Tourism Research Forecast: Five 2022 Travel Trends

January 06, 2022

While some travel industry trends are fleeting, others catch on and become part of everything we do. With all sorts of quick studies and snazzy headlines coming out as we begin 2022, we want to look past all of that to see what’s really going to be important this year. Here’s our look at 2022 travel trends.

The media so often treats things like diversity and sustainability as trends, with a lot of lip service and greenwashing making real change slow. But as Expedia reported, three out of five millennial travelers will pay more to engage with a sustainable or eco-friendly travel experience. So, we see that it’s not as much a trend as a permanent reality.

Let’s take a look at the long game and underscore some of the 2022 travel trends that have potential to become fixtures. Quite literally, only time will tell. Predictions are only good the moment they are made, and a tiny virus can upend everything in the blink of an eye. Still going into 2022, these themes should be on every DMO’s radar.

Trend #1: Attract the Right Travelers

Destinations are starting to realize that they aren’t going to be something to everyone, and honing in on a certain kind of traveler is more than acceptable. It’s advantageous. It might run counter to what we normally think, but the pandemic helped show that there is a benefit to knowing your strengths and playing to them.

PR efforts should target media outlets beyond just travel media to get your destination in front of the people who will be interested in it. Destinations with strong outdoor experiences don’t need to push so hard for cultural travelers. Urban destinations don’t have to pretend they are great places for outdoor travelers.

Destinations need to spend time engaging audiences that want to be engaged by them, and that means looking beyond travel media.

Trend #2: Upskilling and Worker Shortages

Service industry workers are not seeing the value of returning to their jobs. Destinations began rebuilding their teams and service sector by offering more incentives, training, and ultimately upskilling workers into more leadership positions, but it’s a long road to get there.

One study by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that 68% of all layoffs globally were in travel and tourism. But another study by Gallup and Amazon found that 48% of American workers would switch to a new job if offered training opportunities, so the hospitality industry needs to realize the need to invest in attracting back hospitality workers. Entire countries like Spain are already doing this.

And as technology replaces the need for in-person interactions like check-ins at hotels and ordering in restaurants, we may see these worker shortages persist precisely because, in some instances at least, we just won’t need humans to do the jobs they once did. TBD if we have the same issue in 2023!

Trend #3 Meetings and Events Post-Pandemic

Groups and hybrid meetings will continue to be part of the industry. These changes in how events and conferences take place are vital to embrace because meeting planners are changing where they are looking and how they are looking for destinations to hold their events.

DCI’s own proprietary research, available for download, offers insight into this trend. For example, for the foreseeable future, COVID restrictions and cancellation policies will be some of the biggest factors for planners. But no matter the perception, virtual and hybrid events are going to be key for meeting planners, so destinations need to make sure they are prepared.

Trend #4 Sustainability Beyond Green

Sustainability is not just green, it’s a multitude of factors that affect everything we do. Building off the previous trend and talking about creating a more sustainable labor pool, sustainability has gone beyond just eco-friendly practice.

Thinking more holistically about how tourism efforts are creating a sustainable ecosystem needs to be a part of the conversation. Sustainability means working towards goals that support all members of the community. It means making sure decisions to build a new convention center or map out a new park serve communities and promote accessibility.

This means working with partners that DMOs usually don’t collaborate with in city planning offices or economic development to make sure tourism efforts are integrated with what everyone else is doing.

Trend #5: Rethinking Our Purpose

The final 2022 travel trend  began as we watched the exodus from big cities, as destinations began increasingly targeting remote workers with incentives domestically and visas internationally. Talent attraction is not typically in a DMO’s wheelhouse, but tourism boards are realizing that in case the flow of travelers stops again, they can’t just put on their out of work notification and kick back — as if any of us actually did that!

DMOs have the chance to take a greater stake in placemaking, to elevate a destination’s brand and make it more than just an attractive place to visit. There’s always going to be a chance to leverage a destination’s brand as a place to travel and live, helping to increase the tax base and attract professionals who can contribute positively to your communities.

Tourism boards have to realize they aren’t just branding their destination for “tourists” anymore, and by 2023, we won’t be calling this a trend. We’ll simply call it part of our job!

Looking to build new strategies inspired by 2022 travel trends and stay on top of the trends? DCI has more than 60 years of tourism research experience. Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn about the benefits of destination-specific research.