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Travel Trends 2019: Using digital tools to create authentic and highly customized experiences

It seems a paradox that technology – often blamed for keeping us from real connections – is instead leading people to seek out more authenticity, purpose and a greater closeness with friends and family. This transformation is ripping through the travel industry, becoming more important as the calendar flips into 2019. For the general market it means the use of technological tools to customize travelers’ experiences.

Virtual tools for real experiences

As technology becomes more powerful and sophisticated, travelers’ expectations are rising. In the mass market, today people are demanding technological solutions that will let them enjoy authentic, meaningful and highly customizable travel experiences. Further fueling this trend are Millennials’ preference of experience over product and their rising spending capacity.

According to Marcos Constandse, Vice President of Finance at Grupo Xcaret “guests are no longer interested in cookie-cutter hotels. They want to feel that they have some connection with the destination and hotels are starting to reflect this. ” Properties in places considered exotic by the US market are playing up local elements, knowing that if they don’t provide them, guests will look for them somewhere else. Big properties and hotel chains are competing with vacation rentals as older Millennials choose to vacation with extended family and friends in houses or condos where they can almost live like locals.

This yearning for a deeper connection also translates into a quest to instill visits with a sense of purpose. American Express travel survey found “68% of consumers prefer travel experiences that incorporate a deeper purpose,” ranging from volunteering to learning a new language.

Traveling with purpose is transformational and is about more than heading to the beach to lie on the sand, but to go beyond the ordinary, leaving one’s vacation feeling changed into a better person. Such trips do not have to be in luxurious settings and can occur in almost any part of the world. This makes them a trend any property or location can benefit from. One travel industry organization, the Transformational Travel Council, has emerged in recent years to offer companies, destinations and individual travelers guidance on meaningful, purpose-filled vacations.

Located in Cabo San Lucas on the edge of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Solmar Hotels & Resorts has tapped into the purpose trend by offering “unique experiences for foodies, such as farm-to-table dishes,” says Ricardo Orozco, Vice President of Operations.

Travel personalization is also surfacing in 2019. Hotel companies are seeing this in requests from clients who “feel that brands should tailor the information based on preferences or past behaviors,” according to Helen Montijano, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the U.S. and Canada. A division of Grupo Piñero, Bahia Principe has 26 properties throughout the Caribbean, Mediterranean Spain, and in Mexico. Clients know that travel companies are collecting more data on then than ever and expect them to use it to anticipate their needs.

Technology has also made readily available more information on destinations, allowing consumers to become their own curators in this authenticity quest. Enrique Calderon, COO of Posadas’ Hotels division and La Colección Resorts by Fiesta Americana, with resorts in Baja California, San Miguel de Allende and along the Pacific and Yucatan coasts in Mexico, says his property managers and staff are meeting guests that are better informed and more knowledgeable about the destination.

“Travelers are savvy about Mexico and the Caribbean and they are looking for the Mexican hospitality, and food. Every time they are more immersed in the Mexican culture,” Calderon said. Clients carefully tailor these bookings, emphasizing experience and authenticity, he added. “People are seeking extra options that can enhance their experiences, such as a premium restaurant gourmet experience.”

Mario Cruz, Concept & Product Development Manager for Original Group explains that yet “Today’s international traveler is looking for excellent service and unparalleled experiences, no matter the journey. They have a desire to visit a new hotel, restaurant, or a new destination that demonstrates that they are in the spirit of trying and experiencing new things.”

Deepening this trend is the increase in influence of peer-to-peer review sites, with people relying more than ever on fellow travelers’ advice.  “Brand loyalty has become secondary,” said Solmar Hotels & Resorts’ Orozco. “In 2019, travelers will be more trusting of family and friends’ recommendations.”

With changes surging through the industry, travel professionals must not only keep up with new trends, they must find ways to capitalize on them and stay ahead of the competition. From last minute-bookings, to unique, purpose driven travel experiences and more, 2019 will be a challenging, exciting year.

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