LONDON—The global economy might have stabilized, but the travel and tourism industry is as dynamic as ever, according to “World Travel Market global trends report 2013,” which was commissioned by the World Travel Market in conjunction with Euromonitor International and released Monday at the World Travel Market in London.
“The global economy in 2013 has stabilized compared to 2012 with a 3.1% (gross-domestic-product) growth expected for the year,” said the BBC’s Babita Sharma, who was tapped to present the key findings and moderate a subsequent panel. The International Monetary Fund predicts a further 3.8% increase during 2014, she added.
The travel and tourism industry is expected to record growth as well, averaging 4% increases for both arrivals and tourism spend during the next five years, she said.
Several key trends will emerge during this time of growth, according to the report.
1. Americas: PANKs show potential
Forget the DINKs, the traveler demographic also known as “dual income with no kids.” Today in the Americas one of the largest untapped segments is the PANKs, or the “professional aunts with no kids,” according to the report.
There are 23 million members of this cohort in the United States alone, Sharma said. They are smart, tech-savvy working professionals who see travel as a good way to connect with their nieces, nephews, godchildren or other kids in their lives.
They range in age, said Caroline Bremner, head of travel and tourism research for Euromonitor International, during the panel portion of the session. Approximately two in five (42%) of women aged 15 to 44 are childless but feel a strong desire to foster relationships with the children in their lives, she said.
“With regard to tailoring (hotel offerings) to them, obviously you need to be talking to them and communicating to them through social media, having multiple platforms to ensure you’re reaching them and that the message is consistent across them,” Bremner said.
“(But) it’s not necessarily revamping (the hotel experience) completely,” she added.
PANKs’ preferred travel destinations are domestic, family-friendly destinations places such as Disneyworld and Hawaii, Sharma said.
And what about the market potential for uncles in similar situations? The PUNK segment is nearly as viable, Bremner said.
2. Europe: Travel in the sharing economy
“Recent developments in online commerce and social media have made sharing travel services easier,” Sharma said. They’ve also led to new business models in the sharing economy. Among them: Airbnb, HouseTrip and HomeAway.
The concept is simple, Sharma explained: Average Janes and Joes offer their unused rooms, apartments or more to travelers on a short-term basis. The exchange is not only more affordable than a traditional hotel stay, but it usually offers a more authentic taste of the destination or locale, she said.
Such peer-to-peer travel networks are growing exponentially in Europe and will represent approximately $15 billion in global travel accommodation sales by 2017, according to the report.
They’ve gained traction elsewhere, including the United States, where some municipalities wish to eke out their share of the success by imposing occupancy taxes and other regulations.
Sharma said those efforts are not enough to deter this increasingly popular market, however.
3. Concierge gone mobile
Certain trends transcend borders. The rise of smartphones is one of them, Sharma said.
“The concept of a mobile concierge is on the rise,” she said.
In addition to serving as a reservation channel, mobile is now being used increasingly as a pocket-ready customer service tool.
For guests, it ensures real-time solutions to their every beck and call. And while that adds to the operational workload of hoteliers, it also allows them to foster deeper relationships and engagement with the guests they work so hard to target.
Hoteliers who fail to embrace this trend risk losing out on business, said Angelo Rossini, travel and tourism analyst at Euromonitor.
“We think this is a strongly rising trend,” he said. “We need to embrace it.”
4. Africa: On safari—with the kids
Multi-generational holidays are growing, and Africa’s safari-tourism business is not immune.
“South Africa is a key destination for family safaris,” Sharma said, noting increases in inbound arrivals to several other safari destinations throughout the continent.
The demand is especially apparent from emerging countries like India and China, whose inhabitants are more likely to travel with large groups and families, she said.
Tourism companies and hoteliers should work to meet the demand, developing affordable and –above all else—safe options for families, Sharma said.
5. Chasing the 24-hour traveler
Savvy hoteliers are rethinking their definitions of what constitutes a hotel guest, Sharma said. The overnight guest always will be the industry’s bread and butter, but gradually hoteliers are utilizing unused spaces to accommodate workers and transient travelers during the day.
The trend has materialized in several different ways. Some major chains, such as Marriott International, are now selling workspaces by the day or hour in formerly unused lobby and meeting spaces.
Others are selling rooms on a similar short-term basis for the traveling businessperson who needs to recharge during a layover or long-haul flight.
6. India: Social media shake up
India is already Facebook’s third largest market with 82 million users, but the country has only reached a fraction of its online potential. Only 12% of its population is online, according to the report, with 300 million projected by 2017. Three-fourths of those will be active on social media.
Mobile bookings are likely to soar, Sharma explained.
Hoteliers and travel industry professionals must tailor their offerings to fit this apparent need, streamlining their online booking channels and ensuring consistent content across different platforms, including smartphones, tablets and desktops, she said.
But they also must keep in mind the purpose of each platform, Rossini said. Social media, for instance, should not be used for promotions.
“The aim of social media is to engage … to gain their loyalty and therefore to increase revenues not on a short-term basis but on a long-term basis,” he said.