As a new decade beckons, we take a look at some of the trends that may define it, from burgeoning destinations to changing consumer attitudes to travel.

Back to the future

Ten years is a long time in travel. At the start of 2010, travel trend reports focused on everything from the after-effects of the financial crisis to a likely rise in Stateside bookings on the back of – anyone remember this? – Jamie Oliver’s American Road Trip.

As a new decade begins, today’s industry is facing up to a fresh set of factors, with tech, climate change, over-tourism and Brexit among the multitude of issues.

But some things appear clear. As a nation, we’re travelling as much as ever. ABTA’s Holiday Habits report in October showed that 88% of Brits took a holiday in the past 12 months, up from 86% the year before. There was an increase too in the average number of times people went away (3.9 trips a year) and, for the first time since 2011, the number of foreign holidays came close to matching the number of domestic breaks.

Domestic bliss

In fact, England took second spot on Lonely Planet’s high-profile Best In 2020 list, drawing praise for its “timeless treasures and “spectacular natural beauty.” These assets might equally apply to the UK as a whole, which holds new selling points such as the Great West Way – a touring route linking London with Bristol – the soon-to-open England Coast Path, and Scotland’s 2020 Year of Coasts & Waters celebrations.

In Ireland, meanwhile, the city of Galway is embarking on a 12-month stint as European Capital of Culture.

A 2019 Post Office report pointed out city breaks are now the most popular type of overseas holiday, but there is a marked shift away from over-visited European hotspots. Lesser-known but easy-to-reach spots such as Italy’s Bari, Poland’s Katowice and Lithuania’s Kaunas are among those growing in popularity as a result.

Meanwhile, ABTA's Travel Trends Report for 2020 highlighted Euro hot spots as the Basilicata region of Italy, including the city of Matera, Lucanian Apennines and the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea; Madrid and its neighbouring cities; the Netherlands (not just because Rotterdam is hosting Eurovision Song Contest 2020); and Vienna, which will mark Beethoven's 250th birthday.

ABTA also said big influences on travel in 2020 would be an increased focus on the environmental impacts of tourism.

“There is a great emphasis now on responsible travel, sustainability and animal welfare,” echoes Tricia Birmingham, Product and Commercial Director at Gold Medal and Travel 2. “These topics are very much at the forefront of peoples’ minds. It’s important that we give travellers the opportunity to embrace local cultures, give back to communities and protect the environment, to ensure these destinations remain available for future generations.”

Being mindful, keeping green

For Explore’s Deputy Managing Director John Telfer, the impact could be significant.

“I foresee that there will be a gradual shift in terms of people deciding to travel less frequently, instead choosing to stay longer overseas rather than taking multiple short breaks, in response to the climate crisis and the desire to fly less,” he says.

This fits with ABTA's prediction for the rise of 'slow travel', too - which could mean reducing the carbon footprint by taking a train or staying in communities longer to give something back and make meaningful memories.

This could indicate that mid-haul and long-haul markets will become even more competitive, but there are countless destinations giving good reasons to be considered. Egypt, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Lebanon – all of which are recovering from tough setbacks – are being tipped to attract higher visitor numbers in 2020.

What’s more, they all hold potential for adventure, which is good news for agents.

“Travellers are certainly becoming more adventurous, and with that they are looking to book holidays which are more complicated to self-book,” continues Explore’s Telfer. “We expect these types of trips to show stronger growth, as customers look for support from experts.”

Longer time away might also mean a further rise in the number of twin-centre holidays being taken, and Gold Medal and Travel 2’s Birmingham agrees they are proving extremely popular: “Customers are taking advantage of stopovers, with some free options en route to destinations. Flying via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Doha and New York have all been popular with our agent bookings.”

New travellers, new horizons

Of course, a holiday isn’t just about where you go and what you do – increasingly, it’s also about who you go with.

G Adventures has developed a new set of family tours in partnership with National Geographic and Managing Director Brian Young says: “One of the big findings for us was how people identified as a family - it’s no longer just the nuclear family but is multigenerational, extending to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.”

So which other destinations are set for a strong year in 2020? Tokyo will draw plenty of attention, thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place between July and September.

The same can be said of Dubai, which hosts a World Expo beginning in October, and Marrakesh, which has been named Africa’s first ever Capital of Culture for the year ahead. And Egypt's Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza will finally be unveiled. Egypt offers a cultural experience like no other, says Phil Ellis, Product Manager at Titan. "But this $1 billion project has been 10 years in the making and is sure to be a highlight for anyoe visiting Cairo."

British Airways reports that new routes to Kos and Antalya are drawing plenty of bookings, while Virgin Atlantic is launching flights to Sao Paulo in March. Incidentally, parts of South America are due to experience a rare solar eclipse on December 14.

This date may seem far off, but as G Adventures’ Young explains, advance planning is far from unusual: “Brits continue to want to travel despite Brexit, (but) we are seeing increases in the lead time for bookings,” he says. "They’re pushing holidays further out, to allow for Brexit uncertainty and more time to save.”