going Solo

Exploring the world was once a daunting, challenging and expensive feat. It was a quest best set on with friends. Today, we see people set off on adventures entirely by themselves. Making up around 18% of global bookings, solo travel as a global trend has grown tremendously over the last few years and continues to grow even more.

If we jump into the stats, solo travel grew by 7% over the last year. One in 9 holidaymakers in Abta’s latest annual Holiday Habitats survey reported that they took a solo holiday in the last 12 months, double the number compared to six years ago. The trend is also inter-generational According to and a 2017 Princeton Survey Research Associates study, 40% of baby boomers took a solo trip in the last year and 47% were willing to travel alone. This number was higher among millennials with 58% willing to travel alone.

Solo travel will be further driven by Gen Z, the generation that is on track to become the largest generation of consumers by 2025. The solo travel trend is increasingly pronounced among female travelers. Princeton Survey Research Associates revealed that 26% of millennial women had already traveled solo in 2017, while a further 27% said they would consider it. Google’s Keyword Planner tool also reflects this trend as it found that searches for “solo female travel” grew by 52% between 2016 and 2017.

Solo travel is on the rise across all populations and this is especially pronounced among female travelers. Numerous services and companies have popped up in the travel market to cater to these groups and destinations can also play a part in fueling this and other trends in travel and tourism of going solo.

5. Second City Travel

The act of traveling to a lesser known destination became so widespread that the term “second city travel” was coined to describe this very phenomenon. It refers to the practice of skipping out on a major city and visiting a lesser known destination nearby. Among rising trends in travel and tourism, it oftentimes offers a more culturally immersive experience, is friendlier on the wallet and is more sustainable both environmentally and socially.

Travelling to a lesser known destination can positively impact the culture and economy of the smaller town/city while also avoiding issues related to over tourism in larger cities. This aspect of second city travel seems to very much interest global travelers as finds that 54% of them want to play a part in reducing over-tourism. Destinations, especially those that are not major tourist hubs, and travel agents and services can play a crucial role in this as 51% of global travelers stated that they would swap their original destination for a lesser known but similar alternative if they knew it’d leave less of an impact.

Furthermore, 60% were interested in having access to a service that recommends destinations where an increase in tourism would have a positive impact on the local community.

Mpumalanga, South Africa, an example of one of the second city destinations booming in travel. The city sits outside the Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest in the world. 

In 2020 people will choose lesser known destinations like Granada (Spain), Utrecht (Netherlands), Chengdu (China), Da Nang (Vietnam), Mpumalanga (South Africa), Riga (Latvia) or Ljubljana (Slovenia). We expect travelers will ditch #FOMO for unique, sustainable and culturally enriching experiences.

We’ll keep monitoring the industry to see what other trends in travel and tourism pop up in 2020.

Written By

Robyn Domber

Robyn is DCI’s Vice President of Research. In this role, she spearheads all of the firm’s primary and secondary research efforts, including surveys, focus groups, data analysis and result compilation. She joined DCI with 15 years of experience in the site selection and economic development consulting field.

More Articles by Robyn Domber

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