Quirky travel trends for 2013

You’ll never guess who got into the hotel business in 2012 — or which country’s film industry has travellers flocking to its cities. And if you think booking travel from your computer is convenient, wait until you see the latest way marketers hope to capture your attention.

Every year, experts analyze the market and (try to) predict what’s going to shape the travel industry in the coming months. This November, Euromonitor International, a global business intelligence and strategic market analysis organization, released its World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2012.

Here are some top trends that could shape the future of the travel industry in the months ahead.

Technology-free vacations

The “digital detox” trend seems to fly in the face of travel apps and mobile devices, but the idea isn’t so far fetched. Travel providers know many of us want to escape all that technology from time to time — not to mention be free of other travellers’ lack of tech etiquette. Not only is there a lack of wi-fi at some resorts, staff even make you hand over your devices at check-in. Some resorts have already banned mobile phones from their beaches, while others offer “technology-free” rooms — no TV allowed.

In many places, you’ll receive extra perks and discounts if you’re willing to unplug. Don’t worry: with plenty of activities from massages to hiking, chances are you won’t go into withdrawal. If you’re feeling a little lost, these hotels have a low-tech solution: a map.

Shop ’til you drop in Europe

If luxury spending sprees in major European cities aren’t in your budget this year, don’t worry — this trend isn’t for us North Americans. Travel experts predict that the swelling ranks of the affluent classes in BRIC countries (that’s travel-speak for Brazil, Russia, India and China) will be looking to pick up their favourite foreign brands at bargain prices — compared to what they pay at home, that is.

Retailers in bustling shopping hubs like Paris, London, Milan, Frankfurt and Madrid are already beefing up their language skills and making sure they can accept foreign credit cards. They’ll also be working closely with tour providers to make sure visitors make it to their stores, malls and shopping villages.

A return to the Middle East — to shop?

While the past couple of years have brought sweeping social change to much of the region, the Arab Spring kept most travellers out of the Middle East. Now, experts are saying tourism is recovering in many countries where stability reigns. (Syria and Lebanon being the among the exceptions, sadly.) Growth is predicted to continue well into 2013 — if the region stays stable.

One of the top trends shaping the local industry is shopping hotels. No, we’re not talking hotels near the mall — they are actually inside the mall. Of course, shopping festivals and a rise of the retail sector is benefiting all hotels in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Unfortunately, we’re not talking bargain shopping — it’s mainly wealthy travellers fuelling this trend.

The glamour of Nollywood

No, that isn’t a typo. Did you know that Nigeria produces more than 2,000 films each year? The country is second only to India in terms of film production. These films are widely viewed throughout Africa, but expats in the U.K., U.S. and South Africa are extending Nollywood’s reach.

Like Hollywood and Bollywood, Nollywood draws visitors to scenic places and attractions where their favourite films are shot. More hotels are popping up, and the industry has even spawned several “film villages” throughout Nigeria. If you want a piece of the action, try Lagos — known as the centre of Nollywood’s film industry. It’s also home to one of the industry’s biggest events: the Eko International Film Festival.

Luxury brands built their own hotels

Would you stay in a Lamborghini or an Aston Martin? Luxury cars are taking on hotels in the coming years with iconic companies lending their names to luxurious accommodations. Tonino Lamborghini launched a boutique hotel in Suzhou, China this past June as part of a joint venture, and Indian motorcycle manufacturer Hero Motors is pairing with Marriott’s Edition brand to bring its name to Gurgaon, India. Aston Martin has already agreed to lend its name to property developments across the globe.

Experts say this trend could extend to other luxury carmakers, and fashion brands are getting into the game. (For instance, you can now find Armani Hotels in Milan and Dubai.) Be forewarned: with luxury names you can expect to pay luxury prices.

Destinations no longer off limits?

Rules are meant to be broken, right? More travellers are venturing where few have gone before thanks to changing travel restrictions and exclusive travel privileges. For example, Americans can now travel to Cuba and some companies are licensed to take visitors to places like North Korea, Libya and Myanmar. Tourism operators with the right resources — and a healthy risk tolerance — can create packages to meet this increasing demand.

And guess who is expected to lead that demand? Baby boomers, of course! It isn’t just because they have more free time and disposable income — experts note they’re seeking more active and adventurous holidays.

However, this trend could quickly go into reverse if countries change their policies or political instability flares up again. Experts say it’s still a pretty small market — but one that is primed for opportunity.

Booking travel on your TV

Just in case you need another way to book online, travel providers are hoping to cash in on the smart TV craze. These devices do more than let you enjoy your favourite programs: they also include internet access, social media and interaction with broadcasters and advertisers. By 2016, experts predict nearly three quarters of TV owners will have a smart TV.

Imagine turning on your television and being able to watch videos, browse photo galleries and check out local attractions from internet TV channels — or book a trip as you’re watching your favourite mainstream travel program. From tourist boards and tour operators to airlines and hotels, travel marketers are already betting on this trend taking off.

So will any of these travel trends become as big as predicted? No one knows for sure, but it will be interesting to see how they play out in the months ahead.