TRAVEL TRENDS TO WATCH IN 2019
The STAR Businessweek looks at what lies ahead for the Caribbean’s biggest industry
The Caribbean welcomed over 30 million visitors last year. Sustaining this growth means keeping at the forefront of industry trends and tailoring the regional product to meet demand. Here’s what’s set to shape the sector in 2019.
Today’s traveller isn’t just looking for a good time, they want to make a difference. Ethical tourism has risen in popularity in recent years and the trend is set to continue into 2019 with even greater interest in supporting and enabling local island communities.
“Travel companies are taking different approaches to how holidays can be more sustainable in the long term and create a positive impact on local communities. We can expect to see this trend continue in 2019 and beyond,” says the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) in its 2019 Travel Trends Report.
This can create opportunities in many areas, from promoting handmade souvenirs crafted by local artists to encouraging visitors to sample local cuisine and support the domestic farming industry. Small business owners and hoteliers should also see greater tourist traffic as visitors shun generic brands in favour of a more impactful experience.
And ethical tourism isn’t just about supporting grassroots businesses and causes. Following the 2017 hurricanes, there was a notable rise in ‘voluntourism’ whereby visitors came to the most devastated islands to join locals in mobilising funding drives, rebuilding infrastructure, clearing beaches and other much-needed tasks.
Millennials may have dominated industry trends in 2018, but 2019 belongs to the family. This year everyone will be included in vacation plans — from kids to grandparents and everyone in between. Catering to a multi-generational group requires a tailored approach with plenty of options.
Parents travelling with adult children is a sub-group to watch in 2019. They may be travelling for a special family event such as a wedding, anniversary or reunion, or simply spending time with each other and looking for opportunities to recharge and reconnect.
Multi-generational travel also coincides with another important, and growing, niche — genealogy tourism. Finding your roots and tracing your ancestry has become even easier with the widespread use of services such as ancestry.com and DNA testing. The Lonely Planet has identified ‘DNA tourism’ as a trend to watch in 2019 as more families travel to explore ancestral homelands.
For the Caribbean, with its mix of both European and African influences, this could signal a rise in diaspora visitors from all over the globe.
TRIPS WITH A THEME
Themed travel is a broad category that offers a lot of opportunities for tourism operators. No longer content with just lounging pool-side, these visitors plan their trips with a mission in mind, whether exploring history and culture or roadtripping with foodie friends.
Caribbean cuisine is popular all over the world but there’s no better place to enjoy it than in an authentic island kitchen. Homemade delicacies are the ultimate souvenir for these tourists, who are prepared to travel for unique offerings and will plan their trips around food festivals and tours. In Saint Lucia this could spell growth for rum distilleries, “down home” restaurants and food tour operators. The Rabot Estate, Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa plantation near Soufriere, has already successfully jumped on this trend, offering visitors a popular ‘tree to bar’ chocolate-themed tour.
And expect growth in other themed categories such as music and sports as Caribbean countries look to increase their presence in both markets with internationally-marketed concerts, carnivals, sports tournaments and games.
As technology has continued to infiltrate every aspect of our daily lives, it’s impossible to ignore the repercussions for tourism stakeholders. Whether providing fast and reliable wifi for guests, marketing destinations on social media or providing the very latest gadgets on a cruise, technology will continue to hugely impact the sector in 2019, particularly as new disruptions make it to market such as virtual and augmented reality, big data, facial recognition and Artifical Intelligence. The greatest uptake of innovation has so far been seen in the services sector with hotels, airports and airlines using technology to streamline bookings and facilitate easier travel to and from destinations. Cruise companies are also investing heavily in this area to improve customer experience.
On the flip-side, 2019 is also going to see the backlash of all this digitalisation. With technology creeping into more areas of life, there will be a growing number of visitors who go on vacation to unplug. These travellers will be looking for authentic experiences that get them away from their screens, and making memories in real life, building linkages between this niche and wellness tourism.
The Global Wellness Institute predicts that wellness tourism will be worth US$919 billion by 2022 when around 1.2 billion wellness trips will be taken all over the world. This niche is one of the fastest growing markets in tourism and includes a wide variety of activities including spa breaks, yoga retreats, fitness camps, meditation vacations and holiday detoxes.
Industry group Health and Fitness Travel further identified breaks such as the ‘painmoon’ (a trip taken after a painful break-up, or when grieving), ‘mumcations’ (for stressed-out mothers), ‘sleep performance retreat’ (to catch up on sleep) and ‘fertility trips’ (for couples hoping to conceive).
All iterations of this key niche are ripe for exploitation by Caribbean destinations. Given the region’s inviting waters, year-round sunshine and laidback tropical charm, it should be a magnet for tourists seeking a therapeutic break. Saint Lucia, in particular, has the added advantage of its volcanic springs and mud baths which are said to alleviate the symptoms of eczema, arthritis, burns and other skin conditions.
Hotel Chocolat ‘s tree-to-bar experience, unique to the Rabot Estate, draws on its expertise as an international chocolatier and as a local grower.The experience starts with a walk through the estate’s cocoa groves, selecting ripe cocoa pods to harvest from the tree, and ends with making your own chocolate bar
BodyHoliday Saint Lucia brings together the idea of enjoying a reviving tropical vacation and indulging in time with a companion