How to leverage a travel trend.

November 14, 2023

They’re everywhere you look as year-end approaches…but how do you really leverage a travel trend?  Forecasted trends are great for media clickbait, but it’s not always so clear how to turn them into opportunities for your business.

Take the latest 2024 travel trend report from metasearch engine Skyscanner, which the hertelier website does a fabulous job of summarizing here.  If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’ll spare you the click with these highlights.  The seven trends Skyscanner forecasts for next year are:

  1. Gig Tripping – traveling to see a concert/show
  2. Main Character Energy – traveling to a destination you’ve seen in a TV show or film
  3. Budget Bougie Foodies – traveling to a destination for a specific restaurant or food experience, but not necessarily a super expensive one
  4. Destination ZZZZ – sleep retreats and sleep tourism
  5. Analog Adventures – disconnect from devices and “switch off”
  6. Celebration Vacationers – travel to mark an occasion like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  7. Luxe-for-Less – self explanatory

That’s all good and well…but what do you DO with that information?  How can you tap into trends like these to grow your guest base and increase your revenue?

Here’s how.  When thinking about pursuing a trend, ask yourself these four questions.  If the answer to any of them is “no,” then you should probably take a pass.

1) Is this a legit trend?

Not all trend reports are grounded in worthy statistics, so dig a little deeper than headlines and summaries to assess what’s credible and what’s media hype.  For example, the Skyscanner report says that the number of people searching online for sleep retreats (and asking what they are) “has increased.”  That’s great, but…increased from what?  From four people to 10 people?

There is indeed compelling evidence out there that people are becoming more aware of sleeping better and how lack of quality sleep impacts their health.  But does that mean they’re willing to spend TRAVEL dollars to find solutions?  It’s not a straight line.  It might be generally true that more people are considering things like sleep retreats, but that doesn’t mean you can just offer a – for example – “Sleep Better Package” and see your sales skyrocket.  The market may not be big enough and you may not be specialized enough to cater to those few who seek it.  Also, if you’re going to offer a package like that, you’ll need a better name.

2) Does this trend have staying power? ***

Sometimes, trends are fleeting.  And by the time you gear up for leveraging them, they’ve already peaked and gone.  So before you go heavily investing time and money into developing programs/packages that lean into that trend, assess how long it will remain “a thing.” Some trends are really evergreen, like in the Skyscanner case:  Celebration Vacationers and Luxe-for Less travelers will ALWAYS be around…even Budget Bougie Foodies, though they may not always go by that name.  You could tap those trends whenever you want.

But if a popular TV series or film has a connection to your destination?  You may only have a short window to capitalize on the Main Character Energy trend.  Once the show isn’t splashed across headlines anymore, it’s likely a less appealing time for you to launch an offering tied to it.  Not every show/movie hits evergreen fanatic status, the way (for example) the Lord of the Rings movies will perpetually inspire travel to New Zealand.  More often, you’ll need to be nimble and quick to harness that trend’s power for your benefit.   Get tips on how to maximize your timing here.

A panoramic view of the Anduin River in New Zealand, set among green forests and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The text reads: We can't all have LOTR as travel inspo.

3) Can you authentically deliver what those trend seekers want?

You may want to leverage a travel trend, but does the trend naturally align with what you offer or do you need to work hard in order for it to “fit?”  If you’re a rural/remote destination or a hotel in a rural/remote destination, you’re a natural for leaning into the Analog Adventures trend.  But if you’re located in a big city?  You might be tempted to offer some kind of package where the guest locks their phone in a box at the front desk and enjoys a weekend at your property doing “digital detox.”  That’s cute, but if someone REALLY wants a digital detox, are they traveling to a big city to get it?  Not likely.  Then you end up putting stress on your ops team for very little return.

If the trend isn’t an authentic match for what you offer, you’re just going to work twice as hard to create programming for dismal results.

4) Can you make it easy for such trend seekers to find and purchase your offerings?

If you don’t have an easily updatable, searchable, findable, and bookable website, then even if you have the best offer that aligns with a trend, it’s likely no one will see it/book it.  And if you’re not doing proactive digital marketing using keywords that such trend seekers are likely to be using, you won’t even be able to lure them to you.

For example, if you REALLY decide you want to launch a Sleep Retreat package like referenced in #1 above, you’ll need to invest some marketing dollars in – say – Google Adwords to find that limited slice of people who are searching for it.  So here’s where you need to evaluate ROI:  if I need to invest in making this work operationally AND put marketing dollars behind it, is there enough of a credible market who would find my offerings to be a good match for this trend?  It’s amazing how often that simple question can stop you from going down an unprofitable path.

Besides marketing through your own direct channels, digital marketing and social media have made this sort of targeting much more accessible for all kinds of trends.  You may not have Taylor Swift coming to your area, but plenty of people travel to see their favorite bands.  If there’s a venue near you, even if you’re not listed on their website as a local hotel option, you can still do marketing around popular bands who are coming to the area.

*** Before this piece wraps up, there’s ONE exception to the “does this trend have staying power” rule.

If the trend is NOT likely to have staying power, BUT it’s got enough of a shelf life for you to create and promote something relevant, then you absolutely should consider it.  Here you might be seeking promotional value, even if you’re not seeking bookings.

And this isn’t just the case with projected annual travel trends…this is the case for ALL trends that pop up and can be leveraged in the travel industry.  You just have to jump on them quickly and catch the fleeting wave before it disappears.

For example, remember the dude who drank a half-gallon of Ocean Spray cranberry juice while skateboarding down a highway to the sounds of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams?  If, that week when the TikTok video was a viral sensation, a hotel offered a “Dreams” package that included a skateboard, a half-gallon of Ocean Spray cranberry juice, and a $2 statement credit for a song download on iTunes… THAT would have gotten a ton of media coverage.  Would people have booked it?  Who knows?  But it would be pretty operationally easy for the hotel to create and “sell” immediately.

Or, if Cape Cod – a destination famous for its cranberries – were to immediately create a list on its website of the 10 Best Places to Skateboard on Cape Cod…that too is operationally easy and would likely garner press.

But if that hotel or Cape Cod were to offer those things even a month after all the hoopla passed?  Yawn.

So, if you want to try to leverage a wildly popular trend that doesn’t have staying power – even if it’s not a travel trend – then just be sure you can get your offer out before the buzz dies down.