Unique experiences and melting ice caps: Travel trends for 2018

Halal tourism is among the positive travel predictions for 2018. Source: Shutterstock.com

THE season of predictions for the year ahead is upon us – and the future of the travel industry is looking bright and beautiful.

This year saw Donald Trump ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States; celebrities take over airline safety videos and people quit their jobs to travel with their cat. But 2018 is set to see bigger changes, which are more angled at helping young people travel and educating tourists on the importance of conscientious travel.

Here are the trends we think are going to shape the travel industry in 2018 and create the trendiest new hashtags.

Halal tourism in Japan

Halal tourism is predicted to be worth US$220 billion by 2020, according to a report by Mastercard and CrescentRating – and Japan is hoping to entice more than one million Muslim travelers in 2018.

Last year, 700,000 Muslim travelers reportedly visited Japan, many of them traveling from Southeast Asian countries. The acceleration of Halal tourism growth in Japan has been catalyzed by relaxed visa processes for Indonesians and Malaysians, and an increased number of halal restaurants and prayer rooms opening for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Sustainable travel

Buzzwords “sustainability” and “responsible travel” have overtaken “eco-friendly” in the category of hot travel terms, as tourism companies strive to be the most sustainable and environmentally responsible.

Simply put, responsible tourism is traveling with a conscience and ensuring what you are doing is not having a negative social, economic or environmental impact on the place around you.

“Back in the 60s and 70s, going green and caring about local cultures was thought of as being very granola,” luxury travel network Virtuoso director of sustainability Costas Christ told The New York Times. “But there is much more familiarity and interest around these topics today.”

But unlike other buzzwords that flit around threatening disruption, these are here to stay and hopefully make a difference to the future of travel.

“Some destinations, especially least developed destinations, the places that really need a cash injection, are heavily dependent on tourism. We need to make sure the money is going to the right hands and not large multination corporations that could direct the money elsewhere,” Responsible Travel marketing manager Saul Greenland told Travel Wire Asia.

“Tourism contributes 10 percent to the world’s GDP and supports 292 million people in employment. As such a huge industry, it’s important it is done right.”

Responsible tourism will continue to grow in 2018 and is something travelers should not be daunted by. “Nobody wants a guilt trip; people often get wary of conscious-ridden things and that it will somehow restrict them. But responsible tourism is not about limiting, but rather a way to open up countries to chance meetings, wildlife encounters and unusual accommodations,” added Greenland.

Polar travel

Antarctica remains the only continent on earth not to have a native human population, and it seems that this mostly untouched, undeveloped, enchanting land has come to be an appealing holiday destination.

Chinese tourists are especially attracted to the Polar regions. According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, Chinese travelers accounted for 12 percent of the 46,000 total visitors to the continent.

Antarctica is a government-free region and protected by the 1961 Antarctica Treaty, which heavily controls tourism, mining and oil preservation. However, the Arctic regions are not as closely monitored and are more vulnerable to overdevelopment and irresponsible tourism.

In 2018, polar travel is predicted to come into the mainstream as more tour operators introduce polar tours and cruises. With global warming taking quick effect, with no sign of resolve, travelers are becoming desperate to explore these desolately beautiful lands before they melt away and the majestic animals who live there are forced to migrate.

Millennial travel

Some millennials are going into a world of work, carving out careers and finding they have a little bit of disposable income. Others are deciding that it’s not the best time to start a career and instead want to buy a one-way ticket to have the adventure of their life.

Either way, millennial travel is an exploding sector, with which many tour operators and destinations are going to have to get up to speed.

Airbnb leads the way in millennial travel, as it allows youngsters on a budget to visit a destination without having to pay ludicrous prices for a hotel room they won’t be spending much time in.

Millennial travelers are also forcing tour operators to create unique, inexpensive itineraries that steer clear of generic tourist hotspots.

“Millennial travelers are looking for transformational experiences while they travel, even if it’s only during a seven to 14-day trip,” millennial travel insurance company Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection president Dean Sivley old Forbes.

These transformational trips also include adventure holidays to once-unfamiliar areas such as northern India and Bhutan.

In 2018, millennial travel is predicted to enhance the sharing economy and cause a decline in traditional methods of booking as young wanderers look to traveler-to-traveler reviews for their trip-planning, rather than consulting a booking agent.

Of course, these predictions could all be blown out of the water if time-travel comes into existence in the next few days, or if all the luxury resorts in the world drop their prices by a few thousand dollars.

But in accordance with the rhyme and rhythm of 2017 travel trends, we reckon the polar regions will see more footfall than ever before and millennial travelers’ demands will be put before other generations’ needs.