Where the travel industry thinks we’ll be going on holiday in 2019

Whether we’re travelling to destinations as varied as Tunisia, Rwanda and Beijing or going away for a quick “micro-trip”, here’s what the travel industry thinks will be the key holiday trends for the year ahead.

Tunisia is trending for summer 2019 (Thomas Cook)

British visitors are slowly returning to Tunisia, where in 2015 38 holidaymakers were gunned down in the resort town of Sousse.

Package holidays from the UK to the northern African nation began again at the start of 2018. For summer 2019, Thomas Cook is offering 27 hotels across six resorts and 17 weekly flights from the UK, up from 11 in 2018.

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“Driven by quality holidays at an affordable price thanks to it being a non-Euro destination, as well as its soft white sands and rich roman heritage, appetite for Tunisia shows no sign of slowing down and Thomas Cook is predicting it as a hotspot for 2019,” said the tour operator.

Thomas Cook said that Tunisia bookings for summer 2019 are currently “up five-fold, indicating that sunshine at a fair price is a factor in the return of this old favourite destination”. It added that family bookings are up 16 per cent year on year, accounting for 66 per cent of its summer 2019 bookings – more than to the Canaries or Cyprus.

Beijing’s airport will encourage inbound travel (Preferred Hotels)

Beijing’s new airport is due to open in autumn 2019. Serving around 100 million passengers a year, Daxing International Airport will be the largest airport in the world. As well as bringing in more tourists to discover this ancient city’s charms, the new airport could encourage easier access to the rest of the country.

Travellers to Beijing “can enjoy a wealth of attractions including historical gems such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and modern attractions such as the Olympic Park and the 798 Art District”, says Blaise Jing, Regional Director for China for Preferred Hotels.

Expect to see more immersive public landmarks (The Innovation Group)

In spring 2019, the Hudson Yards development will open in western Manhattan, the largest private real estate development in the history of the US. Its centrepiece is a honeycomb-like staircase, described as “a monument meant to be climbed and explored”, with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, with almost 2,500 individual steps.

“The New York staircase is the latest in a series of monuments that are designed on a larger scale as immersive interactive experiences, to be explored and Instagrammed,” says The Innovation Group.

It cited artist Christo’s recent large-scale installation in London’s Hyde Park. On view until September 2018, it was constructed from 7,506 oil barrels and set in the middle of the Serpentine lake. Visitors to the park could swim and use pedaloes around the striking red and purple structure that appeared to be beamed down from space. It follows Christo’s 2016 floating orange bridge on Lake Iseo, Italy.

We’re all taking micro-trips (Booking.com)

According to the accommodation platform, 53 per cent of global travellers say they want to take more weekend trips in 2019.

“It’s a year that’s predicted to be all about made-to-measure, bite-sized travel with more curated travel itineraries squeezed into shorter time frames. Less is most definitely more as travellers are offered a more bespoke experience,” says Booking.com.

 The ”micro-trip”, as we’re dubbing it, is becoming easier with more flight routes, cheaper airlines and on-demand car rentals.

“We’ll also see a continued surge in desire to stay in unique and remarkable types of accommodation, which offer the chance to make a serious travel statement, even on the shortest of getaways,” adds Booking.com.

The Independent is kicking off a new video series in 2019 about “micro-trips”, where we parachute into a destination for a short period of time and film the whole thing. The first one: New York, in January.

Rwanda gets a glam makeover (Expert Africa)

This tiny landlocked country in central Africa is having a moment, with a number of luxury lodges opening and a new flight route into Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.

“There’s a generous sprinkling of luxury properties opening in Rwanda, causing a marked change in the kind of trips we’re arranging there,” says Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa. “Until 2017 the accommodation options were fairly basic but comfortable. Then, when gorilla permits doubled in cost (they’re now $1,500pp), a number of sophisticated lodges opened and now we’re mostly putting together high-end trips to luxury camps. The recently introduced direct flights from Gatwick to Kigali have added to its appeal.”

Rugby and flights give Japan a boost (Abta)

It’s no wonder Japan is on nearly every “hot destinations” list for 2019 – already popular year-round, the country gets an extra tourism boost thanks to the Rugby World Cup, taking place from 20 September to 2 November 2019.

Abta, the association of British travel agents, tipped Japan as one of its 12 destinations to watch thanks to new flight routes, as well as its sports hosting credentials. 

“Tens of thousands of sports fans will be joining the millions of tourists heading to Japan as the country hosts the Rugby World Cup in autumn 2019,” Abta says in its report. “Travelling to many of the host venues, already well served by incredibly efficient, state of the art bullet trains will be even easier as British Airways has announced it will launch direct flights to Kansai airport near Osaka from spring 2019. 

“The capital Tokyo, undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest, mixes the ultra-modern, with cutting edge design, fashion and architecture, with the ancient legacy of thousands of years of Japanese tradition and culture.”  

Puebla steps out of Mexico City’s shadow (Airbnb, Red Savannah)

For a long time, Puebla was eclipsed by its bigger-name neighbour Mexico City; but 2019 is the under-the-radar city’s time to shine thanks to plenty of new investment.

Based on Airbnb data for bookings made for 2019 as of October 2018 compared to the previous year, Puebla comes in at number three as a trending destination. Meanwhile, tour operator Red Savannah says of the city: “Puebla is the new San Miguel de Allende. The city has seen considerable civic investment with the beautiful decorative street lamps restored, Baroque buildings cleaned and the opening of a new International Museum of the Baroque in 2016. 

“The arrival of five-star hotels, Rosewood Puebla and Hotel Cartesiano have also raised the bar.”

Writing for The Independent, Mexico-based journalist Susannah Rigg adds: “It’s only in the last 12 months that this intoxicating, nearly 500-year-old city – known for its molé sauce, tiles and many universities – has become Mexico’s must-visit destination. 

“Resources were used to improve the connection between Mexico City (two hours’ drive away) and Puebla with a new road, as well as to update the cultural offerings. All of this helped to shake off the long-held idea that Puebla was an old fashioned, conservative city – it now has world class museums, award winning restaurants and luxury hotels. All the ingredients required to attract visitors from around the world.”

Sculpture puts West Yorkshire on the map (National Geographic)

Amid all the exotic destinations being touted as the Next Big Thing, West Yorkshire might seem an incongruous addition to the mix. But according to National Geographic’s “Cool List” for 2019, the region is the seventh hippest location in the world.

It’s being plugged thanks to a major new sculpture triennial, set to open in the summer.

“The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park have joined forces to stage the first Yorkshire Sculpture International, from June to September,” writes Nat Geo. “The Hepworth Wakefield will also be unveiling its Hepworth Riverside Gallery Garden, with access to the former Victorian mill buildings next door.” 

The publication also name checks the Calder Valley, with trendy Hebden Bridge as its epicentre, which is now a burgeoning hub for restaurants and independent shops. 

Responsible tourism goes mainstream (Thomas Cook, Abta)

It’s not surprising that several companies are hailing 2019 as the year responsible tourism goes mainstream. Like buying organic and veganism, what was once considered the preserve of “outsiders” has now become much more acceptable. In part it’s down to the much-publicised problem of plastic blighting our oceans, leading consumers to put pressure on holiday companies to phase out single use plastics.

Tour operator Thomas Cook highlighted the change it has seen in customers’ attitudes in its 2019 travel trends report. “In the year when the conversation around the nation’s plastic use went mainstream, Thomas Cook saw its customers start to consider this in their holiday booking process – one third say that noticing litter on a beach would affect their decision whether to visit that destination again,” it said.

“It wasn’t just plastics, attitudes towards animal welfare became even more apparent with two in three customers describing attractions which featured performing animals as ‘not at all appealing’.”

Abta agrees, flagging this trend among consumers too: “The uplift in awareness is also reflected in holidaymakers attitudes to companies – over a third (36 per cent) of people would opt for one travel business over another if they have a better environmental record –  up 13 per cent since 2014 (23 per cent).

“Responsible tourism has risen further up the agenda and is becoming an integral part of business decisions and planning, with many companies announcing plans to make holidays more sustainable in the long term.”

Millennial holidays get a makeover (The Travel Corporation, Thomas Cook)

If 2018 was the year the final 18-30 holiday, a British institute for almost five decades, took young travellers away for a week of sun, sea, sex and sangria, 2019 is the year that trips for millennials and Gen Z-ers will change forever.

Reports suggest younger travellers’ priorities have changed, with wellness, unique experiences and “Instagrammability” all ranking higher as factors when it comes to picking a holiday destination than the chance to take a debauched booze cruise around Magaluf.

The Travel Corporation says: “A number of developments in the youth travel space in 2018, such as the closure of Thomas Cook’s Club 18-30 brand, highlighted how the travel tastes of young people are changing and saw brands explore exactly what Gens Z and Y want from a holiday in the age of Instagram, mindfulness, cultural-awareness and sustainability.”

Thomas Cook’s 2018 annual holiday report stated that millennial’s obsession with capturing the perfect selfie was a driving factor in their choice of hotel. Over half (52 per cent) of young people surveyed confessed that social media posts were a consideration during their booking process, with Thomas Cook labelling this “ego travel”.

The company has launched a new brand, Cook’s Club, to appeal to this new brand of trendy traveller, complete with cocktails made by mixologists, silent discos and vegan-inspired food options.

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