2020 brought with it a mindset shift. As our lives were dramatically disrupted, people’s priorities changed. We were forced indoors and those that lived in urban areas were cut off from nature. With the seismic shift to remote working, we could see what was possible for the future of work. And with local businesses being forced to shut up shop, we fully understood the special place that our local communities have in our lives.

This mindset shift is fuelling consumer desire in the next decade, and it’s set to have a dramatic impact on the way we work and travel.

Travel in the age of the human dividend

In our Travel DNA report we analysed the human dividend – a shift to the traits and capabilities that make us human – through the lens of travel.

In the 2020s, to meet rising consumer demand for authentic experiences and meaningful connections, travel with be increasingly nature-based and community-centric. At the same time, thanks to flexible working arrangements and digital advancements, a new business traveller is arising that embraces a work-from-anywhere lifestyle.

Here we’ll look in more detail at what consumer desire means for the future of the industry.

Consumers want to be closer to nature

The physical and mental health benefits of being in nature are becoming more widely recognised among consumers. We’ve seen the rise of wild swimming. Walking is increasing popular. And it’s all down to how it helps us cope with stress and anxiety.

It’s therefore no surprise that getting closer to nature is continually being sought out as a feature of travel too. In 2020, almost two in five (38%) UK consumers said they go on holiday to get closer to nature – this is up from 31% in 2016.

So, what does this mean for the travel sector? It has both short-term and long-term consequences.

In the short-term, it’s all about simply getting back to basics. To get physically active and help rebuild fragile mental health post-Covid. In the longer-term, and as we get closer to 2030, consumers will increasingly demand travel experiences that can trigger and tap into their full range of senses and emotions. This is something nature travel and all its variations is uniquely positioned for.

Whether luxury experiences, digital marketplaces of nature-based activities or Government-backed initiatives, gone are the days of satisfying our minds with a week lying on the beach. Traditional brands will need to adapt, whilst start-ups are already disrupting.

And consumers want to give back to communities across the world

Sustainable solutions for travel are of course high on the consumer agenda, but many also want to take this a step further. Consumers increasingly desire to connect with and give back to the local community, and create meaningful memories in the process.

And this flows from the importance we placed on local community throughout the pandemic and taps into the consumer desire for authenticity and a “local” experience whenever we travel. Something that is the most important factor for 59% of consumers, often focusing on authentic local cuisine and flavours.  

But many want to take this notion much further.

Travelers will increasingly look to make a difference in small towns that were already struggling socially, environmentally or economically before the pandemic. They want to support these places by empowering locals through actions like patronising local businesses and donating to non-profits.

And by 2030, many eco-ethically minded consumers will choose to first seek authentic experiences and community on native land. When they do go abroad, they will be more selective and intentional than ever, turning to platforms that allow them to filter brands and destinations based on their local community involvement, values and overall destination stewardship.

And what if consumers can have it all?

During the pandemic, we saw what was possible for our working lives. We could dial in from wherever we are, collaborate with our teammates on platforms like Slack and get much needed headspace away from the busy office environment.

This has led to the resurgence of digital nomads. New businesses travellers that embrace a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, made possible by flexible working and technology. Unsurprisingly this trend is appealing the most to Gen Z and Millennials.

Of course the first question centres on practicality in the workplace, with employees of forward-thinking companies and entrepreneurs best able to take advantage of it. The question for the travel industry is how to facilitate this change.

A sense of community is essential with hotels transforming into multi-use spaces for example. Booking platforms are springing up that cater for employees who want to work abroad and satisfy their wanderlust.

And it’s the brands that can position themselves as digital nomad planning partners that can be the real winners in this space.

So how can brands keep up with the pace of change?

In our Travel DNA report, we dive further into the changing consumer demand around travel in the age of the human dividend. We also highlight the key changes brands need to make now and in the next two to five years to keep up with the pace of change. Download the Travel DNA Report now.

And in our latest webinar, we looked in detail at the opportunities for brands when it comes to tackling these changing consumer travel choices. Watch the webinar now.