At Journeys, we’ve noticed a trend that’s been gaining momentum among buyers looking to satisfy demand for off-the-beaten track, authentic places where clients can really get away from the crowds.
Places that don’t appear in top travel lists. Hidden gems that offer a viable alternative to tourist hotspots in the same region. Or the opportunity to experience something different in an established destination.
It’s one of the Top Three Travel Trends for 2023 identified by market research analyst Euromonitor International, which says: “Travel brands and destinations are tapping into values-based tourism products and services that resonate more with consumers that seek out transformational travel experiences.”
Lake Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, is cited by Time Out as one to watch for 2023 as an alternative to Tulum and Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a good example of a new, environmentally friendly destination with a spate of new eco-hotels, including one located in its own nature reserve.
Time Out also suggests the tiny Dodecanese island of Karpathos as a Greek getaway alternative to Santorini and Mykonos, with near-deserted beaches and a lifestyle that harps back to yesteryear.
A recent list of hidden gems of Europe includes Varna in Bulgaria – considered the Jewel of the Black Sea by those in the know; Alentejo in Portugal, which has ‘eluded the pleasure and plight of European tourism thus far’; while travel blog Wander Lush describes Azerbaijan as ‘a strong contender for the world’s most underrated holiday destination’, thanks to unique attractions such as its UNESCO-listed Palace of the Sheki Khans.
Journeys is ahead of the curve and is already organising events to enable lesser-known destinations to showcase what they have to offer. For example, this November, Journeys in Italy takes place in Perugia, the regional capital of Umbria and the green heart of Italy.
And, even when we hold events in places that regularly top travel lists – such as New York and Toronto, where Journeys in North America takes place in September – we guarantee the activities we’ve arranged for delegates will be unique experiences rather than the ‘usual suspects’.
Post-Covid travel trends
This trend has become more evident since the Covid-19 pandemic, which led many people to reassess what was important and to attempt to achieve more of a balance.
Yet, Covid also made people want to travel more. When the pandemic was over, there was a sense of needing to make up for lost time and to get out and see the world.
By 2025, international departures are projected to hit 98% of 2019 levels, so demand for off-the-tourist-trail destinations can only get bigger.
And, with the United Nations (UN) predicting the world’s population will reach 10 billion in 2057 – the population grew by a staggering six billion just in the last 100 years – it’s no surprise people are looking to get away from the crowds.
Why low season is so this season
Another option is to visit established destinations in the non-tourist season. Cyprus, for example, has been pushing its low-season credentials for a number of years and, at Journeys, we think low season tourism is an ideal marketing opportunity for tourist boards.
Three years ago, the first DMC dedicated to promoting off-peak travel in the UK, Low Season Traveller, was launched.
The company is dedicated to inspiring travellers to undertake sustainable and responsible tourism outside of the peak season.
Founder and CEO Ged Brown says travelling during the low season has a number of benefits: fewer crowds, better prices and genuine experiences in addition to paying into local businesses at a time of the year when they need it most.
Finding the balance
For travel agents, there’s a fine line between how far the ‘authentic’ experience can be pushed before the road less travelled becomes a turn-off, and this is where Journeys’ expertise comes in.
The Journeys team has been visiting new corners of the world in our pledge to bring buyers together with suppliers that sell lesser-known places and we’ll be introducing new locations for forthcoming events as they evolve.
No stone is left unturned in sourcing the most perfect of destinations and this is the approach I take in everything I do.
I’m currently in the process of buying a house in Italy – I’m at the stage in life where I want to spend more quality time surrounded by more nature and good things – and less stress.
Just like buyers who tell me what they’re looking for, I’m yearning for a peaceful haven in an area that’s less travelled and away from the crowds.
Ciao for now
Micaela and the Journeys team