There is no question that travel has changed. How we travel and what we want from our holiday experience is different now.   The experiential travel niche is growing in demand. Travellers now want a mindful, authentic experience, rather than one where you show up, stay at a resort, go on a few organised tours with dozens of people and then go home without getting to know the people or the culture.

With experience-based travel on the rise, we reached out to experts in the sector for their thoughts on what could be the top experiential travel trends for 2021.

1. Road trips

The pandemic has meant that most of us have been cooped up in our homes for months on end.  Some of us were lucky to have a park close by, but many were not so fortunate.  Our sense of freedom has been curtailed and now, more than perhaps ever before, people want to regain their feeling of being free.

Tom Harding of Nemo Travel, a travel agency that’s disrupting the travel industry by making booking boutique hotels more accessible, agrees. He’s already “seeing the demand for destinations such as Oman, Namibia and Kenya which guarantee open spaces, wilderness and the sense of truly escaping home. The feeling of driving through these destinations will feel like freedom. That’s what people are craving”.

And Joanne Nemes, a prolific travel writer and owner of The World In My Pocket certainly agrees that road trips will be an experiential travel trend next near.  She believes that “people will go on road trips in their own country rather than get on a plane”.

2. Increased demand for wellness travel

The pandemic, the lockdowns and constantly changing restrictions have put enormous pressure on people both mentally and physically. Amanda Ho, the founder of Regenerative Travel, a one-stop-shop for the conscious traveller “foresees that there will be a renewed focus on wellness travel. Secluded and remote getaways such as the private island of  Bawah Reserve in Indonesia and Futuange Hotel & Spa in Chile will be more in demand”.

And the demand for wellness travel includes connecting with nature in a more fundamental and meaningful way. We spoke to Vicky Philpott, founder of Vicky Flip Flop Travel,  has been to over 75 countries and has worked with some of the biggest travel brands in the world and she agrees.Cities won’t be as popular and it’ll be the countryside that people flock to. Travellers want open spaces and will want to be able to social distance as much as possible”.

3. Increased interest in supporting the local community

people standing at a street vendor stall in MumbaiSupporting the local community, whether it be here in the UK or abroad, is fundamental and a critical factor in experiential travel.  Experience-based, authentic, mindful travel is about connecting with the culture of a city or town on a deeper level.

Joanna Nemes believes that “people will focus more on slow travel around their own country” and that is certainly a trend we’re starting to see. The number of staycations people have booked has increased enormously.  When Boris Johnson announced the lifting of the ban on travel in the UK back in June, luxury lodge operator Hoseasons had a booking every 11 seconds. She also thinks that “travellers will spend more money locally, supporting the local communities and small businesses”.

Exciting times ahead

We’ll be watching the experiential travel trends closely.  2020 has been a challenging year but it has created positive change in lots of ways. We’re excited to see what’s coming next.