HB ON THE SCENE: Best Western Tracks Travel Trends

NEW YORK—At its 14th Annual Leisure Travel Summit here, Best Western brought together several travel experts to discuss a variety of topics, including the latest trends in travel.

Greg Staley, SVP of communications, U.S. Travel Association, said that bleisure travel—the extension of business trips with a leisure component—is trending. “Expect hotels and destinations to make it easier to work comfortably when folks are on the road,” he said. “We found that 46% of business travelers have extended a work trip for leisure purposes.”

Another trend is the incredible interest in wellness and self-care as a travel theme. “It is at an all-time high right now,” he said. “Travel brands can capitalize on this by expanding on this in all budget branches. That could mean menu options for dining, it could mean providing a hiking map in the hotel lobby, or it could be an entire luxury brand that is devoted to wellness.”

More travelers also now have more of an “appetite for adventure,” according to Manny Ruiz, founder and CEO of Nostalgia Con, a convention for fans of 1980s pop culture. “People don’t want to just go visit a place; they want to experience it at the deepest level. People are increasingly trying to [answer], ‘How can I push the envelope even further when I go on a trip?'”

Besides an appetite for adventure, tourists also have one for local flavor. “We are seeing a huge trend toward the foodie,” said Desiree Fish, VP of global communications, TripAdvisor. “Food tours have popped up in a huge way in more destinations. We are seeing more suppliers come on our platform, and there are definitely more bookings there. People want that local taste and that local flavor.”

While travelers often want to go off the beaten path, they still want to visit the most iconic attractions. “Everyone is hyping the hidden gem and living like a local, but at the end the day—or three days—at a destination, you want to check the boxes,” she said. “What we are seeing is people looking to maximize their trip as much as possible—things like skipping the line so I don’t have to stand in line for an hour to waste my time.”

Even though they want to see the iconic sites, more travelers are becoming concerned with overtourism. Fish said, “Some people are starting to recognize climate change, and consumers are starting to say, ‘I know I need to be more responsible; I know I shouldn’t be another person during that summer in Rome. I want to go to Rome, but maybe I will go at a different time or somewhere else that it is off the beaten path. It also gives me a little more value because it is less expensive to do that.’”

The use of social media to document a trip is no longer a trend. “It is almost impossible to not think of your experiences nowadays without having it documented, whether it is on Facebook or Instagram,” said Ruiz. “It really isn’t even a trend, it is the new normal—and it is every generation.”