The biggest travel trends expected to hit in 2020

Tourism has changed significantly in the past 10 years, and as we prepare to move into a new decade it appears there is a lot more change and transformation to come. In this blog we reflect on the last 12 months of travel predictions, look ahead to the future of travel and take a deep dive into the top trends expected to transform the travel industry in 2020. 

People are increasingly in search of experiences that fulfil a desire to explore different cultures as well as give back to the communities they are visiting. The allure of travel philanthropy or impact tourism is that travellers return home having had a unique experience and feeling accomplished in the small difference that they may have made. Travel philanthropy can look different to everyone, but the key component is that travellers want to feel that their trip was meaningful.

Research by the Centre for Responsible Travel supports this growing trend, with 55% of people surveyed indicating that they had been involved in this type of travel within the last 2 years. Furthermore, 48% felt it was very important for their spending to positively impact local communities while on holiday. Gen Z and Millennials are driving this growth, with young people playing a larger role in the travel decision making process for their parents and family.

Tour operators that consider the emotional component of travel may design itineraries with the opportunity to give back to the local community, such as volunteering, staying or working with local communities, or simply donating to local organisations. Impact tourism is slightly different in that it encompasses those travellers who simply don’t want their trip to negatively impact the communities or environment they are visiting. These travellers will likely be in search of itineraries that purposefully steer away from unethical tourist attractions such as inhumane elephant encounters and instead place importance in supporting locally owned suppliers. 

As the world becomes more globalised and multicultural, people are moving away from their ancestral homelands and in many cases losing touch with their culture as they assimilate into new places. However, with increasing historical information appearing online and the development of genealogy technology, it’s now easier than ever to trace your heritage and find out where you are truly from.

The result: Ancestry travel, a rising trend in which people visit places that are related to their heritage. In fact, 50% of Americans, 89% of Indian people and 68% of French people have already travelled to at least one country or place significant to their family history. These ancestry-focussed itineraries can take a few different forms: 

Genealogy Travel

This type of travel is designed for those who enjoy genealogy and researching specific family members or family lines. Travellers conduct their own research and visit places of historical significance to family members within the last four or five generations. This is particularly relevant for those who live in colonial countries such as New Zealand or Australia and want to visit their great-great grandmother’s family farm in England for example. Some tour operators who specialise in this type of travel have genealogy experts available for consultation to help customers learn more about the lives of their family members. 

Genetic Exploration

With genetic genealogy testing becoming significantly more accessible to millions of people worldwide, there has been a boom in ancestry travel. People can now use their DNA to determine their next family holiday, visiting the places where their ancestors once lived. Airbnb have recently partnered with 23andMe (a DNA testing company) to do exactly that, pairing customers DNA results with local accommodation and activities in those areas, sending travellers on heritage trips to explore their roots. 


Although not specifically related to the heritage of individuals, following in the footsteps of religious figures fulfils the same need that that ancestry travel does; a drive to find yourself and feel more connected to your history. Pilgrimage and faith-based travel isn’t a new trend, but in 2020 it is expected to become a more prominent niche in the travel industry with people coming from all over the world to complete famous pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain, providing a unique opportunity for tour operators. 

A greater awareness of the damaging impacts of over-tourism has paved the way for this latest trend: Undertourism. Slowly but surely, tour operators are cottoning on to this new style of travel; and travellers are loving it. 

Under tourism is an intentional pivot away from regions plagued by over-tourism. Itineraries designed with this approach in mind send travellers to untouched locations that have previously had little to no tourism. The results are multi-faceted: Small and often impoverished economies are growing, the strain on heavy tourism areas is reduced and travellers are experiencing a more fulfilling and authentic travel experience. 

With the internet at their fingertips travellers are feeling more empowered to assist in the travel design process. Whether they have a direct feed of inspiration and recommendations coming in from Instagram or follow travel blogs which detail a selection of pre-made itineraries and suggestions; there’s bound to be something online that will be influencing your future customer and in 2020 this trend will be more impactful than ever before.

As a travel designer in an industry that has felt the effects of the internet and the do-it-yourself wave of travel, it’s not surprising to feel protective over your role when a customer wants to co-create with you. But, thankfully, the industry has adapted too, customers being involved in the creation of their itinerary has opened up doors for a new age of meaningful tailor-made travel. 

Megacompanies like Google, TripAdvisor and Airbnb have created products that are designed to serve up travel ideas and give power to the traveller. Although this sounds like it could push travellers away from tour operators further, travel companies across the globe are finding these innovations are offering new ways to connect with customers on a deeper level. In 2020 this move towards a more collaborative travel design process tour operators will be able to help design exactly what travellers want while also acting as an insightful clairvoyant as they navigate the noisy world of online travel recommendations.

Rest assured, not all of your customers will be banging down the doors to help design their next itinerary. The co-creation trend isn’t for everyone, niche markets that are more hands-off such as luxury travel are likely to have a higher density of travellers who want to have a designer plan, book and manage their entire itinerary from start to finish.

This trend is driven in part by a consideration of the environmental impact of travel, and in part by traveller’s desire to slow down and have richer experiences in the places they are visiting. Instead of jet setting around the world in two weeks, travellers are preferring to use slower modes of transport, not only to get where they are going but also to have unique and life-changing experiences along the way. This could be anything from cruising down the river Nile or doing the Great Ocean Walk in Australia, to cycling through the South of France. This slower-paced way of travel is appealing to a growing number of travellers, with research conducted by revealing that more than half of travellers would consider taking (or have taken) slower modes of transport to reduce their environmental impact or connect more deeply with the places they are visiting.

It’s clear that for travellers in 2020 and beyond its quality over quantity that really matters. 

In 2020, Richard Branson’s commercial space travel company, Virgin Galactic, is expected to begin taking amateur astronauts, engineers, teachers and students up to an altitude of more than 80 kilometres; a height which is accepted by many as the ‘start of space’. Although these spacecrafts are not yet going beyond earth’s atmosphere, Virgin’s mission to democratise space travel and allow private individuals and researchers to explore the earth from a new perspective is paving the way for a new age of tourism. 

There is no shortage of billionaire entrepreneurs who are working hard to pioneer the age of space tourism. founder, Jeff Bezos’s aerospace company, Blue Origin, are getting closer to launching paying travellers into space. Similarly, Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX are working hard to manufacture space vehicles that can be re-launched over and over again, and potentially send travellers to Mars. In 2018 SpaceX announced they would be taking their first private traveller on a trip around the moon in 2023; a mere 3 years away. 

While some travel trends come and go, others are definitely here to stay. We revisited our 2019 travel trends eBook and blog, to see what has changed during the last 12 months. Here are the top three trends that we think are going to be sticking around for a while. 

Working travel

Work-life balance is top of mind for many employees nowadays, and the working traveller trend is testament to that theme. Working travel can take many forms, whether it be people who are paid to travel and blog about it, those who commute between countries for work, or travellers who tack on a holiday at the end of a conference trip. The interest in working while travelling is on an upward trajectory, with no sign of stopping any time soon.

Off the beaten track travel 

The desire to get away from the typical tourist hotspots and discover something different is still front of mind for many travellers. Our society is increasingly digital, consumption-driven and fast-paced; which is not going to change any time soon! That’s why more and more travellers are seeking intrepid adventures that take them right out of their comfort zone and away from the hustle of everyday life. 

Digital Security 

2019 lay in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and ongoing high profile conversations about data privacy in our changing technological world. Data privacy laws have come into play in a big way, and Google has announced that they will be striving for a more secure web. As a result, travellers expect tour operators to move away from old insecure methods of collecting and storing data, driven in part by the demands of their customers. The travel industry is changing, adapting and creating new systems in order to meet these demands. 

How does the travel industry actually work?

How does the travel industry actually work?

Who are the key players in the industry, where do they all fit together and how does the industry actually work?! There’s no doubt that the travel industry is a confusing space to wrap your head around so we’ve broken it down for you in this easy new resource.

Tourism news websites you can trust

Tourism news websites you can trust

In the tourism industry it can be hard to differentiate the reliable travel news sources from the not-so-trustworthy ones. In this blog we summarise the top travel news websites that tour operators, travel agencies and DMC’s should pay attention to.

How to set your team up for success when introducing new software

How to set your team up for success when introducing new software

Making changes happen is hard. Especially when it is something that will create a significant impact on the way you work, like new software. We discover what change management is and how it can assist you, your leaders and your team in creating new processes that will make you more successful in the long run. Is it time for a change?