It’s going to be an interesting year for travel, with the pundits lined up at the biggest year yet or more of the same, with hesitancy, stop-start and the shadow of the pandemic refusing to go away.
We’re on the side of more travel, bigger trips – but factoring in that things can go wrong and preparing for it. Here’s the Explore team’s tips for the trends of the next 12 months.
Expedia has coined the term GOAT for 2022 – the year we decided to take the Greatest Of All Trips. Its evident in the way a world cruise with an ultra-luxe line sells out in just three hours and in those travellers booking multiple trips to create a mega-holiday.
In Australia, high-end resorts, secluded islands and best restaurants are all packed out for months. The surge in superyachts and private islands may be amongst the mega-wealthy but they’re proof of the intent on indulging “while we can”.
2. Health tourism
After the stresses of the past 22 months, we want to look after ourselves. The Global Wellness Institute has predicted: “The wellness market will … grow at an impressive 10% annual pace through 2025, when it will reach $7 trillion.”
Katherine Droga, who is launching new Australian site welltraveller.com.au to cater for demand, said: “2022 is really about the year of the reset, and wellness holidays really are the perfect way to slide into a new year and new intentions. We are seeing activities that focus on our breath really grow: meditation, breath-work and, of course, yoga.”
3. Holiday at home vs adventures overseas
Our recent survey of Explore readers showed only 25 per cent thought their next holiday would be a foreign one. That means 75 per cent of holidaymakers are staying home – at hotels and resorts here in Australia.
Tour operators say the second half of the year and 2023 show a different picture, with a switch back to about 60 per cent buckling up to fly overseas.
4. The return of house party
After isolation comes the urge to reunite with friends and with family. But cautiously. So witness the growth of Airbnb and other rental sites – and the rise of big house rentals. Want to have a party but don’t want to keep checking in and worrying about strangers? How about a homestay with those you know and love? Both Stayz and Airbnb report growth thanks to the pandemic.
5. Bucket list trips are now bucket list experiences
Once it was enough to be there, now we want a memorable, authentic experience where we touch, feel and learn about iconic places. We want to take something back – and we want to tell our friends that we’ve done something unique.
You can work with scientists in a lab at sea with Hurtigruten, visit the Museum of Underwater Art off Cairns; learn about conservation with rangers at Lizard Island or watch the stars with an astronomer at Uluru or go on a Bundyi Cultural Tour. The choices are growing.
6. Private jets
As more feel the need to fly in splendid isolation – and luxury! – private jets or Captain’s Choice’s favourite, Jet Tours, are growing.
The summer of 2021 was the busiest for private flights in 14 years, according to Argus TraqPak, which tracks these things. Global Jet Capital forecasts sales of $162.1 billion in new and used private jets by 2025.
The result? More rental and leasing companies. Case in point: The Explorer, created by German design studio Lufthansa Technik, is aimed at “world explorers – 16 who can travel in luxury, sleep aboard and see the world from their own cocoon”.
7. Ethical journeys
The world’s richest 1 per cent are responsible for double the carbon emissions of the poorest 50 per cent, but many of the wealthiest citizens are giving back.
Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has taken a dive into a new scientific research project to measure the diversity and size of the world’s sea life population. His yacht, Pangaea Ocean Explorer, and a fleet of sister ships will collect water samples to study billions of DNA harvested from the ocean.
8. Regenerative travel
We’ve got the message about the threat to our tourism industries and we really do want to give back. Seek out Aboriginal art experiences that delve into the fascinating culture and stories of Indigenous groups, while also supporting talented artists.
Longitude 131, near Uluru, for instance, facilitates visits by mindful travellers to the oldest continuously running Aboriginal art centre.
As founder of Bradt travel guides Hilary Bradt said: “If people really want to save the planet, and the people who populate it, they should book a flight to a country that needs them.”
9. The return of the travel agent
With travel becoming increasingly complex, a friend looking out for you is a good thing.
CEO Dean Long said: “Travel expertise to navigate the complexities of COVID-travel is needed now more than ever and as events and tourism begin to ramp up again, travel agents will be essential.”
10. Cruise will be back
Around the world tens of thousands of families have booked for 2022 – mainly in Europe. Small ships from Viking, Ponant, Regent and Azamara are among the winners. In Australia, we predict P&O and Princess will be back and that the enormous changes made over the past 21 months make them, at least according to the cruise lines, the safest place as everyone on board is vaccinated and temperatures are checked daily. There are also some exciting vessels on the launch pad for 2022.
11. Your smartphone is your new best friend
COVID check-ins, vaccine passports, keeping up with changes – you can’t be too far from your smartphone if you are travelling today. And that means tech – from apps to testing kits – is essential. Travel guides, audible books, music and films on the go are all in demand as the plethora of free entertainment and magazines has almost dried up.
12. Fairer refund policies
People are wanting to book with companies they know will treat them with respect, make sure health protocols are adhered to and that cancellation policies and refunds are fair. The refund horror stories from the pandemic have applied pressure for change.
Consumer group Choice has revealed only 23% of Australians feel confident about booking travel in the next 12 months and 66% of Australians would feel more confident if they had a guaranteed right to a refund.
13. Trading up
Many hotels and cruise lines report clients are asking for the biggest suites and next-level facilities. Space is a particular selling point for 2022 – with family suites and adjoining rooms creating sanctuaries. Service is also a new and important factor.
14. Airport lounges
As business travel slowly resumes, airports are seeing an increase in lounge demand where guest numbers are controlled and social distancing is maintained, stated a report from Priority Pass company Collinson. Airports are employing smart tech to ensure the experience is as contactless as possible across pre-booked security timeslots, pre-ordered food and lounge access, and online duty-free shopping. Hong Kong Airport is trialling facial-recognition technology for a touchless boarding and departure process.
15. Small group tours
Independent travel and the freedom to roam used to seem so alluring. But on small-group tours your fellow travellers have been vetted for vaccine status, guides take care of all the tedious paperwork – and you can bring your friends. What’s not to like?
Small-group specialist Imagine Holidays’ (imagineholidays.com.au) managing director, Alex Sirman, said: “The Uluru concerts are definitely the most popular, but general touring is still popular as well. Recently we have relaunched one of our Italian coach tours which has sold really well, out-pacing domestic trips by some distance.”
16. The rise of apartment hotels
Hotel chains are tapping in to the fact that we want to be contactless and socially distanced with apartment hotels where you rent a room with a kitchen and laundry – and the maids clean up while you are out.
At A by Adina you can order in from selected restaurants or use a breakfast voucher at one of the recommended eateries locally.
Quest is another operator, and Meriton Serviced Apartments, Mantra and Fraser are also increasing their offerings.
17. WFH becomes WFA
There’s a new offshoot to working from home, working from anywhere. Now, you can take the job with you – and if get caught out in a border closure or quarantine mandate, well, at least your job isn’t in danger. Thanks to technology, suddenly trading, writing reports and attending Zoom meetings from a Queensland island is not impossible.
18. Going green
Help preserve the natural environment by choosing sustainable accommodation that actively works to reduce energy use, minimise waste, nurture the land, encourage local producers and work with local communities.
On Lord Howe Island, Capella Lodge operates under strict regulations designed to conserve the island’s spectacular natural beauty and unique ecology. The luxury lodge has a large solar power system and world-class conservation efforts.
19. Return to trains
From The Ghan to Outback rail adventures, there are now more journeys on steel tracks than ever before. Overseas, there are new itineraries to travel in luxury rail, such as Vietnam’s Vietage train from Danang to Quy Nhon, Belmond’s Orient Express and the Rocky Mountaineer in the USA.
At home, Railway Adventures, founded in 2012 by well-known Australian TV personality and self-confessed rail fan, Scott McGregor, has taken almost 1500 travellers on over 120 tours from Norway to Normanton, Transylvania to Tasmania and the Sri Lankan jungles to the South Australian Outback.
20 Glampervans and camp sites
You can sleep under canvas or hire a million-dollar mobile home kitted out with a widescreen TV and laundry. Some 14 million campervan journeys took place in Australia in 2019, and figures from the Caravan Industry Association of Australia show that cabins were at 72 per cent occupancy, while powered sites were at 64 per cent capacity during holiday periods last year – and this was despite lockdowns and border closures.
It’s not just for grey nomads – families and couples are now on the road to beautiful remote locations.
21. Our happy holiday haunts will be back
Fiji has already opened. And Bali is expected to follow. And while New Zealand is hesitating, it’s unlikely it will be able to hold out for too much longer.
The allure of our favourite foreign climes will undoubtedly change the landscape of local holiday destinations. By next Christmas, you’ll at least be able to get a place on a local beach and a feed at a restaurant.
22. Our borderless country will be ours again
One of the great experiences of travelling in Australia is moving from state to state to see how our amazing diversity can mean so many difference travel choices. Every one of our state and territory cities has a personality of its own – and soon they will all be returned to us.
Western Australia – remember them? – will reopen in early 2022, meaning we can at last roam free in our own country. And that is a metaphor for 2022 – the year when, with appropriate precautions, we can return to the world.