The travel industry is constantly changing, whether it's caused by new tech or shifting consumer habits, and this year is no different. While 2020 has been anything but predictable, the industry is starting to get a better idea of how people will travel mid- and post-pandemic, spanning into the next decade. Some of these trends started before COVID hit: people straying away from prescribed tours, millennials changing the nature of business trips. Others are budding trends that seem to be a response to the pandemic. As things start to stabilize and the industry prepares for a rebound, here are 3 trends agencies can expect going into the next decade.
FIT stands for “free independent traveller.” Though there are a number of different words floating around to fill in the acronym, they all mean essentially the same thing: people are using packages and tours less and less frequently and starting to venture out on their own. Because it’s so much easier now to book every aspect of one’s travel, people are trying to create more customized plans. Travellers being independent does not mean they necessarily want to do everything themselves - just that they want flexibility and a unique, customizable itinerary. This creates room for agents to upgrade their services to meet the needs of these travellers - providing customized planning with more room for ancillaries.
This trend also creates room for more innovation in travel tech - as travellers demand more independence, they’ll gravitate toward products that can promise that.
Multi-city Business Trips & Bleisure:
This trend has largely been driven by an up-and-coming millennial workforce that is trying to maximize their time away from home. Instead of multiple business trips throughout the year, people are now stretching out one trip by visiting multiple destinations to have meetings with clients. Some people are even leaning more heavily into bleisure - the concept of combining a business trip with a leisure trip, usually accomplished by adding a few extra days onto your trip.
What this means is that complex itineraries are becoming more common, as people try to knock out several different cities in one go. There is added complexity in bleisure trips in that business trip planning is usually centred around specific company policies, while leisure travel is not; it is feasible that a traveller will need different accommodations on each leg of their trip. As with FITs, flexibility is key.
Returning to Agents:
It's not that agents ever really left, but with increases in technology and the popularization of internet booking, travel agents had started to fall by the wayside. As previously mentioned, the rise of FITs and multi-city destinations means that travel agents are starting to become a beacon of trust in the industry and a great means of creating a fully customized trip.
Since the pandemic hit, everyone's perceptions of travel have changed. In a Travelweek survey, 57% of Canadians said they were more likely to use a travel agent post-pandemic. Not only do travel agents help with customization, they help with peace of mind. It can be overwhelming for people to travel in such an unstable environment, and travel agents will be able to help people adapt. Not only do they help with planning itineraries, they also help to understand the safety requirements in each destination. Agents can also connect travellers with ancillaries that will help them feel more safe and comfortable during their travels. And though the pandemic may be over in the next few years, the shift that it has brought to the travel industry will be long-lasting.
Though we can never be entirely certain about how the travel industry will change, we're seeing some definite patterns in how people are now choosing to travel. As more trends emerge, we'll keep you posted, but for now, make way for the age of the agent!