The pandemic encouraged backyard exploration: close-to-home trips to enjoy the great outdoors or learn about local communities. In 2022, domestic travel is still going strong, but the travel trend has shifted from backyard to big city. From London and Paris to New York City and Las Vegas, big cities are back on traveler itineraries and explorers of all ages are ready to visit their favorite metro destinations once again.
“We are seeing a huge change in travelers wanting to plan trips to far-off places. The bucket list destinations are certainly taking center stage,” said Kimberly Franke of Kanna Travel Services in Bozeman, Montana.
Cities on the Itinerary
What cities are typically on a bucket list? Americans want to visit their favorite European cities — London, Paris, Rome — and travelers from around the world are eyeing U.S. destinations including New York City, Las Vegas and Orlando.
Black Tomato’s Travel Trends 2022 writes: “The city is back. While we kept our distance during the height of the pandemic, we’ve missed the buzz and we’ve missed the beauty. Next year, we’ll be returning to the very heart of things. Cultured, metropolitan, immersed.”
During a panel discussion with Skift and TravelZoo, James Wheatcroft, senior vice president of marketing at Accor, noted travelers stayed off the beaten path during the pandemic, but now with regulations and protocols easing, people are freer to travel and key European destinations are back. In November 2021, there was a big run on U.S. destinations and “Miami never closed.”
Second City Travel Trend
The nod to coronavirus risks can be seen in Second City travel, when travelers bypass the traditional city hot spots to avoid crowds and overtourism. It’s not backcountry travel; it’s selecting smaller cities — Flagstaff instead of Phoenix, Arizona or Joshua Tree instead of Los Angeles, California — to explore.
International locations, such as Dublin, Ireland; Florence, Italy; Burgundy, France; Budapest, Hungary; and Lima, Peru, are attracting travelers who want to try out new urban centers.
Millennials, in part, are driving this trend. This age group — ages 25 to 42 — is most likely to extend business trips into leisure travel, contributing to the increase in bleisure travel. City breaks, typically weekend city vacations, have increased 82% since 2004 and currently 22% of all global holidays are city break vacations. Close to 38% of millennials are planning a city break in a metropolitan city within the next 12 months.
The digital nomad trend is another key factor to the growth in city travel destinations. According to a January 2022 Global Rescue Travel Survey, 35% of respondents have a work-remotely schedule, and 32% of them will travel more and longer as a result. Although remote or beach destinations are inviting, big cities have Wi-fi available at every café and coffee shop, and hotels are catering to the work-from-anywhere lifestyle with special offers like discounts on extended stays, office supplies with check-in, and free valet parking.
Cities are also hubs for large events, a draw for the younger traveler. There’s the All Points East music festival in Victoria Park in London featuring up-and-coming rock, indie and alternative bands. Rome offers a Summer Festival — with food stalls, live music and art vendors — on the banks of the Tiber River and the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is, of course, in Dublin, Ireland where the entire city parades. And why not time your trip to New York City to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the New Year’s Eve Times Square Countdown?
How Hotels Are Helping
Hotels are luring leisure travelers back to the city with stay packages immersing visitors in local culture, history and cuisine. The Newbury in Boston, Massachusetts offers a package combining luxury accommodation with a local food expert who will give you a culinary tour of the city. If you’re staying in New York City, The Equinox’s Broadway is Back package offers a concierge to book your tickets and arrange your limousine transport to the theater. Canopy by Hilton located in Jersey City brings the local community inside the hotel by featuring artwork from the nearby Powerhouse Arts District.
Even Airbnb offers curated itineraries with their new service, Airbnb Adventures, where you can browse listings for experiences — for example, cooking classes, guided tours and pub crawls — offered by local experts who set their own prices.
Traveling with pets? Hotels and inns are ready to welcome your furry friends. Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island offers a Valentine’s Day package for couples who don’t want to leave their pet at home. It includes a sunrise nature walk on the beach (pets welcome), a pet bed and toys, a gift for your pet, and a private pet sitter if you want to visit the spa.
Hotels are creating “a guest experience that is hyper-personalized, and seamlessly integrated,” said Michael Heflin, chief revenue officer of Stayntouch told Hotel Business magazine.
City Safety Tips
Remaining safe and secure while traveling in an urban area requires preparation and an enhanced level of awareness.
Harding Bush, manager of operations at Global Rescue, offers these urban safety tips:
- Assess the situation: Have you been there before? What resources do you have there; friends, family, business colleagues?
- Research the destination: Use multiple sources to determine what risks the area has, for example, what is the economic and geopolitical situation? How will cultural differences affect the trip? How will you deal with a language barrier?
- Decide on transportation: Will you rent a car and drive, or will you use local transportation? “Vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of travelers being killed or injured abroad,” Bush said.
- Choose a hotel: Research your hotel online and read reviews related to security. Look at its location and layout on Google Earth. Safety is about more than just the room, how is guest and non-guest access controlled? What is the security infrastructure like, traffic control, drop off and pick up area? A safe hotel is one that makes it hard for criminals to surveil for victims.
- Stay healthy: Cities are crowded and dirty. Step up your germ avoidance. Bring a small medicine kit, your prescriptions, health insurance and a travel protection membership. Don’t travel if you feel the onset of illness.
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