In travel, the year 2019 was dominated by tech-human convergence. In 2020, technological innovation will further define not only the experience of traveling but also what it means to travel.
Innovative trends like DNA travel adventures, ecotourism, and cash-free travel are being aligned with and defined by greater industry openness and collaboration. This cross-pollination will make 2020 an important year shaping the future of flying.
DNA heritage travel
While family vacations are evergreen, trekking across the globe to learn more about one’s family origins is still a relatively new prospect. By the start of 2019, already 26 million people had taken elective at-home DNA tests. With that number expected to hit 100 million in 2020, DNA pilgrimages are definitely having a moment.
Last spring, genetics testing company 23andMe and hospitality company Airbnb partnered to cater to heritage travelers, with offerings including travel tips, suggested itineraries and booking information in their country of origin based on their DNA results.
AncestryDNA, meanwhile, partnered with cruise ship lines such as Cunard and Regent Seven Seas Cruises to offer genealogy-themed cruises featuring Ancestry ProGenealogists guest speakers, onboard education sessions, and even guided tours of the various ports of call.
Airlines and other travel sector stakeholders who take advantage of this trend should expect to be very busy in the year ahead.
Piggybacking on last year’s trend towards sustainable traveling, ecotourism goes one step further by actively engaging travelers in making a difference in their destination locales.
Whether it’s planting trees, trekking ethically through the jungle, or simply collecting garbage on a remote stretch of beach, ecotourism is hotter than ever. Booking.com’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report found that travelers not only actively seek out eco-friendly airlines, hotels, and destinations, but also highly value services and apps that alert them to eco-friendly options and activities at each touchpoint on their journey.
Slow-mo catches up
Whether travelers are inspired by Greta Thunberg’s epic boat trip trans-Atlantic boat journey this year or are simply looking for the chance to slow down and enjoy the ride, slower, alternative modes of transportation are expected to be huge in 2020.
In fact, Booking.com’s Travel Predictions 2020 report found that 62% of travelers said they’d prefer a journey where the mode of transportation was part of the experience. Meanwhile, 56% reported that they wouldn’t mind taking longer to get where they are going if they were journeying via a unique method like train, boat, or bicycle.
Fueled by Millennials’ aversion to cash (and sometimes even credit cards), the travel industry should expect to see a lot more virtual wallets in the year ahead.
This is partly inspired by cashless experiences in European and Asia-Pacific countries where mobile wallets are taking the payments sector by storm. For instance, the Japanese government is working toward becoming totally cashless, with an eye to making the upcoming Tokyo Olympics an almost totally cashless experience.
“The industry-wide push for airlines, airports, and their partners to embrace innovative collaborations across the travel ecosystem is probably the biggest trend to beat for 2020.”
Second city/shoulder season travel
Looking to avoid the crowds and potentially harmful impact of “overtourism” on popular destinations worldwide, many travelers are electing to travel in the off season and/or to unsung locales near larger tourism centers. This could see tourists elect to visit San Jose instead of San Francisco or Ljubljana instead of Reykjavik.
Airlines, airports, and others in the travel industry that are looking to capitalize on this trend should start planning now. Second-city destinations are quickly becoming the new hot spots, especially in the off season!
Rise of smart cities
Millennials and other young travelers love their Wi-Fi, especially when traveling. For them, the prospect of visiting places with major smart city initiatives is incredibly inviting. New York City, London, Paris, and Singapore are among those making cutting-edge city experiences.
Smart cities are zones that use the Internet of Things and other connected technologies to deliver heightened experiences. Think: Getting automatically billed for parking without having to fiddle around with a meter or phone app. Or, having a multitude of local transportation options—bus, metro, scooter, bike, carshare—that can be unlocked with a phone. Tech-forward travelers will be clamoring to see these things in action in 2020 and beyond.
Greater collaboration across the passenger journey
The industry-wide push for airlines, airports, and their partners to embrace innovative collaborations across the travel ecosystem is probably the biggest trend to beat for 2020. Initiatives like NEXTT from IATA and Airports Council International are looking to use connected technology, data, biometrics, and other solutions to design smoother travel experiences.
These seven trends will, starting in 2020, help push air travel into new, uncharted territories. Let’s get started!