The travel trends to know in 2020

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At the dawn of the new decade, not only is a new generation of travellers coming of age (Gen Z, aged 10 to 25) but there is also mass awareness of climate change, and how every individual needs to be responsible for their own carbon footprint – if that means flying less and planting trees, so be it. As Trump gears up to fight for a second term in office and the fallout from Brexit motivates people to travel beyond the costly confines of Europe, over- tourism will also force us to re-evaluate where we go, swapping crowded hotspots such as Venice and Santorini for less familiar destinations.

Here are 15 travel trends for 2020…

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    The time has finally come for Virgin Galactic to take members of the public on 90-minute sub-orbital hops into space. In summer 2019, it published photos of its new departure lounge at Spaceport America, where the first amateur cosmonauts will prepare for their ascent aboard VSS Unity at some point over the coming months – providing there are no setbacks. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin space company hopes to launch crewed test flights of its New Shepard craft in 2020, in preparation for sending up its first space tourists. Space X plans to take a Japanese billionaire around the moon in 2023 and 100 paying earthlings a week could be visiting the first-ever space hotel by 2025. Built specifically for commercial use, the Von Braun Rotating Space Station, which looks like a giant Ferris wheel, will have bars, restaurants and even private residences for sale.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Swimwear will be optional in 2020 as naked holidays take off. Anyone who has gone for a spontaneous skinny dip will know the liberating feeling of being without clothes, which may be what over-technologised, highly urbanised people are in serious need of. It’s about being human, finding connections and embracing vulnerability. London nude restaurant the Bunyadi is looking for funding to reopen, but with influencers such as @naturistgirl amassing more than 78,000 followers, posing in the buff (tastefully) in beautiful locations is set to be big on Instagram. Embrace your inner naturist with nude hikes, camping, canoeing, cruises, wild swimming and yoga.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    According to the Vegan Society, if the whole world went meat-free by 2050, it would save eight million human lives and reduce greenhouse gases by two thirds. As increasing numbers of people choose to shun meat and animal products (a survey by Sainsbury’s in the summer of 2019 predicted that 25 per cent of Brits would be vegetarian or vegan by 2025), demand for hotels which cater to that choice is going to accelerate. When it opened last June, Saorsa 1875 became the UK’s first vegan hotel, with 11 rooms at its Perthshire location. No wool, silk or feather duvets appear in the rooms and the restaurant is purely plant-based. It’s only a matter of time before more like it enter the market.

    Read more about vegan travel: how meat-free holidays are taking off

    How meat-free holidays are taking off

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Home DNA tests have been available for a while but their potential for inspiring travel to the places where people’s forebears are from is only just gathering pace. A report in MIT Technology Review revealed that, by the start of 2019, 26 million people had taken an ancestry DNA test at home, and Airbnb’s recent partnership with DNA lab 23andMe now helps to encourage travellers to go in search of their roots. As nationalist attitudes seem to be on the rise, the counter trend will see individuals seeking out shared genetic links and cultural synergies.

    Read about the rise of DNA-mapped adventures

    The rise of DNA-mapped adventures

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Surfing will be an Olympic sport for the first time in the 2020 games in Japan. Condé Nast Traveller has long been reporting on the best surfing holidays in the world but as the uptake of the sport grows like never before – particularly among women –, specialist retreats from fast-expanding outfits such as Selina, Pegasus Lodges, and Soul and Surf are giving beginners the chance to slip into a wetsuit. Artificial waves are catching on too, with companies such as Wavegarden building ambitious surf parks that produce up to 1,000 tubes an hour (the largest in the world will be in South Korea when it opens in 2020).

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Twin beds are boring. A new trend for hotels with bunks is transforming options for families and groups of friends. An early innovator is Life House, which already has three hotels in Miami, with a fourth opening on Miami Beach in 2020, plus one in Nantucket and one in Brooklyn. The Bohemian Suite in its chic Little Havana property sleeps four, with two pairs of double beds stacked side by side like on a spacious sleeper train. Coming soon, Hilton’s new Motto brand will be kitted out with single bunks over double beds in some rooms, while bunks can also be found at Jo&Joe, Moxy, Ace and Freehand, as well as the Siren in Detroit and Palihotel in Seattle.


    Emission-free flying sounds like an unattainable fantasy but the reality is that it’s just around the corner. Rolls-Royce is planning to launch a test flight of its debut electric plane, ACCEL, in 2020, which is capable of flying at 300mph (compared with a Boeing 787 that typically flies at 560mph). Meanwhile, Airbus’s experimental electric E-Fan X aircraft is set to take off in 2021. Israel’s Eviation intends for its commercial all-electric plane Alice to take to the skies in 2022, and Easyjet has partnered with Wright Electric with the aim of having a fleet of electric planes by 2030.

    Check out our A to Z guide to not killing the planet when you travel

    An A to Z guide to not killing the planet when you travel

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Thanks to Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, the concept of flygskam, which translates as flight shame, will prompt responsible travellers to think more carefully about how often and where they fly to. As a consequence, the new decade will see many people turning to trains instead of planes. European train operator TGV Lyria is betting on higher demand already, with a 30 per cent increase on services from Paris to various destinations in Switzerland. Even airlines such as KLM are asking passengers to fly less.

    Get more inspiration with our round-up of the best short breaks by train from the UK

    The best short breaks by train from the UK

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Spartan holidays combine the idea of a digital detox with minimalist living, whereby you travel with as little as possible and only pack a few analogue accessories. The idea is to free people up, physically as well as mentally, and to help them connect with their self and their surroundings by sketching with a pencil and paper, for example, or setting off on a tech-free hike, as well as packing only one spare pair of underwear. The rise in forest micro hotels is evidence of how this trend is catching on, as people book stays in hideouts designed to be removed from the modern world by companies such as Fuselage, Unyoked and Vipp Shelter. Meanwhile, the Fireside Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, excels in tiny holiday home rentals.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Carbon offsetting has been around for years but no one has paid much attention to it. However, as the reality of a climate crisis looms travellers in 2020 and beyond will need to do everything they can to balance the negative impact of their trips with positives. At the very least, this means donating money to renewable energy projects, using new ethical search engine Ecosia Travel to book hotels (it uses profits to plant trees) and choosing Positive Luxury-approved brands (look for the Butterfly Mark, which indicates a commitment to sustainability) such as The Evolved Traveler and Balance Holidays.

    These are the eco-friendly hotels leading the way

    The eco-friendly hotels leading the way

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Inspired by the rootless essence of camping, 700,000 Heures is setting a trend for nomadic hotels that move around the world. Emerging in a different location every six months, it temporarily transforms extravagant private homes, transferring staff and a collection of more than 100 trunks that open out into bars, benches and sinks so guests can sup and sleep under the stars wherever they choose. From April to November 2020, it will take over two sites in Japan – a temple in Koyasan and a traditional house in Ine, a fishing village near Amanohashidate.


    Moving on from the era of crowded and stressful budget flights, boarding a plane is increasingly becoming an opportunity to have fun. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Qatar Airways and Emirates already have bars in first and business class, but some companies plan to take it even further. Design studio Aim Altitude, for example, has designed Ultraflex social spaces for super-long-haul flights that include areas for yoga and communal dining, while French aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Zodiac Aerospace have proposed that cargo holds be turned into rest zones with bunk beds, kids’ play areas, clinics and lounges. Each fully furnished section would be contained in a pod that could be slid in and out of the belly of the plane.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    13. HOME-TELS

    With Airbnb increasingly listing hotels on its platform, and hotels attempting to create properties with more of a local feel, it’s no wonder hybrid home-tels are starting to catch on. Much more inspiring than often-bland apart-hotels are companies such as Domio, which has a portfolio of designer properties across the USA and London that come with 24/7 guest support and branded amenities, while Veeve – with homes in London, LA and Paris – will go as far as picking you up from the airport and filling the fridge with your favourite snacks. And with professional housekeeping, you won’t have to make your bed either.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Not so long ago, it was a bonus to find a Wagamama at the airport, but the next few years are set to see a revolution in high-end airport dining, which is part of a wider trend for aviation hubs becoming destinations in themselves. Beijing Daxing International, which opened in September 2019, has a branch of Chee Kei, a Michelin-recommended wonton noodle outlet. Meanwhile, the new Jewel Terminal at Singapore Changi has scores of cafés and restaurants, including cake boutiques and London export Burger and Lobster. In the USA, the retro-cool TWA Hotel at JFK, which also arrived in 2019, has a Mad Men-cool restaurant, Paris Café, from top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020


    Richard Branson’s new Virgin Voyages will take to the seas in 2020. Its maiden vessel, the Scarlet Lady, has been designed to appeal to Generation Y and Z in a way that no other cruise line has yet managed to do. There will be Tom Dixon-designed interiors, a tattoo parlour, karaoke studios, an open-air gym, a vinyl record shop curated by music producer Mark Ronson, bars serving its own brand of craft beer, and all-inclusive restaurants such as Razzle Dazzle serving vegan Impossible Burgers and CBD cocktails.

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  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    1. Accommodation: homeware hotels

    A number of homeware companies are opening their own hotels – it’s a smart move as guests will be able to buy many of the products they see inside. kick-started the trend – it launched its first MADE hotel in Manhattan’s NoMad district a few years ago, followed by floating boutique hotel the Boathouse in London in summer 2018. At the beginning of 2018, Japanese brand Muji opened two ‘anti-gorgeous, anti-cheap’ properties in Shenzhen and Beijing, proceeded by one in Tokyo’s Ginza in the spring of 2019. Goods for sale include oak chairs, toothbrush stands, duvets, feather pillows and clear plastic shampoo bottles. In the USA, West Elm will debut a hotel in Indianapolis in 2020 (after which will come openings in Oakland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Savannah and Portland). Meanwhile, Danish brand Vipp has been launching unique one-bedroom design hotels, where you can ‘test drive your kitchen before you buy it’, across Copenhagen and Lake Immeln. Soho House recently opened an outpost in Mumbai with 38 rooms; although the members’ club came first, the company’s spin-off Soho Home site now sells everything from bathrobes to cut crystal glassware.

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  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    2. Family travel: nomadic sabbaticals

    While most families are struggling with avoiding late pick-up fees at nursery and planning the odd Greek island holiday during half term (God forbid your child misses any lessons) a growing minority are shunning convention to embark on round-the-world adventures, living, learning and exploring together for extended periods of time. Instagram is proving a tantalising window into the possibilities of ‘nomadic sabbaticals’, as demonstrated by the likes of @thebucketlisfamily, @byjetpack, @travelling_family, @courtneyadamo, @nappy_nomad_ and @ohdeardrea, whose kids are frequently pictured jumping off boats and posing by temples. Given that by 2020 it’s estimated that roughly half the UK and American workforce will be freelance and that 40 per cent more children were being home-schooled in 2017 than in 2014 (48,000 in total), it’s no surprise that parents will be embracing the freedom this gives. As modern nomadism gains momentum, we will hear a lot more about ‘unschooling’, ‘edventure’ and family gap years.

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  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    3. Group travel: exclusive home rental

    Groups of friends and family have been clubbing together to rent holiday villas and chalets for a while now, but a new luxury alternative comes in the form of Beyond by Airbnb, which curates high-end homes and ‘custom experiences’. An additional layer of exclusivity comes from Stay One Degree, which describes itself as the ‘first social network for luxury vacation rentals’, only letting people who are vetted members stay in each other’s homes, be it a seven-bedroom castle in Kent or a six-bedroom beach pad in Costa Rica. The network currently lists more than 1,000 properties in 50-plus countries and has more than 10,000 members. For those looking to micro crowdfund their next group escape, Marriott International’s new ‘handpicked’ Tribute Portfolio includes homes in London, Lisbon, Paris and Rome, and the Oetker Collection’s Masterpiece Estates (both debuted in 2018) ensure the high standards associated with global hotel brands. The latter offers the chance to move into ‘exemplary private homes’ (just three so far), including a Victorian hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands and the beautifully restored Farleigh House in England.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    4. Couple’s travel: intrepid journeys

    Although the desire for a romantic getaway somewhere warm and sultry is never going to dwindle, there is increasing demand among couples for more challenging adventures that bring them closer together. Embracing fears, experiencing discomfort and taking on ambitious physical activities can inspire respect and a new-found intimacy between individuals. Specialist travel agent AITO highlights new tours such as Oasis Overland’s ‘Karakorum Highway’ in northern Pakistan, ‘Norway’s Arctic Wilderness’ from Scandinavia Only, a 15-day trip around Iran with Wild Frontiers Travel, and a drive from Xian to Kathmandu with Dragoman, which will include wild camping on the Tibetan Plateau. Black Tomato says it is ‘developing experiences in Djibouti (pictured), the Congo and lesser-travelled parts of the Middle East’, ideal for duos looking to satisfy their wanderlust. Experiential travel experts Pelorus is also a great resource for private adventures, whether it is infiltrating tribal communities in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea or tracking pumas in Patagonia.

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  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    5. Solo travel: co-living

    Travelling alone can be lonely when you’re not a student backpacker as hotels aren’t the easiest places to make friends, hostels can be a little rough around the edges and Airbnbs can be isolating as guests often find themselves in residential neighbourhoods rather than city centres. The solution is co-living – essentially a form of modern commune for young professionals – which is generating a following both among locals and out-of-towners. One of the co-living leaders, WeLive (sister company to WeWork), now has apartment complexes with trendy shared social spaces, events programmes, yoga classes and even hot tubs in New York and Crystal City. People can stay for a few days or a few months. Roam is present in Bali, Miami, Tokyo and San Francisco. Lyf by Ascott, which is ‘designed by millennials for millennials’ will have three properties in Singapore, one in Cebu City and one in Shenzhen before 2021. In London there is The Collective, which is also expanding into Brooklyn. In New York’s Financial District is The Assemblage St John Street hotel, which features Meyer Davis-designed studio apartments, free laundry, housekeeping and an Ayurvedic café.

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  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    6. Spa: CBD treatments

    Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound derived from marijuana plants, is becoming wildly popular for its perceived medicinal and healing powers. And as green becomes legalised in ever-more countries – in autumn 2018 Canada legalised the recreational use of cannabis, while about a dozen American states have done the same – it’s not just smokers who are celebrating. About 20 American states allow the use of marijuana for medical use, as does the UK (since November 2018), and in places where laws are most lenient, spas are incorporating CBD into therapeutic treatments. The Ritz-Carlton Spa in Los Angeles (pictured) began using hemp-based tinctures and oils to reduce muscle soreness and tension in 2018. And at the Spa at St Julien Colorado the ‘Ultimate Colorado Bliss CBD Experience’ costs US$295 and includes a CBD infused body butter wrap, a full-body massage with CBD oil and CDB tea.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    7. Eco: zero leftovers

    Did you know that the UK throws away £20billion worth of food every year? Zero- and low-waste restaurants such as Silo in and Cub in London have been doing their part to reduce this, but there are signs the approach is now entering the mainstream. For anyone slightly appalled by the sight of a lavish hotel buffet and how much must go in the bin as a consequence, it’s great news that Marriott International, for example, wants to cut food waste by 50 per cent by 2025. Luxury hotel the Langham London has become the first in Europe to introduce a ‘rapid composting’ system that can turn 2,400lbs of leftovers into water every 24 hours. And the Armani hotel in Dubai is trying to cut kitchen waste by 80 per cent, with the scraps it does generate being turned into soil nutrients. This year, the new Salt of Palmar hotel in Mauritius is launching a hydroponic fruit and vegetable farm to help it be more self-self-sufficient. Hopefully, initiatives like these will soon become standard.

    8. Tech: cryptocurrency bookings

    Whether you are withdrawing money at an overseas ATM or exchanging cash in advance, travellers always lose some of their funds to foreign exchange rates and commission. According to UK Finance, British people are collectively losing more than £1million a day to ‘dynamic pricing’ alone (when your credit card is charged in pounds sterling rather than the local currency). Although the average holidaymaker is unlikely to have a virtual wallet full of Bitcoins just yet, cryptocurrencies do promise a highly secure, universal payment system with no associated fees. Now, using cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, LiteCoin and Bitcoin to book trips is beginning to gain traction. Today, 450,000 hotels around the world (including the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo) accept Ethereum payments through an app called Tripio, although it’s target market is Asia. A handful of other companies such as Cheapair, Peach Air, Surf Air, Air Baltic have also built in capability to process such transactions.

  • The travel trends to know in 2020

    9. Accessories: low-footprint trainers

    A good pair of trainers has always been a suitcase essential but their carbon footprint is significant – it’s been reported that just one pair of running shoes can generate 13kg of carbon dioxide in the production of the plastics, synthetic rubber and nylon they require. While it certainly doesn’t compare to the harmful emissions from flying, travellers can leave a little bit less of an impact by choosing ethically made footwear. There are lots of brands to choose from now, ranging from Portuguese start-up Wado, which plants two trees for every pair bought, to France’s fashionable Veja, which sources organic, fair trade materials. San Francisco’s Allbirds are made from New Zealand merino wool, while ‘eco-hip’ The People’s Movement makes trainers out of upcycled plastic that would otherwise be polluting our seas. Also check out Adidas x Parley, Ecoalf, Baabuk and Vivobarefoot.

    10. Transport: biometric airports

    Thanks to recent iPhone models, most consumers are familiar with using fingerprint and facial recognition to bypass entering passwords. It won’t be long until this kind of technology will be commonly employed to bypass queues at check-in, boarding and immigration, replacing laborious manual checks of boarding passes and passports. For the last year or so, British Airways has been trialling biometric gates at American airports including Orlando, New York and Miami, and London Heathrow will debut ‘the world’s largest deployment of biometrically enabled products including bag drops and self-boarding gates’ at a cost of £50million. The idea is that passengers will be able to walk through every check point from arrival to plane without showing any documentation, reducing journey time by a third. According to SITA, 77 per cent of airports and 71 per cent of airlines are planning major programmes or research and design into biometric ID management during the next five years. Over in Dubai, Emirates has launched a new ‘biometric path’ at Dubai International, while Delta Air Lines has introduced fingerprint entry at domestic Delta Sky Club lounge.

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