If you follow the travel trends predicted for 2020, you’re in for a big year – at the very least you’ll be going further, you’ll be going slower, you’ll be getting out of your comfort zone (snorkelling in Iceland, anyone?) or perhaps travelling in luxury.
1. Slowly does it
Planes are travelling further and faster – we’re all hoping to jet to London or New York on a non-stop flight any day now. But, at the same time, there’s a move to slow down and enjoy the journey.
Train travel is one way to do that, and it’s certainly trending, especially the type that promises comfort (often luxury), romance and stunning scenery.
Flight Centre puts train travel in Switzerland at the top of its list of travel experiences for 2020. The Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz – “the slowest express in the world” – is a one-day journey through the Alps, across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, while you wine and dine.
Canada’s famed Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff, the legendary eight-day Trans Siberian Railway journey, or Australia’s own transcontinental The Ghan are a few other go-slow options.
In Europe, inter-city train travel is rising in popularity as more people embrace the pleasure of gliding into the heart of a city without having to schlepp to and from some remote airport.
2. Going off-grid
The icons – Paris, Venice, London – still shine bright, but people are also looking to get well away from the big names.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if Lonely Planet reports trends, creates trends or just lists random destinations. For 2020, the top 10 countries it describe as “the best to travel to” include the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, beachy (but busy) Aruba in the southern Caribbean, and the tiny, land-locked eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) in Africa.
GAdventures, which focuses on on younger travellers, lists ex-USSR member Georgia, Madagascar off the southern African coast and Nicaragua in Central America among its top 10 trending destinations.
Booking.com’s research reveals an unlikely trio – Gzira in Malta, Ninh Binh in Vietnam, and the colonial town of Salta in north-west Argentina – in its top trending destinations for 2020.
Skyscanner reports a 62 per cent year-on-year increase in bookings for Bogota, Colombia.
Pace-setting Condé Nast Traveller’s “best holiday destinations for 2020” include the windswept archipelago known as the Frisian Islands, off the Danish Coast, Dakar in Senegal and the “Afro-Brazilian” city of Salvador. (We say, make sure you have travel insurance.)
3. Going wild
Safaris are long-term bucket-list favourites, but we’re looking to go further afield – Antarctica, Sri Lanka, Alaska.
“Russia has been trending as a cruise destination for a few years”, according to Flight Centre’s cruise marketing manager, Pamela Olah, who adds that the region’s almost uncharted far east is rapidly becoming accessible.
It has been compared to the Galapagos for remoteness, with wildlife such as reindeer, orcas and the world’s largest bears.
4. Not just seeing but doing
Travel is no longer just about going somewhere – it’s about being hands-on, engaged and doing stuff.
One of TripAdvisor’s top 10 travel experiences in 2019 was snorkelling in Iceland, though cultural forays such as Vatican visits and architecture tours also rated highly.
Climbing an active volcano in Vanuatu, kayaking with killer whales in Canada, stargazing in New Zealand’s Dark Sky Reserve are a few of Flight Centre’s top experiences for 2020.
Sea kayaking in Hawaii, cycling between French villages, painting classes in Provence, cliff-camping, hot air balloon flights, camel rides and cooking classes are all in demand.
Airbnb alone has 40,000 “experiences” to choose from.
Cruising continues its upward trend with 30 million passengers in 2019, but now gens Y and Z are joining in. Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages’ sleek Scarlet Lady, with its hipster design and tattoo parlour, is one of the first to cater exclusively to that demographic.
Other trends include smaller, ultra-luxury expedition ships with high-end extras (Scenic Eclipse has its own helicopter and submarine). Celebrity chefs on board are also a thing – think Nobu, David Thompson and Curtis Stone.
6. Sustainability and responsible travel
Booking.com’s research says 45 per cent of Australian travellers plan to take slower modes of transport to reduce their environmental impact in 2020. Skyscanner reports a 103 per cent year-on-year increase in interest for more eco-friendly trips in 2020.
Increasingly, those who care will try to minimise air travel (tricky for Australians determined to see the world), offset carbon emissions, minimise use of plastics (carry a refillable bottle and carry bags), respect wildlife and local customs and support businesses committed to sustainability.