Predicting the trends that will take off in 2015 a new study, presented at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London in November, revealed that more travellers than ever before will eat local, stay in posh hostels – dubbed poshtels – and use new technology such as smartwatches to plan their trips. Watch out for the following cutting edge trends that are predicted will pave the way towards change, particularly in the Middle East region. By Rhona Wells
Wearable devices –the new tool for holiday planning
The new wearable devices, such as Google Glass and smartwatches are set to make it easier to plan and manage holidays. A handful of hotels, airlines and travel companies have already released smartwatch apps that act as room keys or allow users to book flights, download boarding passes or find the best holiday deals.
The report, World Travel Market Trends 2014 observed: “Wearable electronics will become an important tool for travellers, who will be increasingly connected to the internet through different types of mobile devices.”
These devices are expected to go mainstream and experience sharp growth within two years with sales forecast to rocket from nine million devices in 2013 to 180 million in 2016. Travel professionals are expecting the Apple Watch to take the sector by storm once it goes on sale in 2015. The report predicts that 35% of online travel bookings will be done with mobile devices by 2018.
Another one of the emerging trends that is certain to delight international foodies is the influence that the peer-to-peer concept is having on local cuisine. Riding the success of websites such as Airbnb, new online start-ups are pairing travellers with home cooks at their holiday destination. Visitors are invited into the cooks’ homes for meals or cooking lessons as the websites cater to increasing numbers of holidaymakers looking for value and more authentic experiences in their quest to sample local cuisine and meet new people. After the meal visitors can review their hosts in terms of food quality, venue and cleanliness.
The concept has seen rapid growth even though it hasn’t gone mainstream yet.
One of the websites, Bookalokal, founded in Brussels in 2012, has since rapidly expanded to 20 other countries, while another start-up, EatWith, has expanded from Spain and Israel to a further 21 cities worldwide in less than a year.
Rise of the “poshtels”
According to the study, stylish and cost-conscious travellers are embracing “poshtels” – affordably-priced hostels that have been giving a luxury facelift to give boutique hotels a run for their money.
Mixing modern and luxurious design with high-tech facilities, poshtels go above and beyond basic hostels, offering restaurants, twin en-suite rooms, free wifi and breakfast.
The “cheap but chic” concept is a hit with families and young, business and single travellers. It is especially popular among Generation Y, those born between 1981 and 1990, who embrace mobile technology and favour designer brands.
The rise of the poshtel is creating a favourable situation for travellers as budget and mid-range hotel chains rethink their design and lower their pricing in order to compete.
World Travel Market senior director Simon Press said: “Poshtels are more than a buzzword. They represent a viable accommodation option for a number of traveller segments and are helping to raise standards across the entire hospitality sector.” This concept could also be seen to be applied in Middle Eastern destinations such as Dubai, where there is a lack of 2/3 star accommodation, something the Dubai Department of tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) hope to address before Dubai 2020.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) ministers meeting focused on the impact of major events that allow the host country to develop/redevelop infrastructure and put the destination in the spotlight. To achieve a lasting and meaningful legacy, the momentum of such events – e.g. Dubai 2020 – needs to be planned, managed effectively and sustained to ensure firstly, that it does not disappoint and secondly, that is not just a nine-day wonder. An example in point is the UK, which benefited from the iconic Olympics in 2012 and, a year later in 2013, the Tour de France offered the UK another showcase opportunity. Both events were recognised as being huge successes at the time they took place and Britain went on to capitalise on the interest generated by each of them to record bumper tourist bookings for 2015.
The number of trips taken to the Middle East rose by 4.4% in 2013 and this figure is set to increase. Incoming tourist receipts were up by as much as 10.9% in 2014 and could see growth of as much as 10.4% in 2015. This growth is concentrated in the Gulf countries, which are regarded as safe and secure and provide a magnet for jobseekers around the world. Counties such as Syria, Libya, Iraq and Egypt are suffering the effects of political instability, as are Jordan and Lebanon.
The Middle East is positioning itself as a design hub – from Beirut, which has the talent and the production capabilities, to Dubai – which has the financial resources to create the appropriate environment. In recent years, events such as Design Day Dubai and Beirut Design week have attracted international professionals to design “a new face of the Middle East”
The events have helped to launch a variety of local talents onto the international scene including, Emirati interior designer Khalid Shafar and Lebanese designers Ghassan Salameh and Roula Dfouni. The Middle East design weeks are also helping to revive Arabic culture through works inspired by regional heritage and traditions, including fashion and calligraphy.
In number terms, Design Week Dubai attracted 12,150 visitors, 60% of whom were based outside the Gulf region, and Beirut Design Week, which had a total of 4000 visitors. Most importantly, both these events helped to showcase their destinations in a different light – Dubai away from, what is sometimes referred to as its ‘bling’ image and Beirut away from its political instability.
Design Week has also caught on in Saudi Arabia, which organised its first event in Riyadh in 2014. Meanwhile, Bahrain will be hosting a similar event in December.