The UN has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. In essence, the focus is on travel that reduces carbon emissions as much as possible. This focus will be embraced by students, along with uses of new technology for travel and alternative types of accommodations. Here are the trends for student travel that forecasters anticipate.
Use of Artificial Intelligence Tools on the rise
Students will make far more use of AI, as travel sites begin to implement real-time messaging and greater automation. They will embrace using the personal assistance of such as Google’s AI, Siri, and Lola, an online travel app, to explore and book travel. Instead of using traditional box searches, students will use voice-activated technology to research and/or book travel. Expedia, in fact, will soon launch an AI platform for its customer service and personal messaging.
One flight across the Atlantic Ocean is the same as a year’s worth of gas for the individual. Students who are far more aware of eco-friendly everything, will trend toward shorter travel distances. Another “green” trend will be to choose hotels, restaurants, and other activities that not just closer to home but, as well, are eco-friendly. Thus, eco-lodges will be high on many lists.
An additional aspect of green travel is to plan trips that support local, small business tourism. Places like Nepal are already “green” but will benefit from travel dollars being spent on their tourism industry.
Students are acutely aware of the threats to ecosystems and environments. They will have a desire to visit many of these places before they disappear. Thus, trips to the Arctic will probably be on the rise, as the melting polar ice continues to change that environment. As well, the great barrier reef of Australia and the other coral reefs in the South China Sea will be spots for adventurers who want to dive and see these ecosystems before they are gone.
These are great alternatives to cruises, are often closer to home, and are more environmentally friendly. Older generations are looking to complete their bucket lists with such cruises, and younger generations are looking for experiences that take them out of major cities. In the U.S., the rise of cruise lines along the Mississippi River does not show signs of slowing; also in Europe, there are long-standing traditional cruises along the Rhine and Danube Rivers. In southern Africa, travelers can now cruise the Chobe River; wine lovers can cruise the Bordeaux region in France.
Digital Bookings Will be for More than Airline, Hotel and Car Reservations
When Airbnb hit the digital highway, it was a pretty rapid climb to the top. Now is has launched its Trips app, allowing travelers to book restaurant reservations, attractions, and other experiences through its site. While other tourism businesses are smaller and have not transitioned to cyberspace, they will face increasing pressure to do so if they want to stay in business.
Cuba – the Latest Travel Craze
In 1961, after a short and tumultuous period of U.S.–Cuban relationships, the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Communist Cuba and banned American travel to this island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. And so it has remained until the summer of 2015, when President Obama traveled to the island to re-establish at least informal relationships. From this point forward, travel to Cuba has been gradually relaxed. Now, commercial airlines are flying to the island on a daily basis. The lure of Cuba is certainly present with baby boomers who want to see the place before they die; but among students, the lure has proved to be just as strong. They want to see this nation that appears to live in the 1950’s and that is now poised to become one of the tourist hotspots.
The Opportunity to Serve
Students still have a strong desire to be of service. They are willing to travel both within and outside of the U.S. to satisfy that need. Travel to underdeveloped nations will continue in 2017, as students find places to visit and provide education, health care, etc. to those less fortunate.
Airbnb and Uber Continue to Disrupt
Sharing has become a hallmark of young people’s lives today, and the concepts of Airbnb and Uber are attractive to young travelers. They can experience more of the local culture when they stay in actual residences in neighborhoods. And booking Uber rides is just more efficient than trying to hail taxis, even if they share rides with strangers – all the better, actually. There likely will be additional disruptions of this type, as young people turn away from traditional travel venues.
This is certainly a variation of a beach vacation – underwater hotels, lodges and restaurants. They are popping up most everywhere at seaside tourist cities and town. People can book their stays, go deep, have large portals through which to view the ocean life, and sleep.
This is more than just traveling to a spa or hot springs. It is traveling to destination towns and cities where wellness is universally promoted. Aruba and Costa Rica are nor promoting “wellness” vacations because of clean air, water, and wellness activities that are now planned throughout the ear.
In this respect, “local” means staying within one’s own country or only to those other countries with common borders. Again, this is an effort to reduce global warming effects and energy use that comes from flying. Students are finding mountains to climb, hiking, skiing, swimming and diving much closer to home.
Ever since the days of Woodstock, musical festivals have been popular, but the number of them is increasing, and not just in the U.S. Every year, the city of San Pedro, Belize, for example, has a two-week long musical festival and even events where aspiring musicians can perform.
Trying Before Buying
Virtual reality is not just for gaming anymore. Now, before spending their precious (and often scarce) money on vacation destinations, students are discovering that they can try out the vacation through virtual reality and decide if a vacation spot will really be worthwhile.
If there are overriding generalizations to make about student travel trends in 2017, they are as follows:
Preferences for less well-known destinations over large cities
Eco-friendly travel, including transportation and lodging and staying more local
Travel with purposes of serving those who are less fortunate – at home and abroad
Mini-adventures that include physical activity, sometimes extreme
Sharing concepts, such as Airbnb
Use of the technology that has disrupted the travel industry
These trends will probably continue beyond 2017, moreover. Students have different priorities from their earlier counterparts when it comes to travel means and destinations.