How is the travel market changing?

The world of tourism is changing, thanks to an increasingly digital approach, new ways of traveling, and a greater focus on environmental sustainability. New trends are emerging at both the Italian and international levels, revealing how demand and supply are changing, also following the pandemic.

In this article, we delve into the five main trends in the tourism sector that are shaping the world of travel and how companies are deriving value from the change.

1. Holiday working and tourism destigmatization

The pandemic has forced many workers to stay at home, facing remote work in a more or less organized way. The numerous lockdowns have spurred the desire to travel and “disconnect” from everyday life. A phenomenon has emerged that combines the pillars of smart working (flexibility, accountability for results) with the possibility of vacationing at any time of the year: holiday working.

Around the world, more and more smart workers are choosing to work in a location different from where they usually live, perhaps even far from traditional tourist routes and during off-peak periods. People are trying to reconcile private life with work, and for tourism operators able to capitalize on this trend with an effective attraction plan, numerous opportunities could arise: new target markets, more visitors even in the off-season, increased traffic to lesser-known destinations, and economic development for local communities, among other benefits.

2. Neverending tourism

Following the pandemic, two key phenomena have occurred: an increase in digital content consumption and online purchases. For tourism operators, this has led to the opportunity to expand the traditional offering by leveraging digital tools to extend the tourist experience before and after the trip with services related to never-ending tourism, such as:

  • online content such as virtual tours of museums and cities, cooking classes, or gamification platforms
  • food and wine products or local handicrafts sold by operators or on dedicated e-commerce platforms

In other words, people are offered the opportunity to “travel” even while staying at home, strengthening the operator-client relationship over time.

3. Sustainable tourism

More and more travelers worldwide consider sustainability in tourism essential to address phenomena such as overtourism, pollution of beaches and waterways, deforestation, energy inefficiency, and the use of single-use plastics. Some are even willing to spend more to travel with greater respect for the environment. Fortunately, many accommodations worldwide have already implemented sustainability actions such as:

  • use of sustainable materials, products, or energy sources;
  • agreements and partnerships with local producers to promote products and services;
  • promotion of sustainable mobility;
  • affiliation with networks for sustainable development.

However, there is still a significant information gap that makes it challenging for travelers to find truly sustainable accommodations. With the measures of the PNRR and, more broadly, with recent European regulations, there is a push for a greener future that can also involve the tourism sector.

4. Digitalization of the journey

The need for social distancing has accelerated the digitalization process of tourists’ journey, which was already underway before the pandemic. The internet was already central for information research and bookings of accommodations, transportation, and activities, but today, various players are using digital means to further enrich their offerings. Indeed, an increasing number of establishments offer innovative solutions such as:

  • mobile payment options (Apple Pay, Google Pay) or remote payment (Pay-by-link);
  • online or mobile check-in;
  • virtual assistance via chatbots or devices;
  • virtual tours of rooms on the website;
  • virtual keys to open rooms via smartphones.

It is also worth noting the growing impact of Fintech, with the introduction of various solutions in the travel industry. In 2021, for example, Buy Now Pay Later (a system to buy and pay in installments without interest) started to spread thanks to the Italian company Scalapay, as well as the launch of Stays, the cashback system on trips launched by Revolut.

In the cultural field, digitalization is also gaining ground, for example, with the increasing use of online ticketing and services to skip lines, but not only. The onsite experience is also becoming more digital, with tools such as:

  • QR-code/beacon
  • touch screen
  • app
  • virtual reality
  • interactive installations

5. Flexibility, health guarantees, and safety

Flexibility, health guarantees, and safety precautions are increasingly important for consumers, driving choices for both leisure and business travel. In response, accommodation providers are focusing on flexible cancellation policies (often free and possible until shortly before the trip), while museums are investing in safety with physical distancing systems, video surveillance installations, and alarms for fire and smoke detection, as well as in “virtual” security, with cybersecurity and data protection solutions.

In light of these trends, it is clear that the pandemic has brought about a shift in the tourism ecosystem. Although demand has changed, operators have responded, and recovery seems closer, especially for those who can address areas such as digitizing the customer journey, sustainability, and never-ending tourism.


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