A month into the new year, we at Untours are tracking trends in travel. Here are some exciting things happening in global travel, evolving trends that are shaping our programs and opening a new world of possibilities to savvy travelers. None of these are new, but they are growing and shifting in ways that we think are particularly interesting to our type of traveler.
Local experiences evolve
The peer economy has embraced the desire travelers have to connect with locals when they travel. More established sites with higher usage like Airbnb have created platforms that let guests use and review local events and guides; they attract enough customers and hosts to offer a broad selection of activities. They are not flawless, but they give guests some assurance of quality control across their broad offerings.
EatWith has risen to the top of the eating and dining experience list, vetting local cooks who host dinner parties and dine with guests; it’s a good thing, too, as most of these are hosted in private (strangers’) homes.
Brokers and bigger sites have moved into the space with endless listings of options. Big tour operators are getting in on the act, leveraging their local contacts and connections along with their deep knowledge of their clientele’s tastes and desires, to create unique experiences for their guests.
This sort of deep understanding of the customer adds value to the process, leaving the bigger tour listing sights at a disadvantage, with so many offerings that while some visitors will be happy to find exactly what they want, most may feel overwhelmed by options.
Whether in excursion-type add-ons or in full fledged programs like our own Wine and Food Untours, tour operators are getting the message and adding deeper experiences to their tour and travel packages, looking to connect guests with local people around a common interest. It’s all done with the knowledge that travelers are growing increasingly sophisticated and want more than sightseeing.
Learning travel goes niche
This growing level of sophistication among repeat European travelers has also lead to the steady growth and popularity of learning on vacation. Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) used to be the only game in town for this, and they remain the best, with a rich menu of options in the US and abroad.
Their offerings have grown increasingly quirky and offbeat, presumably in response to the fact that baby boomers have aged into their demographic (hence the name change). The next wave of retirees have a different world view and are eager for richer learning that breaks down around very specific interests.
Other tour operators are following the trend, going granular and choosing specific themes for lectures and expert-led museum visits and walking tours in the city and beyond. With small groups, bespoke options, and academic expert led tours like Context, guests can add educational components to their trip.
At Untours, we have developed the Uncovered programs in Vienna and London. Our Vienna Uncovered takes guests into the city’s museums and concert halls for performances and specialized talks on the culture, art, and history of the city. London Uncovered focuses on the Special Relationship, exploring the shared history and evolving relations of the US and UK with expert commentary. And Untours has started to offer customized education programs bookable for groups of 10 or more in Prague, Berlin, and other cities.
Wellness travel moves beyond the spa
Is it the stressful world we’re living in, or is it just natural evolution that has made wellness travel a “thing” in 2019?
AmaWaterways has always boasted about the fitness facilities on their riverboats, their healthy dining options, and their availability of bikes for guests to use at ports of call. They also offer longer hikes, group-led bike trips, and a fit walker option for their excursions. Others in the industry are taking note.
In the last year, they have also added a wellness program on a number of their sailings, hosting a wellness director on board who leads guests in stretching, mindfulness, and yoga for all levels of fitness.
Meanwhile, G Adventures, another Untours partner, has launched wellness trips which include hiking, exercise, yoga, and personal time and promote balance of body and mind. They also place guests in comfortable accommodations, include healthy food, and cover multiple destinations, so that guests will stay in more than one place on each trip. They know that guests want inner peace and stimulation in equal measure.
Untours can work with groups of 10 or more who wish to take their fitness class on the road, helping yoga teachers and exercise instructors coordinate housing, logistics, and studio space for their sojourns in Europe, and connect them with local contacts to enrich their offerings with guided walks, healthy cooking, and more.
Multigenerational travel goes global
As airfares to Europe are coming down and prices at Disney rise, more parents and grandparents are looking to Europe as an alternative for that special magical, memorable family vacation. In this space, apartment-based travels are catching on.
Farmhouse rentals in the countryside of Italy and France hold some of the convenience and appeals of a beach house, but with a radically higher level of interest and learning potential. Grandparents are looking to multigenerational trips as important shared experience, introducing their kids and grandkids to places they love and making lasting memories.
We are seeing increased interest at Untours, especially for multi-gen travel that includes grandparents and their families. And Untours’ Kids Stay Free program makes stays in Italy, France, Scotland, Ireland, and Portugal very appealing options.
Also, we continue to see family travel in Switzerland, where guests take advantage of deep discounts to share the Alps with the little people in their life. It has strong appeal for kids with outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and swimming, and kids ride the Swiss rails for free.
Wherever your travels take you in 2019, we wish you safe and happy travels! Please tell us if you are planning any of these on-trend travels, or if there are other trends you are following!