The Travel Adviser: Looking at the latest travel trends

Quick question: What is the difference between a prophet and a messenger? Correct reply: All messengers are prophets but not all prophets are messengers.

As we move deeper into the fall period, removing the shackles of summer where the search for a cool breeze and some light adventure dominated most travelers’ agenda, the next six months portend some interesting trends. A clarion call to the world at large: Travelers will be heading your way this fall and winter. Sure, there may be some downturns in travel to popular destinations of the past, but the theme for this fall and into 2019 will echo the 1971 Monty Python classic: “And now for something completely different.” I offer you my Travel Trends Up, up and away The airline industry has been registering a record number of passengers and flights and the trend is upward. It has been reported that 2018 will close with a more than 8% growth in passengers. Barring any huge increase in the price of airline fuel, early indicators predict similar growth in 2019. Airline manufactures such as Boeing assert that the world’s aircraft fleets will double in the next 20 years and that pace requires them to plan for a plane being produced every 10 hours. That means more crowded skies and more planes greeting you in the foreseeable future. According to the International Air Transportation Association, profits of the world’s airlines have actually dropped by more than 12% the due to the increase in fuel. This will push the airlines to find even more creative ways to make you pay for items that were once considered part of your ticket price. Want to pre-reserve your seat? Pay for it. Need a nosh on your flight? Pay for it. You think you have the right to check in a bag at no cost? Forget about it. Eating, sitting and checking in a bag are now considered prime market variables and airlines are scrambling to make the average traveler pay more for it.

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While the majority of passengers prefer to fly nonstop between two points, factors such as price and availability lead many flyers to switch planes in an airport. Often with long layovers, the financially challenged, frequent flyer-less passenger is forced to spend countless hours in an airport terminal unlike anything Tom Hanks encountered in the 2004 film The Terminal . Of course a lounge would be a great way to remedy that. While mixing with the masses and observing the proletariat in all of its colors may appeal to you, an airport lounge offers solace from the maddening crowds. Seasoned flyers drool when entering United’s Polaris lounges; are in pure awe when visiting Turkish Air’s lounge at Istanbul airport. Sadly, these lounges cater to either business class passengers or elite members of one of the three Airline Alliances: One World, Sky Team and the Star Alliance.

What most flyers don’t know though is there are dozens of lounges in airports whose only barrier to entry is your wallet. Rarely advertised and seldom mentioned when you book a ticket, these lounges appear in hundreds of airports. Entry fees to these lounges range from $40 to $60. With comfortable seating, a quieter environment, some snack and beverage options, they allow you to while away your time in relative comfort and ease. From Abu Dubai Airport to Zanzibar Airport, airport lounges exist. I counsel all clients to simply Google “airport lounge” at the airport they’ll be spending time in, to get exact information. The longer your layover, the more sensible it is to go to a lounge.

Baby boomer bliss Baby boomers (generally those born between 1946 and 1964) have disposable cash to spend and seek to escape their own life stresses, namely health and weather – and for those still gainfully employed, work. For anyone who discounts the contributions of boomers to the travel economy, let me share some numbers. According to a new AARP study, America’s 76 million baby boomers spend over $120 billion annually on travel.

No surprise. Baby boomers have the numbers, the influence and the money to travel. In this paper’s Friday magazine lat week, three full-page advertisements sought to entice this audience. Professionally speaking, I can attest that Baby boomer spending is nearly the same as what millennials are expected to spend. An increasing number of boomers are looking for more rewarding travel, just like millennials. They are passionate about traveling. For them it is pure joy to experience another world outside their own, enjoy new experiences, explore a different culture and meet different people. The old-fashioned group travel vacations to Europe labeled “Senior or Golden Age Travel” and crowded tour buses full of gray-haired people visiting Europe’s popular tourist spots isn’t for them. True to their roots, baby boomers tend to rebel against overly structured vacations and want some freedom to explore on their own. Look at those advertisements in the Friday Jerusalem Post and you see tours to Lapland, Africa & Vietnam being promoted. Yes they think of themselves as forever young and always up to the challenge. They may be an adventurous bunch, but they hesitantly admit to getting just a wee bit older and craving creature comforts. Four- and five-star hotels and cabins with an ocean view on cruises tend to be the norm. Keep in mind that many baby boomers are retired and have more income, which results in them demanding better accommodations. After exploring the wilderness, they thrive on soothing massage, good wine and food and a very comfortable bed. Generation X Generation X is the demographic cohort following the post–World War II baby boom, representing a generational change from the baby boomers, loosely defined for those born between 1961 and 1981. Once upon a time, Gen X was considered an angry and troubled generation, apathetic and individualistic. Technologically adept and holistically spiritual, they were considered the “Lost Generation.” No more. Today they account for a quarter of the world’s population with almost a third of total income. Gen X is at a point where they have money to spend on travel.

Family life shapes Gen X’s travel preferences, so the timing of their trips closely aligns with school calendars. Nearly half of their travel is to visit family and friends. Or they’re traveling with family and friends. They plan multi-generational trips and fly abroad to celebrate special occasions. Sustainable travel and trips to endangered places are for the younger travelers and millennials. Those travelers gravitate toward destinations that provide more immersive natural and urban experiences. The Philippines and Peru will be among their top destinations as we head into 2019 With families in tow, Gen X often looks for destinations with great experiences for kids. Resorts or cruise lines with kids’ clubs are popular to keep the kids engaged and entertained. Between demanding careers, raising children and caring for aging parents, Gen X is busy. Shorter trips seem to be the rule for them.

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A more intriguing trend I see is solo travel. It’s becoming more popular to go at it alone. Most individual travelers find they are relaxed and unconstrained when traveling alone. They see it as an opportunity to check off “bucket list” items sooner when other considerations aren’t in the mix. Traveling alone is seen as a great opportunity to try new things and meet people from all over the world, which is especially attractive for extroverts. Modern family dynamics are innovating family travel. We’ve seen a huge uptick in lone-parent families traveling with their children and the travel industry is quickly catching up. As any parent will tell you, it’s not easy to find and plan trips that satisfy the desires of both adults and kids. As a single parent, it gets that much harder. For starters, you’re the only adult around to deal with planning and on-the-ground logistics, and you’re the only one responsible if things go awry. More and more travel suppliers are moving away from the two-parents-two-children cookie-cutter approach. Agencies are starting to market single-parent packages offering age-appropriate options for both the solo adult and his/her children.

Winter Tourism While so many snowbirds run away from their frigid homes, the trend is toward embracing the cold. I’m not talking ski trips, but travel to far more exotic locations such as Lapland is exploding. Going to China’s Harbin Ice Festival and exploring the Arctic Circle is enticing millions of travelers no longer content to drink a hot toddy nestled in front of a fireplace. Adventure travel caters to experiences and winter tourism is desired less than experiencing a new culture but engaging in adrenaline activities. Heli-skiing in Iceland offers snowy, unspoiled runs for serious skiers. Spend a day in the spa, bouncing from geothermal-heated indoor/ outdoor pool (with a swim-up bar) to the outdoor Viking sauna and flotation tanks. From snowmobiling in Jackson Hole to snowblading in Gstaad, this winter will see an upsurge in tourism Corporate Travel The corporate travel industry is evolving every year at a frightening pace, thanks to advancements in technology and a fluctuating global economy. These changes have profound impact on the travel policies of all businesses, small and large. From Israel the trend is clear – travel to/ from Israel will be primarily based in North America, India and the Far East. China has seen rapid growth and introduction of new Chinese airlines flying to Israel. The US will see a sizable increase in business travelers with both United Airlines and Delta adding new daily flights, respectively to Washington DC and JFK. Once upon a time, corporate travelers wanted to spend no longer than necessary when away on business. Now, business travelers are using the opportunity to explore the local area and experience the culture. Combining their business agenda with some leisure offers employees the opportunity to get their work done while also enjoying some down time and recharging the batteries. Companies are always looking for ways to reduce costs and 2019 will be no different. While a little belt-tightening is happening for most companies, it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be less travel. Instead, companies are getting smarter at reducing the costs associated with corporate travel. Those cost-cutting measures run the gamut from flying in premium class rather than business class, using Uber instead of renting a car and staying in less costly accommodations.

Savvy businesses will always explore ways to ensure that travel is only organized in a time-efficient and safe manner. These companies will be able to offer a more comfortable, productive and enjoyable travel experience for their employees.

Finally, no looking glass is necessary to see that the near future can be defined as transformational travel. It’s a bit more serious-minded – defined by personal development, and a deeper communion with nature and culture. Traveling, if planned well, should be both exciting and exhilarating. It should challenge your everyday outlook and titillate your senses. It should combine education and entertainment. No matter how often you travel, never take it for granted. Embrace your travel with all the gusto you can manage and remember the Henry Miller quote: “One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

The writer is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments email him at mark.feldman.co.il

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