The world of escorted touring has come a long way from its origins in the humble coach holiday, with an incredible diversity of travel experiences on offer. We truly believe that there is a touring holiday to suit everyone, and as the tastes of travellers evolve, so we see many of our favourite tour operators adding ever more innovative and exciting trips to their portfolio. Here we take a look at 7 of the top travel trends shaping the touring sector in 2019...
In a world of smartphones, social media and 24-hour rolling news, we increasingly find it difficult to switch off and chill out, even when we’re on holiday. Affordable and extensive flight connections make travelling around the globe easier than ever before, and our Instagram culture can make it tempting to try and cram as many destinations as possible into our precious holiday time. So it’s no wonder that more and more travellers are expressing a desire to slow things down and spend time really getting under the skin of a destination, with more in-depth itineraries that head off the beaten track. Tour operators are increasingly focusing on authentic, immersive experiences, with the opportunity to meet the locals and gain a genuine insight into their life and culture.
There is no longer such a thing as the ‘typical’ family holiday, with more and more families eschewing the traditional beach break for more immersive and adventurous trips. We’ve seen the rise of the ‘family sabbatical’, with families upping sticks and living a nomadic lifestyle for months at a time, often taking advantage of remote working technology. But even if you don’t have months to spare, you can still have incredible and enriching adventures with your kids on a touring holiday, whether it’s a wildlife-focused trip to the Galapagos islands, a temple-hopping tour of Thailand or an active week in the Finnish wilderness.
The same spirit of adventure is driving a general trend for travel to more unusual destinations beyond the mainstream. Concerns around over-tourism in cities such as Barcelona and Venice are leading more travellers to visit lesser-known gems such as Belgrade and Bari, and remote regions of the world such as Papua New Guinea and the Congo are attracting a trickle of curious travellers. Central Asia has seen a big increase in demand since Joanna Lumley visited the region on ITV last year, and tourists are beginning to return to Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia as political tensions ease in North Africa and the Middle East.
Sir David Attenborough put the issue of plastic pollution firmly on the agenda last year with Blue Planet II, and holidaymakers are now increasingly demanding action from the travel industry to fight the scourge of plastic in our oceans. More and more hotel chains, airlines, cruise lines and tour operators are eliminating single-use plastics, introducing greener alternatives such as bamboo straws, reusable water bottles and refillable shampoo dispensers. This is part of a wider trend towards zero waste, as the world wakes up to the impact of our disposable culture.
In a similar vein, concerns around climate change are driving more and more people to reduce their carbon emissions by flying less. A rise in extreme weather events and campaigns such as the school strike movement and Extinction Rebellion have put climate change on the agenda like never before, and many travellers have been inspired by the teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg, who travels around Europe by train. Swapping aeroplanes for trains opens up all sorts of exciting travel experiences, from classic rail journeys such as the Trans-Siberian Express to luxury trains like the Belmond Royal Scotsman. There is also a growing demand for overland tours with the likes of Dragoman, travelling by truck through remote and inaccessible regions such as West Africa and Central Asia.
Food has always been an integral part of travel, but it’s only in the last few years that we’ve really seen the rise of specifically food and drink-themed tours. Specially tailored itineraries can take you to street food markets, artisan farms and vineyards where you can sample the latest vintage, and many tours also incorporate cookery classes where you’ll go to a local market with a chef and buy fresh ingredients. Hotels and resorts are increasingly promoting the idea of ‘farm-to-table’ cuisine, and we’ve also seen a trend towards beautifully presented hotel food designed to look great on Instagram!
Health and wellness has been a huge trend across the whole travel industry, and touring is no exception. On a wellness-themed tour you can enjoy guided yoga and meditation sessions, take part in active pursuits such as trekking and white-water rafting, and tuck into healthy, organic cuisine. There are even specifically vegan tours, geared towards the increasing number of travellers who favour a plant-based diet. Related to wellness is the idea of mindfulness and escaping from the trappings of technology, with more and more companies offering ‘digital detox’ breaks where you are encouraged to turn off your smartphone, disconnect from the internet and enjoy travel the way it used to be before technology took over our lives.