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2023 Travel Trends Lighthouse

Cut through the fog of futurology reports and prediction posts pouring out this year, with Juliet Kinsman's edit of the most significant declarations and innovations

By Juliet Kinsman
Published 3 February 2023

1 — Dedicated sustainability officers — as supported by Weeva

We’ve always said a great sign any business is taking sustainability seriously is when they recruit a full-time role dedicated to measuring and implementing impact — not just talking about it. Having an in-house eco-superstar overseeing all things eco, and ensuring they walk their talk.

As Julie Cheetham sees it: “Sustainability activities are always going to be competing for resources and attention in the hospitality sector, where employees are guest focussed and responding to immediate needs. In my experience, the only way to make consistent progress is to appoint a dedicated resource, whether in a full-time or a part-time role, to champion sustainability, and to work with every team at a property to embed sustainable practices into the way they work. Boards can give mandates from the top, but an everyday champion on the ground makes all the difference.”

There are lots of leads appearing with shiny new sustainability-related titles from CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) to more imaginative job titles such as Soneva’s Social & Environmental Conscience position, orthe Safari Collection in Kenya which has a Footprint Director. Outside travel, we also love that Patagonia has a Director of Philosophy, Anheuser-Busch is a winner with Director of Better World Communications; And big up Dr. Bronner’s for their Cosmic Engagement Officer. And it’s important all these new jobs are opening up — especially since we know Bloomberg has lauded the Climate Quitters — the many people leaving their jobs to pursue careers tackling the climate crisis. We’re delighted to see a big uptick in travel of eco-crusaders pivoting to positive impact, whatever their job title.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Business Viability 

 

2 — Indigenous Appreciation — as emphasised by Globetrender

Download the full report here.

As we regularly underscore here at Weeva, while Indigenous peoples might only comprise 5% of the world’s population, they are custodians of lands that contain 80% of the world’s biodiversity — one of the most important considerations when it comes to the climate. As put by the London-based trends forecasting agency: “In 2023, a number of innovative companies are making concerted efforts to place the spotlight on Indigenous Appreciation – and consumers are showing interest. According to the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), Indigenous tourism has been the fastest-growing sector in Canadian tourism, increasing by 23% between 2014 and 2017, compared to a 14.5% increase in overall tourism in Canada during the same period. In 2018, ITAC and Destination Canada, the national tourism marketing organisation, found that one in three international visitors were interested in Indigenous experiences. To help cater to demand, a new website called Destination Indigenous has been launched to allow travellers to directly book experiences with companies that are at least 51% owned by Indigenous people.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Cultural Celebration

 

3 — Regenivore revolution — as recommended by the New York Times

Plant-based eating is up 50% globally (source: Vegan Society), and since food accounts for more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions this is significant. But what’s the next way of eating that’s even more ethical than being vegan or vegetarian? “Calling yourself a climatarian is so 2022. The new term is regenivore,” declares the New York Times. “It’s no longer about eating sustainably, which implies a state of preserving what is. A new generation wants food from companies that are actively healing the planet through carbon-reducing agriculture, more rigorous animal welfare policies and equitable treatment of the people who grow and process food. Look for big changes to reduce waste in packaging. More chefs will use what Mintel calls “climate hero ingredients” like teff, fava and lupin beans, and more diners will choose food and drink that improve their health and the planet’s. Even the alcohol industry has started throwing around words like eco-alignment. “These companies don’t want to just be seen as doing the right thing daily,” said Joan Driggs, who studies retail trends and consumer packaged goods for IRI, a data analysis company. “They want to be really seen as making a positive difference.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Sustainable and Ethical Procurement 

 

4 — Community-led regenerative hospitality — as featured in Condé Nast Traveller

‘Microhospitality with a masterplan’ has been given a blueprint in southern Morocco at Tizkmoudine by Thierry Teyssier. The Parisian-born creative behind Dar Ahlam has collaborated with the Global Heritage Fund to invite luxury travellers to bed up with a Berber community in the ruins of an ancient desert village, through his 700,000 Heures project. This has involved restoring three ancient houses in an abandoned fortified town, so that the remote Berber community doesn’t merely host guests, but it invites those from privileged backgrounds into their real lives. Cultural conservation is taken to the next level as the village association leader also works with the women weavers to have their skills preserved and advanced through a coop. These 500-year-old buildings were inhabited until half a century ago. A precious showcase of Berber life that’s improved access to water, waste, and renewable energy for the community. One of the most powerful ways to inspire humans who have all they need, to care about other members of our global society in less fortunate circumstances is to engage them in life lessons through travel. This is especially significant when sparking empathy from people from countries that are most guilty of contributing to global warming by bringing them face to face with the consequences of how their nation’s emissions are exaggerating the climate emergency for those on the frontline.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Cultural Celebration and Cultural Heritage

 

5 — Behind-the-scenes tours — as highlighted by Fox Communications 

This is your chance to see how the sausage meat is made, as the saying goes — to really experience what goes into making hotels tick — separating the true eco walkers from the eco talkers. “More and more hotels are inviting visitors to go BTS around the BOH – as back-of-house is called in the industry. Compelling since this is where some of the especially fascinating sustainability action happens. Guests are keen to get a glimpse at less-than-glamorous topics of water or waste management and the grunt work that goes into being greener and learn first-hand what goes into being a kinder, cleaner, more considerate business.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Zero Waste and Sustainable and Ethical Procurement 

 

6 — Bio-positive and nature-restoring holidays — as promoted by The Long Run and featured in Field7

“It’s a bold claim for holidays to actively suggest they are genuinely adding more than they’re taking in terms of the environment — but we need to be careful not to fall for buzzwords. Eco-friendly should suggest a service or structure is a friend to nature, not just slightly less extractive and consumptive — but that isn’t quite as catchy as regenerative. There are genuinely some hospitality projects actively working to pay impact properly forward. Member hotels and lodges in The Long Run organisation collectively protect millions of acres of nature, hundreds of endangered or threatened wildlife species and enhance the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. By investing in a stay at such a property you’re actively funding initiatives which exist to improve the health of the planet not just give guests a good time. Tahi is an 877-acre nature sanctuary in New Zealand which has been planting hundreds of thousands of indigenous trees over the last dozen years, restoring wetlands ago too. In terms of metrics, they model a CO2 accounting system which quantifies how much carbon is sequestered and stored from their conservation work. Biodiversity plays a critical role in the health of individual ecosystems and in turn the natural world as a whole, as does safeguarding Indigenous peoples who are custodians to much of this land. It’s not just charming that so many birds have returned to this former run-down cattle farm — these scores of species of native birds, including the endangered Australian brown bittern are an indication of the land’s improved health and drawing down of carbon. Tahi’s land management reporting includes measures related to carbon storage which are often ignored or overlooked, such as the water flow in their wetlands and carbon density of specific tree types, boosting their creds as a carbon sink. Less easy to carry into spreadsheets are the benefits of this property funding Maori education initiatives in the community or how their engagement of guests in their work, cultivates a better understanding of the role nature and indigenous people play in the pursuit of climate justice.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Nature Protection, Climate Action and Community Impact 

 

7 — Verified accessible travel — as saluted by TTG

With one in five people has some form of physical or mental impairment or challenge, globally, this is a seriously important consideration.

“Richard Thompson said the luxury market has “the shortest distance to travel” in the industry to become inclusive and accessible for all, as it already places such a high emphasis on service, the guest experience and space per guest ratios. Thompson founded IncluTravel in January 2020, which verifies the accessibility and inclusion credentials of travel companies and properties through IncluCare, and offers a booking platform through IncluTel, supported by 360 Private Travel.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Customer Experience

 

8 — Transparency on earnings — As trailblazed by Flash Pack in Travel Weekly

We’re all mad about Fogo Island Inn’s Economic Nutrition Label, but we’re especially impressed with this luxury solo adventure travel company’s move, as declared an industry-first in Travel Weekly “thanks to its new compensation calculator which aims to ensure pay transparency among employees [to] create a company culture built on ‘trust, honesty and openness’. The calculator benchmarks all Flash Pack roles and levels against a large body of salary data canvassed from 3,000 similar start-ups.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Organisational Culture

 

9 — Being a good tourist and global citizen — as championed in The Guardian

“Being a good tourist means treating somebody else’s home with respect, leaving little in your wake and putting as much money as possible in local pockets. People tend to think about sustainable, responsible travel only as environmentally friendly travel – and, of course, we should support businesses that are kinder to nature. But the economic power of travel is immense, and you control that wealth distribution. Pick accommodation with local owners; they’re more likely to be better custodians and employ local people. You don’t want to stay in a hotel that exists to make money for an international management company; ideally, you’d book a small independent guesthouse directly. If not, tour operators such as Intrepid or Responsible Travel are sticklers for supporting local businesses.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Sustainable and Ethical Procurement 

 

10 — Last-minute and eleventh-hour bookings — according to ODIGEO’sYear in Travel’ report

Travellers globally are waiting until as late as possible to book, with almost half of all reservations being confirmed within two weeks of, or even closer to, departure, says this online travel and e-commerce company in the eDreams group. They analysed search and booking data from customers in Europe and the States, and it’s up from 36% in 2021.

 

11 — But also long-term planning — also explained in Globetrenders report

“The biggest news, of course, was the reopening of China in January 2023. This means that for the first time since early 2020, tourists around the world can embark on long-term planning, filling their calendars with trips not just in the year ahead, but in 2024 and 2025. Rebecca Masri, founder of private members’ hotel club Little Emperors, says: “The pandemic led to the shortest lead-times we have ever seen but now people are booking much further in advance.” With this in mind, hotels, airlines, and tour operators would be wise to publish rates and extend their reservation schedules as far in advance as possible.”

 

12 — Lighter-footprinted construction — Artificial Intelligence picks out architecture trends for ArchDaily

With the construction industry alone contributing to almost 40% of all total global emissions, an emphasis on more sustainable building practices and better energy-efficiency in hotel architecture is essential. ArchDaily has practised what all the futurists preached, and even got an AI bot to pick out the trends, spotlighting energy efficiency, use of tech from 3D modelling and printing to BIM and the Internet of Things (IoT), adaptive reuse and repurposing, community-centred design, and biophilic design. We’re also really impressed by London’s tallest all-timber new-build from the Office Group as profiled in Wallpaper*.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Sustainable Infrastructure

 

13 — Geo-arbitrage and wealth distribution through Digital Nomads

Better than ‘bleisure’ and ‘lisiness’ — mixing business with pleasure, or leisure with business is the penchant for decamping to somewhere cheaper to live but still earning in the stronger economy. The reason we’re excited by this, is the benefit to the temporary host country and the associated wealth distribution. A good example is explained by the Caribbean publication, the Royal Gazette which spotlights the ‘Work from Bermuda’ programme, which helped lure $30 million to the island, their Ministry of Economy and Labour announced in August 2022. Climate justice activists have limited emissions as their main aim – so anything involving the encouragement of flying seems paradoxical. But visitors’ spend is a powerful tool for wealth distribution. Especially when you know that the world’s wealthiest one per cent who are still travelling — and always will – are responsible for the equivalent of double that of the combined emissions of the least well-off 50 per cent of the entire world population. And since a third — a THIRD — of the world’s economies are in recession, contributing to a local economy in need is vital.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Sustainable and Ethical Procurement

 

14 — Train travel and flight-light itineraries — as featured in Conde Nast Traveller

We’re all about pushing for train travel over air, where possible. “Hybrid flight-light itineraries aren’t just more earth-friendly; they make getting from A to B, or B to A, part of the adventure. Just as we’re increasingly flexitarians and climatarians with what we eat, switching out animal proteins for plant alternatives, now we’re turning flexi-air-ian. Travelling slower and greener is increasingly essential as corporates and consumers show more dedication to slashing emissions. Riding by rail can reduce our footprint by up to 90 per cent compared with flying the same distance. Bragging about being jetsetters is being trumped by virtue-signalling about travel escapades that involve lower-carbon logistics.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Climate Action

 

15 — The rise of Citizen Science — Scott Dunn was one of the travel companies to reference this in their What’s Hot for 2023 release

“With over 80% of Scott Dunn guests ranking ‘responsible travel’ as an important consideration when planning a holiday for 2023, creating a lasting positive impact for both people and the planet is high on the travel agenda. Guests are eager to get involved in citizen science projects as a tangible way to create positive change through their travels. This involves getting out into the field to assist with ongoing research projects, be it testing for microplastics in the Galapagos Islands or learning about seagrass meadows at the new Six Senses Sustainability Camp in the Maldives — rainforests of the ocean that have an amazing capacity to store ‘blue carbon’ held in marine ecosystems.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Customer Experience 

 

16 — Woowoo hits the mainstream — Spiritualism forecast to be foremost by Fodor’s ‘hotel psychics’

Spiritual energy and shamanic sessions are among the predictions from this travel authority, including this West Coast escape: “Considering Ojai Valley, California’s reputation as an electromagnetic spiritual ‘vortex,’ it stands to reason that the 220,000-acre Ojai Valley Inn would have a spiritual advisor.” And so, it is no surprise ‘spiritual counselling” sessions are available. What we love about this spiritual awakening is that part of this is the deepening of a connection with nature. And the more hotel guests care about nature, the more they’ll do to protect the environment.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Customer Experience 

 

17 — Renewable-run road trips in green-energy-run countries — as recommended in the Evening Standard

The perfect example comes from the electric-car capital of the world, in Up Norway’s historic Discovery Route itinerary, which is a road trip that factors in time with local communities to experience authentic Norwegian culture. “Travel by electric car while following two of Norway’s 18 breathtaking scenic routes. Starting and ending in Bergen, home to one of Norway’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this Scandi odyssey gets you rappelling down a waterfall, off-road biking, hiking and climbing up a ferrata. Gliding in clear waters with salmon one day, relaxing in a floating sauna the next.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Climate Action

 

18 — Sustainability-savvy professional travel planners — as talked about by Travel Weekly

Virtuoso told us last year that 76% of their travellers said they are prepared to spend more money on travel advisors to help their trips go better to plan in 2023, and this included millennials and Gen-Zers. Sustainable travel is cited as top of the agenda, by Travel Weekly who quotes Joanna Reeve, Head of Business Development and Partnerships at Intrepid Travel — highlighting that this extends to training and giving agents the chance to join their trips for free. “We believe experiencing our product first hand is the best way for agents to fully immerse themselves, to help to sell to clients,” says Reeve. “We will also be sharing news, updates and training events on our dedicated Intrepid Loves Agents Facebook page, and will continue to offer our interactive online learning modules on OTT [Online Travel Training], covering everything from our Antarctica tours to our new Premium range.” Hopefully this will encourage other agents to invest in really understanding impact and how to make their supply chains more sustainable. 

Relevant Weeva indicator: Sustainable and Ethical Procurement

 

19 — Tell-don’t-sell micro-influencers — those who are authentic, sensitive and passionate on socials and make a difference without millions of followers

There’s finally a shift in social media and we’re moving from the macro to more meaningful messaging from true experts in touch with their niche. Those ‘smoastful’ (social media boasting) posts that show no consideration towards the fact many are affected by the cost-of-living crisis will be considered tone-deaf. Real people with smaller followings — not necessarily those who identify as professional influencers are the ones who promise quality engagement over quantity, where they share because their care, not because they profit. Heartfelt and helpful content.

Folks I love having in my feed include @Shivya, @RootedStorytelling and @Nina — and I’m told this category includes me, a proud Weeva ambassador and spreader of sustainability and travel inspiration @JulietKinsman

It also includes authentic and passionate storytellers like @tuksouth who Weeva proudly support.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Cultural Celebration

 

20 — Improved cross-cultural dialogue — as articulated by Afar 

Hearing fresh perspectives from those in far-flung places allows us to understand the bigger picture better when it comes to environmental issues or social injustices. It helps us tell better stories that, in turn, can be a significant step in improving the future for all. That CEO who’s been on safari, or their children who had hands-on experience of marine conservation while on holiday, are likely to be better connected and cognisant of the need to protect nature and that all of our lives are reliant on the health of our planet. “After years of social starvation, travelers are more eager than ever to indulge their cultural curiosity. That has inspired operators to build education into their trips, “not just to learn about the place, but to learn more about ourselves,” says Annie Lucas, Vice President and a co-owner of Mir, a tour operator that specialises in destinations from the Balkans eastward, including Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. In the South Caucasus, a native Georgian guide takes Mir travellers into village homes to learn to make khinkali dumplings and see the crafting of qvevri clay pots where wine is aged, an 8,000-year-old tradition. This summer, a private group on a custom tour in Poland met with Ukrainian refugees to better understand the war on a personal level.”

Relevant Weeva indicator: Cultural Celebration 

 

21 — Climate-positive storytelling — as modelled by Powered by Weeva

Brand journalism is the antidote to the blurring between commercial content and genuine editorial that happens more and more, and the need and appetite for true journalism will only grow. In order to fund high-quality properly researched fact-checked journalism, high-quality publishers and information providers are working with purpose-led brands with integrity to support the amplification of meaningful, helpful sustainability messaging. The Guardian newspaper and The Economists are good examples of publications with considered sponsored content financed by reputable partners and commercial sponsors, still following their time-tested code of ethics. As AI churns out content-marketing blog posts, there is an opportunity for genuine travel-industry expertise, taste-led authority and human perspective to stand out. Check out Adam Vaughan’s thoughts on Adapting to a Warmer World from New Scientist in our Insights Hub, or listen to our six-part podcast series on the causes and solutions to the climate emergency, Funny Old World.

Relevant Weeva indicator: Climate Action 

 

22 — Green tech and sustainability software — which includes Weeva advancing from pilot stage

All brands have a need to focus on sustainable manufacturing and economics, with Forbes championing ClimateTech, and The Economist confirming Net Zero is still the key theme, and to reach these targets, travellers and travel companies will all be turning to tech and apps to measure and mitigate their footprints. “The recent focus on scope 3, carbon credits and carbon removal is set to accelerate.” And this will require a lot of measuring technology. The products we use will also need to change their ways; affirmed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, sustainability was a stand-out priority at the most influential technology event in the world. “Virtually every company talked about how its products would be more sustainable,” CES reported, “from Samsung’s partnership with Patagonia to reduce microplastics in the water supply to Asus’ boast that it has used 1,500 tons of recycled plastic in its products since 2017.” And The Drum was reporting this already reporting at the end of last year, that sustainability will fuel the tech trends of 2023.

 

Other trends:

23 – TikTok is feeding our appetite for the destinations it shows us  — the account we love most is the TukSouth team taking us around Africa.

24 – Rise of the solo traveller — searches for single-person flights are up 36% for travel in 2023 compared to 2022, says Kayak.

25 – Next-gen family adventures — as recommended by Black Tomato, which includes their travel service called Field Trip. 

26 – ‘Economically-nutritious’ luxury — UHNW travellers and HENRYs wanting “values for money” not just “value for money,” for their high-end escapes, such as through Steppes and Journeys With Purpose — we loved their trip with Isabella Tree and her husband Charles Burrell which supported the reforestation of subalpine forests.

27 – Herstory lessons — trips spotlighting hidden histories as shared through initiatives such as this, which tell the tale of women’s roles in history, such as Up Norway’s Tracing Norwegian Women’s Journeys to Equality. 

28 – Healthier, wellbeing-boosted holidays — as one of the biggest travel trends by Business Traveller.

29 – Emotion-stoking experiences — emotional hospitality and travel encounters that truly stoke empathy and compassion, especially for those from the Global North visiting those in the Global South. It’s travel businesses showing ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ), the term popularised by the psychologist, Daniel Goleman, to encourage more climate action.

30 – Reducing water use in hospitality. Last but definitely not least — probably one of the most important and not a trend we’re noticing especially — but one we want to manifest. It will come as no surprise to anyone in southern Africa that we’re emphasising water conservation as a number-one priority but since much of Europe experienced extreme droughts worse than ever before in 2022, the whole world is waking up to the fact this affects us all. Steer us to the innovators in this space so we can celebrate their solutions, @weareweeva.

Let's use these 2023 trends to inspire and help drive basic sustainability practices this year. Weeva can help you begin a practice of sustainability and operational efficiency today. You just have to start...

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