August 8, 2022

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Just Do Travel

These five trends will shape the future of travel

5 min read

With 2022 officially kicking off, many of us are looking to more optimistic times ahead. Whether you’re keen to book travel right now, or you’re daydreaming as your go-to form of escapism, chances are you’re planning with a lot more intention. (After all, we’ve had plenty of time to ponder where we’ll visit, with whom and why.) For a little inspiration, we asked three industry experts to forecast the travel trends poised to shape the upcoming year.

Nature will be irresistible

We once pined for strong espressos in bustling sidewalk cafes, shopping along lively cobblestone streets and nights out on the town. In 2022, though, expect people to gravitate toward skyscraper-free views and leisure in nature — forest bathing, bird watching, stargazing and maybe catching the odd sunrise. Spirit of the West Adventures is just one example of a tour operator offering outdoor immersions, like kayaking tours in B.C. that can be made private for your bubble. Think glamping, sea-breezy air, mountain landscapes, and time relaxing in their basecamp’s wood-fired hot tub.

“The leisure traveller has chosen domestic resorts either with beach or mountain access or wide-open spaces,” says Jan Freitag, national director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group, who collects the numbers that help hotels assess demand. “We fully expect that to continue in 2022.”

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, echoes that sentiment, noting that spacious, leafy-green places are his tour company’s most picked destinations, with Costa Rica, the Galapagos and Italy among the ones ranking at the top. “People want to be closer to nature,” he says. “Some are way more adventurous and want to do active, strenuous treks and go up the mountains. But everyone wants just general outdoor activity.”

Workcations are here to stay

Your laptop may be as crucial as your passport for your 2022 travels. While that may not seem thrilling initially, mixing business and pleasure could be a ticket to more freedom (depending on your job). In the past, work often meant showing up, clocking in and pushing paper in a cubicle. Now, we’ve finessed the art of getting things done out of office — and far away.

“We’re seeing people on trips with us who have actually not taken ‘holiday time.’ They’re using the afternoon to catch up on emails. They’re working in the evenings, or they skip dinner because they have a deadline,” says Poon Tip. “The workcation model is definitely here to stay.”

The upsides include being able to escape more frequently, and extending weekend travel just because you can. So, visit the in-laws. Take the road trip. See the national park. As Hilton found in their 2022 travel trends report, the weekday and the weekend will blur together as a reflection of this changing work landscape. Their new WorkSpaces program is an answer to the remote-working wave, enabling folks to take advantage of day rates at select Hilton hotels to meet deadlines distraction-free.

Planning an extended stay? Test out the “digital nomad” lifestyle, made easier by residency programs being launched by several countries eager to woo longer-term tourists. Estonia, Malta, Antigua and Barbuda and Bermuda are among the places that have introduced a digital nomad visa or similar initiative, so the location-independent can legally work while based there.

Active travel will pick up the pace

In the icebox that is Canada, many of us prefer one-stop-shop beach trips where lifting a margarita glass counts as reps. Now, there’s a shift toward active travel, so even if the lounge chair beckons, vacationers are carving out time for movement, too.

“People have picked up a lot of new hobbies during the pandemic, whether it’s cooking or cycling,” says Matt Berna, managing director of North America at the tour operator Intrepid Travel. “They look for the activity first and possibly the destination second. Historically, people had a region in mind and then looked for things to do.” In addition to cycling, he forecasts that trekking or hiking trips will be popular for 2022.

G Adventures sees this trend, too. In their October survey of 1,693 Canadians, 71 per cent of respondents said they craved physical activity for their next trip. “That’s a massive, massive change in the landscape of tourism,” says Poon Tip. The Global Wellness Institute has also predicted a 21 per cent annual growth for wellness tourism (broadly defined as enhancing a healthy lifestyle) through 2025.

Social travel will hold renewed appeal

If you’re starting 2022 ready to reconnect with your inner social butterfly, you’re not alone. “People are yearning to come back together,” says Poon Tip. While the pandemic’s unpredictability means the exact timing is still TBD, it’s only intensifying our collective desire for social travel once it’s safe.

When that time comes, interacting with others might be more prized than the Instagrammable attractions we once flocked to. Both Freitag and the Hilton’s research support the fact that yes, celebrations and parties are making their comeback, as seen by a rise in group travel bookings. (The impact of Omicron has yet to be measured.)

“With the pandemic, there’s so much pent-up energy. People are just bursting out. They want to socialize. They want to meet like-minded people from around the world,” says Poon Tip. Catering to the social-travel trend, G Adventures and Hostelworld will team up for the launch of Roamies this year — offering small-group tours with hostel stays, and the camaraderie that comes with these shared spaces.

Community consciousness will lead the way

In navigating the waves of the pandemic, we’ve come to find a stronger purpose for travel beyond just self-serving fun. Already, it’s apparent that people care about mindful, respect-driven interactions with the communities they visit. “Travellers want local people to benefit,” says Poon Tip. “They want it to be a positive experience not only for themselves, but for locals.”

Berna notices a change from pre-pandemic times. “We’ve seen customers are much more socially conscious,” he says, noting that North American tourists have been particularly appreciative of Intrepid’s Indigenous-led experiences lately. These tours aren’t about Indigenous folks but are by Indigenous guides, and focus on deeper conversations where visitors learn about culture, history and storytelling. One example is the company’s new tour of B.C.’s Okanagan, led by the Osoyoos people.

This focus on ethical community engagement means traveller feedback and demands sound different, too. In the past, guests on tours may have been especially irked by a lacklustre hotel or feel shortchanged if they didn’t get a room with a view. Now, they’re concerned about other matters, Berna notes, like wanting their meals to be 100 per cent authentic to a region and ensuring animals on trekking trips are treated fairly. “They’re policing our actions, which is fantastic,” explains Berna. “They come to us for these values, and we want to make sure we match their expectations.”

The federal government recommends Canadians avoid non-essential travel. This article is meant to inspire plans for future travel.