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In 2014 it’s all about design, user experience, data, and ease of travel

by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold on 07.01.2014

Skift has become one of the tourism industry’s leading sources of travel trends and intelligence. 2013 was a year of big stories in travel and they started to dive deeper into really understanding what drives travel behaviour.

2014 is a significant year for South Africa. We celebrate 20 years of democracy and Cape Town is the World Design Capital, showcasing to the world just how important design is in transforming a country, a continent and the lives of ordinary people.

I thought we should kick off 2014 with a look at some of the big trends that will impact the world of travel this year, as identified by Skift.

Design, user experience, data, and ease of travel will define travel trends in 2014.

2014 is a significant year for South Africa. We celebrate 20 years of democracy and Cape Town is the World Design Capital.

A customer centric approach to destination and tourism marketing has always been important, but now it is essential if you want to stand out and survive in the cut-throat business of travel and tourism. Taking the time to understand and really connect with your customer will be the most important investment you can make this year.

1. Rise of the Silent Traveller

The rise of digital has given rise to a new kind of traveler who is adept at all available online and mobile tools. These travellers don’t need handholding, they are travel savvy, not easily fooled by over the top marketing and know their way around the web and everywhere they go whilst ignoring traditional sales channels.

2. Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

The boundary between professional and private worlds is increasingly blurred due to mobile devices, with profound effects on the traditionally defined silos between managed and unmanaged travel.

Business travellers -- especially millennials -- are rebelling against their stodgy corporate booking tools and want flexible conference packages and leisure add-on options. “Bleisure Tourism” is here to stay.

3. Curation Is Coming To Travel Listings

Let’s face it, the online travel world is a very cluttered space and customers are overwhelmed by choice.

We can expect a lot more intelligence to come into the listings business. It saves time and angst for users, all with the goal of better conversion for the sellers.

4. Visuals are the New Language of Marketing in Travel

Visuals are the new language of the digital era. Thanks to technology we are all travel bloggers, critics and publishers. We share our experiences instantly and intimately relying primarily on visuals. The rise of Instagram, photo sharing on Facebook and Pinterest speak to this.

Travel is uniquely suited to visual media. Those brands who are able to move beyond merely portraying a place, but also elicit real emotion from a viewer will stand out and reap the benefits.

Images are no longer just about a place, but about sharing intimate moments that evoke a real emotional response. 

5. The Rise of Smart Design In Travel

Travellers expect constant evolution in travel technology and the actual experiences they buy. At the heart of this is the customer’s desire to be at the centre of their own experience using the latest gadget and technology. Being nimble in the face of rapid changing developments in design and technology is essential.

6. Continued Rise of Chinese Independent Traveler

While outbound travel in China is still dominated by group tours, its growth is slowing when compared to the meteoric rise of independent tourism.

A new generation of affluent Chinese consumers has come of age that is more global, educated, and consumption-driven than their parents. Their habits are different, too. Instead of just shopping malls, younger independents are more interested in the lived modern culture of their destinations.

7. Rise of Local in Hospitality

More and more travellers prize authentic and memorable local experiences over luxury.

Establishing your brand as “being in the know” and “connected with the best and most unique local experiences” will build a solid customer base. Building strong relationships with local experts and interesting personalities that can take guests “into the very fibre of a destination” make for really authentic experiences. This differentiates you from the competition and makes you very attractive to the new cultured and curious affluent traveller.

More and more travellers prize authentic and memorable local experiences over luxury.

8. The Relaxation of Visa Regulations

Nations around the world are recognizing visa fees and processes as a major blockade to tourism and economic growth.

It has become a global movement that is making travel easier and cheaper than ever before with traditionally closed countries opening up for the first time. The regulatory changes have a real impact and kickstart a boom in travel between previously unexpected source and destination countries. 

9.  Alternative Transportation on the Ascendant

Millennials are favoring access over ownership, and driving new trends in transportation. Bike and train, local and inter-city travel, is where all the innovation in transportation is happening and for the first time on record, bicycles have outsold cars in Spain.

Rail is where the biggest investments are being made by destinations and South Africa will have to look into improved rail access in the near future.

Domestic and regional tourism is growing in importance and the biggest success will come not in the long-haul, but in city-to-city connections where the extra hour or two on land is a fair tradeoff for the hassles of transit to and from airports.

Bike and train, local and inter-city travel, is where all the innovation in transportation is happening

10. Mobile is no longer a trend. It is everywhere.

The greatest action is around mobile bookings. Social media, smartphones and tablets are now essential travel tools that accompany travellers along their journey.

Despite the rise in digital detox holidays, a recent TripBarometer Mobile & Social Survey indicates that travellers feel the need for constant connectivity on the go with mobile devices. 85% bring their smartphones on holiday and 61% report using social media while travelling. Nearly one half of U.S. travellers cite #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as the reason to stay connected.

Whilst travelling, smartphones are primarily used to look for restaurants (44%), accessing social media (35%), looking for things to do (35%), sharing on social media (33%) and reading reviews (31%).

More travel industry professionals will leverage technology to engage consumers in 2014, as 53% of global hoteliers (up from 36% last year) plan to expand their mobile offerings. The top mobile offerings U.S. travellers are looking for from a travel business are mobile-friendly website, online bookings and special offers.

Travellers feel the need for constant connectivity on the go.

Skift is the most visited industry news and information site in travel in the U.S. today, focused on daily news, global trends & digital innovation.

You can read the full report here. Subscribe to their news or follow them on Twitter for daily insights.