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Tourism Research Round-Up…Three New Studies Highlighting Key Travel Industry Trends

There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel since the onset of the pandemic more than 13 months ago. From a record-breaking confidence index, to the rise of the digital nomad, to the increase in wellness, we’ve highlighted three new travel industry trends and research studies that are impacting the tourism landscape.

1. Spring Vibes, Just in Time

Longwood International released its COVID-19’s Travel Sentiment study – Wave 32, which showcases the increasing optimism around travel in the upcoming spring and summer months. The study reports that 84% of Americans are planning to travel in the next six months, the highest confidence levels observed since the start of the pandemic. Although domestic trips are still more popular, international trips are bouncing back, with 26% of respondents intending to embark on an international experience in the next six months. TSA checkpoint travel data also reveals that more than one million passengers were screened daily over Spring Break in March.

With improved health and safety perceptions, likely attributed to the progress of vaccination distribution and the lifting of travel restrictions, the tourism industry has a hopeful road of recovery ahead.

2. The Rise of the Digital Nomad

The Adventure and Travel Trade Association released a new research study, Work and Wander: Meet Today’s Digital Nomads, to share trends on the global digital nomad. These travelers often work remotely as freelancers or entrepreneurs “out on the road,” spending months at a time at one destination before venturing to the next. They enjoy traveling constantly, meeting people and experiencing new cultures. Digital nomads are usually millennial, Caucasian, and female, who behave like a visitor, spend money on locally owned brands, and share memorable experiences with friends and family on social media. Their top motivators include freedom, flexibility, learning, simplicity, connections and exploring. Their key challenges include unplugging from work, loneliness, financial hardships, staying motivated and collaborating.

Twenty percent of study participants became digital nomads in 2020, taking remote work to another level. It is no longer just a vacation, but an alternative lifestyle for many. In light of the growing popularity of this travel industry trend during the pandemic, destinations have introduced visas to encourage nomads to stay for extended periods of time. One example is the Barbados’s Welcome Stamp, the world’s first remote work visa program.  

 To attract digital nomads to your destination, key messaging should include:

  • Reliable internet
  • Good weather
  • Low cost of living
  • Easy visa requirements (or none)
  • Destination attractions
  • Opportunities to disconnect from work and make connections, such as a device-free zone that encourages social interaction through activities or events
  • Quiet spaces that encourage collaboration with friends, family, and co-workers at home, such as quiet video areas
  • Discounts, monthly payments, or upfront payment options to alleviate financial challenges

While the concept of the digital nomad gained popularity over the last 12 months, the question remains unclear on whether this trend will continue once the worst of the pandemic is over.

3. Health & Wellness Through 2030

The pandemic took a toll on people’s physical and mental wellbeing over the past year. Advisory firm, The Health Tourism Worldwide, in conjunction with the Wellness Tourism Association, released its global Wellness Travel 2030 Post-COVID19: A Pioneering Study, a unique report that looks at wellness travel industry trends from a theoretical and applied perspective by targeting academic experts and tourism suppliers in the industry. The study shows that travelers want to incorporate more “wellness” into their trips through 2030 and the insights confirm that destinations and suppliers should be open to new products but need to incorporate regional and local differences when analyzing trends.

Spiritual practices and treatments based on local, natural resources show the highest growth potential, according to industry respondents that work in the resorts, spas and trade practices. However, academic researchers, who study the industry by aggregating consumer data sources, envision sport & fitness and medical wellness showing the highest growth potential through 2030. Both groups agree that resort spas, lifestyle-oriented resorts, and eco spas forecast the highest growth in terms of facility type.

The popularity of services or facility types varies by market segment. Industry representatives believe that the solo female traveler will remain the predominant market segment in North America. However, academic researchers believe top target segments will be same-sex couples and guests looking for healthy options, in addition to solo female travelers. Natural resource-based therapies tend to attract older generations, while younger generations are interested in a multitude of wellness services that are mainly related to physical activities.

Wellness travel used to be considered a niche offering but with higher interest, there is an opportunity for it to become more mainstream.

Interested in custom research which can help you identify a new target audience or advance your destination’s narrative? Contact [email protected] to discuss your research needs.

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.

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