Tourists urged to avoid the ‘unadventurous’ in 2016 as Responsible Travel releases New Year holiday predictions.
After a difficult end of the year for tourism Responsible Travel questions whether the tourism industry is looking forward into 2016, arguing that the future of tourism in 2016 and beyond lies in experience-led aspirational holidays, rooted in culture and landscape in destinations such as Cuba and Japan.
With the Tunisia attacks, Greek economic crisis, the Nepal earthquake and the global terrorism threat, it has been a difficult end of 2015 for the tourism industry. Mainstream tour operators have, unsurprisingly, responded to 2015 events by increasing capacity in traditional tourist destinations, perceived as ‘safe havens’, including resorts on the Costa Brava which have previously been dropped by companies citing “’destination fatigue’ and a lack of adequate hotels”. While this retreat into the ‘unadventurous’ has resulted in one of the most profitable years for many holiday companies, Responsible Travel argues that this focus is a backwards step for the industry and tourists alike.
Responsible Travel’s managing director; Justin Francis says “Over the last few years we have seen a real trend in people wanting more from their holidays, looking for value for experience rather than simply value for money. We believe that this is where the future of tourism lies, and it is evident in the tourism trends we have been seeing through 2015 and into next year.
“However, what the tourism industry is doing is exactly the opposite; driving holidays back towards the unadventurous by increasing capacity in package resorts when it should be reassuring people, and encouraging their more experience-led holiday dreams.”
Francis believes that Responsible Travel holds the key to delivering more aspirational holidays; making these easy to achieve by matching its customers with the expertise of some of the world’s best small, responsible holiday companies.
“We believe that 2016 will be a good year for travel despite the problems of 2015. The pound is still strong, oil prices and interest rates are low, and people still want to travel, but crucially they want something more memorable and more rooted in the place, culture and food of their destination.
“In 2016 there is real opportunity for responsible tour operators to take the industry forwards, filling the need for more aspirational, adventurous and experience-led tourism as the rest of the industry looks backwards.”
With this in mind Responsible Travel have released their predictions on what will be hot for responsible tourism in 2016:
1. Cuba. The company has seen a 166% increase in Cuba bookings through 2015, with 4 of its 5 most booked holidays this year to the country. It says “With Cuba starting dialogue and trade with the US, it is not only becoming easier to travel here, but there is a real desire to ‘see it before it changes’.
“We believe that our Cuba trips are so popular because they give people the chance to see the ‘real’ Cuba, to better understand a country which has been shut off from the world for such a significant period of time’.
2. Unusual holidays. Among others the site now boasts six separate trips dedicated to spearing invasive lion-fish species on Belize’s barrier reefs, and 13 new holidays specifically tailored around the 2016 and 2017 solar eclipses. “Unusual holidays are the life-blood of responsible tourism, aspirational experiences which give travellers the opportunity to do something a bit different from the standard fly ‘n’ flop holiday in the sun.
“From kayaking breaks to the more weird and wonderful trips mentioned above, unusual holidays are here to stay in 2016.”
3. Japan. With an almost 50% increase in bookings during 2015, Japan’s well-preserved culture, delicious food and inspiring landscapes are a heady mix for travellers looking for holidays rooted in local people and places. “Our walking trips along the Nakasendo and Kumano Kodo trails have particularly gained in popularity as they offer a slower way for people to really immerse themselves in Japan’s traditions and cultural rituals.
“With the current strength of the Pound against the Yen, and with Japan extending more and more of a welcome to foreign guests this is a trend we expect to see continuing into 2016”.
4. The real Greece. Mainstream operators may have panicked when Greece’s financial crisis hit the UK news in July 2015, however the country became Responsible Travel’s 10th most booked destination in 2015, moving up from 14th in 2014. “Those people looking to experience the real Greece have not been put-off by the UK media’s scare-mongering.
“Our holidays which explore Greece on foot, by boat or bike, which take people into the heart of tiny villages, to local restaurants and give them a locally-led insight into its captivating history are just as popular as ever. And our local specialists which run these trips are just as ready and able to welcome tourists as they have been.”
5. Cycling holidays. Holidays on two wheels continue to gain popularity with Responsible Travel seeing a 17% increase in cycling bookings over the last three years. “A cycling holiday generally gives travellers a chance to see places off the beaten tourist trail – whether this is a small town in rural Catalonia or a different perspective on Petra in Jordan. It offers a chance to connect with culture and landscape on a much more intimate level than travelling by car, and it’s a healthy option!
With the 2016 Olympics inspiring more people to get active we anticipate the interest in cycling holidays to continue through next year.”
6. Iran. Bookings for Iran increased 83% in 2015, with some tours for 2016 already selling out. Responsible Travel has also recently added a new two week holiday from Tabriz to Shiraz for 2016.“It seems that despite the problems in the Middle East, intrepid travellers are keen to discover the region beyond the news, to explore its fascinating UNESCO world heritage sites and beguiling ancient cultures.”