What Will Travel Look Like in 2030?

We are living in an unprecedented time of growth in travel.

The global travel industry is expected to top almost $3 trillion sales by 2024, according to Euromonitor’s latest Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel survey, and it’s not expected to stop there.

“We live in an era of rapidly accelerating change,” said Gloria Guevara, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president, and CEO, earlier this year at the launch of the report at the FITUR travel fair in Madrid. “Powerful, global forces are fundamentally changing the way we live, work and travel at a rate we have never witnessed before.”

As we approach the end of the decade, it’s an appropriate time to look at what the next 10 years may bring.

Will we all be boarding Virgin Galactic flights to the moon? Will planes all fly on biofuel? Or is the outlook less rosy with over-tourism cutting off access to some of the world’s most popular destinations and climate change wiping out islands and decimating polar regions and bio-diverse areas?

Unfortunately, the future is likely to hold a little bit of both.

Innovation continues to transform how we experience and explore the world. Biometrics are transforming air travel; auto-translation apps are easing communication; hybrid cruise ships are setting sail; and phones can let guests into a hotel room.

Almost every segment of the travel industry is focused on a cleaner, more eco-friendly future and travelers are going farther than ever off the beaten path.

It is impossible to accurately predict what travel will look like in a decade, but the actions that companies and organizations are taking today can tell us a lot about what the future could hold.

For example, it’s fairly safe to say that hotels will wipe out single-use plastics and take a more environmentally friendly approach to all aspects of operations over the next 10 years.

In particular, Hilton has made a major commitment to the environment. Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton announced a partnership with Clean the World, the world’s largest organization to recycle hotel soap and bath amenities. Furthering Hilton’s 2030 target to send zero soap to landfill, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton commit to supporting Clean the World by providing recycled hygiene products to save the lives of those in need.

When it comes to cruising, the industry is poised for exponential growth but also a transformation as it looks to clean up its act.

Royal Caribbean International has predicted that its Caribbean cruise business will grow by 50 percent by 2030, providing the cruise line with an overall economic benefit of $6 billion.

As the industry booms, cruise lines are committed to more environmentally friendly practices.

This fall, the first hybrid cruise ship, Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen, set sail, and its sister ship is not far behind. It is likely that by 2030, as battery power continues to improve, the industry may even see its first all-electric cruise ship.

Until then, biofuels are also something that may more frequently power future ships and cruise lines are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Starting January 1, 2020, MSC Cruises will purchase enough credits from companies that absorb carbon dioxide to offset all of the carbon emissions from its 17 ships while at sea. The company is also looking to meet a 40 percent reduction in its carbon intensity rate by 2030.

Biofuels are not only on the radar of the cruise industry, but airlines are also investing heavily in this segment.

United Airlines powers more flights with biofuel than any other airline at the moment and is heavily investing in companies that are producing this fuel. The airline is not alone in its efforts. KLM, Alaska Airlines, FinnAir, Hainan Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa and more are all experimenting with various types of environmentally friendly fuels.

It’s safe to say that fuel innovation will continue through the decade and be the norm by 2030, especially as flight-shaming continues to influence decisions of travelers.

Biometrics will also change how we fly. In the 2010s, travelers said goodbye to the paper boarding pass. It’s likely that biometric terminals will transform airports in the coming years. Imagine not needing a boarding pass or even a passport. You may just need you.

In addition to tech and sustainability efforts, Euromonitor identified eight megatrends dominating the travel industry in its 2019 Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel, which will likely transform what travelers look for when traveling in the next decade.

People are motivated by healthy living, they want to experience more and they want premium experiences. Today’s travelers are well-connected, they are committed to ethical living and they are looking for new experiences. Those targeting the traveler of the future need to be forward-thinking and tech-savvy.

One way travel could be different in a decade is how travelers purchase experiences. Will the subscription travel services boom? Will travelers crave disconnected experiences? Will apps and social media dominate purchasing power?

It is likely that travelers will seek to engage in all of these trends in the future.

Euromonitor also sees a shift in where travelers are going on the horizon. The organization found in its 2018 report that by 2030, China will overtake France as the world’s number-one destination.

Other destinations are looking at ways to target future travelers looking for new destinations by developing the experiences that they will be looking for, including sustainability, cultural engagement, wellness and culinary opportunities.

“Tourism authorities in many major cities around the world are working incredibly hard to prepare for the future,” said Guevara. “However, for a city to truly thrive and for travel and tourism to develop in a sustainable manner, city planning authorities, developers, investors, legislators, and community groups, need to understand how prepared the city is for future expected growth in tourism and the resulting challenges and opportunities it may face.”

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