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19 Nov, 2003

Future Trends In Tourism

The European Travel Commission compiled this list of trends as a draft document for circulation to its members for comment. It was made available to Travel Impact Newswire at the WTM 2003 Forecast Forum. Reproduced with permission.

– From the World Travel Market 2003 in London

Second in a series of dispatches taking an in-depth look at the issues, policies, strategies and trends that emerged at one of the world’s largest travel trade shows.

1. FUTURE TRENDS IN TOURISM (Draft paper prepared by the European Travel Commission, with slight editing for space and clarity. The final text will be published on ETC’s website www.etc-corporate.org in the coming weeks.)


Society changes continuously, and trends – whether economic, social or lifestyle -subsequently impact on tourism. It is important for the tourism sector to assess these changes at an early stage. Existing policies regarding products and services, marketing and investments, all demand appropriate adjustments or adaptations as per changes in market preferences and behaviour.

In the past, supply always dictated demand. Today, the reverse is true. Increasing saturation of the market and more self-assertive consumers with more free disposable income and leisure time, determine the profitability of tourism suppliers. Competition is becoming more volatile. Although some trends are supply-driven, it is also important to forecast trends in demand, as they help determine the time and money required to make the relevant adjustments.

The main objective of this analysis is to support suppliers in their longer-term policy making. The trends mentioned relate to Western society – and to Europe in particular for the next five years. They are based on various analyses and assessments made by international tourism experts.


The number of persons in older age categories will rapidly increase. Seniors will be healthier and will have higher disposable incomes than in the past. Many of them will enjoy early retirement schemes.

As a result, the number of more experienced senior travellers will increase faster than the development of tourism demand in general (although a gradual downgrading of pension benefits, and a trend to increase the pensionable age may slow down this development in the long run).

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Increasing demand for quality, convenience and security; for easy transportation; for more relaxing entertainment facilities (e.g. golf courses etc.); and for one-person products.
  • More demand in shoulder months.
  • In marketing, less emphasis should be put on age and more on comfort.

The average number of persons per household will decrease still further, which will result in higher disposable incomes and spending power. This will influence tourism demand in general, and demand for long-haul travel and short breaks in particular.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Increasing demand for luxury (‘small indulgences’); for special products which can be obtained on impulse; for city-breaks and other short breaks abroad – in periods that used to be less favoured.
  • Higher level of interest in winter sun holidays.


Health-consciousness will increase still further. Though that will not influence the volume of demand, it will certainly influence the decision-making with regard to destinations, and behaviour during holidays.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Destinations that are perceived as less healthy will be more quickly avoided than in the past.
  • Demand for sun-holidays only will continue to decrease.
  • Active or activity holidays will increase in popularity, and demand for facilities that correspond to this type of holiday will be increasingly preferred.
  • The demand for ‘wellness’ products will increase, including spas and fitness centres.


The average level of education is increasing. This will result in holidaymaking in which arts, culture and history play a more prominent role, including more educational and spiritual holidaymaking.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Increasing demand for special products.
  • The more prominent inclusion of elements of arts, culture and history in package tours and self-organised holidays.
  • The need for better and more creative communication of information.
  • Demand for new destinations in Central and Eastern Europe will increase.


The penetration of the internet – and its use for information and the purchasing of tourism products and services – will continue to increase. For tourism, the role of the internet, including new means of visual presentation, will increase still further, and will prove to be of utmost importance in future.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • The ready availability of tourist information on destinations and products, and increasingly sophisticated search engines to analyse such information will lend itself to comparison, and thus influence competition more intensively via ‘grazing.’
  • Experienced tourists will increasingly put together their own holidays on a modular basis with direct bookings.
  • The role of travel agents will decrease, as full package tours are increasingly bought directly via the net.
  • Internet will transform the classical role of NTOS and Tourist Boards at an increasing speed – but will create a new role in e-marketing, including the application of CRM-destination marketing.
  • Destination marketing (e.g. better branding with public support) will increase in importance as the source to stimulate website visits.
  • The availability of in-depth information on suppliers’ products, either on the destination site or accessible through links, will assume more importance as the basic precondition for the success of websites.
  • The possibility of ‘shopping’ via the net will stimulate later bookings.
  • The growing need for secure online reservations has to be stressed, in relation to more experienced and self-assured tourists.


The increasing availability of high-speed trains and low-cost carriers will influence classical travel flows. Road traffic will face more congestion.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Destinations will increasingly benefit from easy and affordable access for short breaks — in particular when major events are organised outside of the main season.
  • The increasing availability of direct links by train and plane will stimulate demand for international short breaks in cities and city-regions, to the detriment of rural areas.
  • The use of high-speed trains for medium distances will take over a large proportion of the travel currently undertaken by scheduled airlines.
  • Road congestion will negatively influence transport by private car – in particular in the high season.
  • Coach trips will decrease in importance.
  • Barriers that result from non-adapted schedules or not well connected inter-modal transportation will have a stronger negative influence on destinations that cannot meet the growing wish for easy accessibility.
  • Cruises – not only expensive cruises, but also those in ‘budget-class’ – will increase in popularity, in particular for those over 50 years of age.


Environmental consciousness will continue to increase. For tourism, this will result in more demand for sustainable destinations, in which nature and population will play an increasingly prominent role. In order to mitigate the costs for sustainability, the price will increasingly be passed on to the tourists themselves.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • The regional component in destinations will increase in importance.
  • Destination management policies need to be improved by more coherent and consistent planning.
  • The preference for destinations will be more strongly connected to the support given by the local population to welcoming increasing numbers of visitors.
  • Regions which have suffered from overbuilding (particularly where this is not in keeping with the natural landscape) will increasingly be rejected as attractive destinations.
  • Eco-tourism should not be confused with sustainable tourism.


Acts of terrorism, regional wars, pollution and other crises have unfortunately become facts of daily life, and influence the need to feel safe and secure. In tourism, this results in an increased need for safety and security, and in tourists avoiding destinations that are perceived as unsafe.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • The quality of water (in lakes and pools, but also of tap water) will gain more importance role in the selection of the destination, along with increased demand for better protection of water quality.
  • The more critical tourist will more quickly make claims if the product offered does not meet up to the expected standards.
  • The costs for guaranteeing safety and security will increase rapidly.
  • The industry should be better prepared to meet tourism demand more flexibly in periods of crisis.

8. LEISURE TIME Modern society exerts increasing pressure on people’s daily lives, and stimulates the wish for more leisure time and relaxation – which will limit the increase in free disposable incomes. For tourism, this trend is thus unfavorable – also because the increase in the number of days of paid leave for holidaymaking has come to a halt.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • An increasing need to supply low-cost products.
  • An increasing need to offer relaxation.
  • A shortening of the longer main holiday in favour of more short ones.


More sophisticated consumers are increasingly self-assured regarding their needs and rights. For tourism, this results in an increasingly critical attitude to quality, and to the price-quality ratio.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Alternative ways of spending time and money will increasingly compete with holidaymaking, and within holidaymaking, the preferences for destinations and accommodation.
  • Destinations that do not meet acceptable standards will suffer more intensely, and for longer periods of time.
  • More mixed behaviour: this holiday simple, the next one luxurious – this year long-haul, next year short-haul.
  • Holiday preference will become more fragmented, and thus influence repeat volumes.
  • Destination fidelity will continue to drop over the years.
  • More experienced tourists will increasingly result in a more critical attitude to the artificial, in favour of greater authenticity – in particular with reference to emotional satisfaction and the need to personalise; artificial supply that does not distinguish itself from each other (e.g. theme parks) will decrease in importance if it does not meet higher standards.
  • Experience and critical attitudes will stimulate tourists to revisit satisfactory destinations from their travel past.
  • The increasing preference for mobility will stimulate rentals of cars and motor-bikes.
  • Regions that offer a full, varied, totally balanced concept will be increasingly preferred, and will demand better destination management.


Lifestyles in Western society are changing gradually. For tourism, this influences the tourist’s perception of his/her personal needs and behaviour.

Consequences for the tourism sector:

  • Though relevant investments may be made, the interest in ‘Bed & Breakfast’ is lessening, since it is regarded as cheap.
  • As ‘status’ is less important than it used to be, leisure behaviour is becoming more personalised, leading to increased demand for smaller sized accommodation units (like smaller authentic family hotels and tourist farms).
  • The shift in perception regarding life and lifestyle will result in a decline in the demand for fully escorted tours.
  • Suppliers will benefit more if they are able to create completely new products, concepts and services that distinguish themselves by their added value.
  • Increasing specialisation from suppliers relating to specific hobbies and interests will become more important, and will more often be combined with holidaymaking.
  • The increased preference for solid ‘anchors’ as secure holds in a more uncertain world will stimulate the desire to possess second homes, especially in areas near smaller regional airports.
  • The trend of ‘back to basics’ will result in preferences for more simple holidays: from hotel to bungalow, from caravan to tent.


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