9 Disruptor Trends That Should Shape Your Destination Marketing in 2022

by: Paul Peterson, Casual Astronaut

The travel industry is no stranger to status-quo disruptions. From the rise of low-cost airlines to the emergence of Airbnb as a popular alternative to traditional lodging, traveler behaviors are constantly shifting. Never has that felt truer than with COVID-19. The pandemic created new expectations for travelers, inspiring behaviors that will last for years. Marketing your destination in ways that speak to travelers’ new needs is essential. Here are the top travel trends to plan for.  

Travel Trend: Making Meaningful Memories

For many, those first post-pandemic trips will revolve around connecting with loved ones. Travel will become about whom they’re with, not where they’re going.

How to Plan:

  • Expand messaging to include all family types: multigenerational, distant relatives, close friends. Our 3 Lenses of Travel Marketing is a good guide to establishing traveler types. Don’t forget to highlight experiences, activities and accommodations that can be shared and well as prioritize real connections and disconnecting from technology.

Travel Trend: Discovering Far-flung Escapes

After being cooped up at home, people will be driven to travel by wanderlust and a longing for the extraordinary. Think beachside destinations, natural wonders and hidden gems.

How to Plan: 

  • Spotlight dreamy, otherworldly landscapes and attractions.
  • Showcase “secluded,” “pristine” or “untouched” locations.
  • Incorporate tips into itineraries, positioning them as fun, safe and easy to access.

Travel Trend: Finding Joy in Being a Tourist

After eschewing quintessential tourist sites for years, people are now craving iconic places and bucket-list experiences that were off limits during pandemic-related quarantines.

How to Plan:

  • Market your greatest hits and only-in-your-destination experiences.
  • Avoid pushing attractions that may be politically advantageous or desirable to your organization but that do not actually draw travelers. For example, if you’re not known for your wine country, use marketing resources in other areas where they will make a bigger impact.
  • Target audiences and geographic regions most likely to visit your destination.

Travel Trend: Adventuring in the Outdoors

As travelers emerged from pandemic quarantines, outdoor destinations held appeal for those looking to escape their homes while satisfying a wish to spend time in “safer,” less-dense spaces. These ranged from resorts with pools and golf courses to wilderness areas for camping, hiking and biking. This popular trend will continue into 2022.   

How to Plan:

  • Create seasonally focused campaigns that highlight outdoor experiences.
  • Build a dedicated landing page featuring your destination’s outdoor adventures.

Travel Trend: Making Positive Impacts

As loved-to-death destinations — like Horseshoe Bend in Arizona or Big Sur in California — struggle with the impact of over-tourism, travelers are becoming more conscious about their visitor footprint. They’ll book trips that align with their values, and seek out destinations, hotels and travel companies that make efforts to minimize their impact on the planet.

How to Plan:

  • Educate travelers about attractions that are sensitive to over-tourism and how they can be appreciated responsibly.
  • Develop a campaign and/or accreditation program to help travelers looking for legitimate eco-tourism efforts.
  • Foster inclusion by finding authentic ways to welcome diverse travelers and by spotlighting experiences that reflect the larger community.
  • Promote your ethical travel practices

Travel Trend: Relieving Stress with Wellness Vacations

Seen by travelers as an antidote to quarantine fatigue, wellness tourism will continue to grow, and not just with the traditional offerings of yoga retreats or spa getaways. Travelers view vacations — even the very act of trip-planning — as a mood booster. An American Express survey revealed that 87% of respondents said having a trip planned gives them something to look forward to, and that planning future travel makes them feel excited (63%), happy (53%) and hopeful (53%).

How to Plan:

  • Spark joy by inspiring a desire to experience the special qualities of your destination.
  • Spotlight your destination’s wellness activities, particularly those that are unique or reflect a sense of place.
  • Highlight broader offerings that nourish mind, body and soul (e.g., local traditions and food).

Travel Trend: Rethinking Business Travel

Business travel will slowly return — but not as we once knew it. The pandemic institutionalized remote working for many companies, and people now look forward to relocating to new places to take advantage of the ability to work from anywhere. As employees become more widely distributed across the country, and even the world, business travel will consist of employees coming from home-bases to gather at workplaces or company retreats. Conferences and conventions will slowly return — but planners will want to offer attendees the incentive of a great getaway to sweeten the appeal.

How to Plan:

  • Skip the generic conference room photos. Put your destination and its experiential offerings front and center when marketing meetings and events.
  • Market conferences and meetings as an antidote to Zoom fatigue and as a way to meaningfully connect with clients, partners and sales contacts.
  • Expect company retreats to emerge as a means of connecting a dispersed workforce.

Travel Trend: Staying at Unique Accommodations

Partly due to social distancing and partly as a response to being trapped at home for months, travelers want over-the-top accommodations for their getaways. According to Marriott and Airbnb, they’re looking for lodging that goes beyond the standard bargain hotel, such as RVs, waterfront houses, mountain cabins, sprawling resorts, dude ranches, yurts and even treehouses.

How to Plan:

  • Showcase distinctive, “I want to be there!” accommodations.
  • Highlight your destination's one-of-a-kind qualities that lend themselves to unique lodging options. 

Travel Trend: Seeking Expert Trip Advice

After decades of deferring to internet searches and influencer blogs, travelers are turning to travel professionals for advice in navigating where to go and how to book — or cancel, if need be, as the pandemic showed us. A profession that has suffered repeated blows, from commission cuts to the rise of online booking engines, is returning as consumers learn the value that an expert travel advisor can bring in uncertain times.

How to Plan:

  • Position your organization as the expert on your destination.
  • Be the source for addressing your region’s current COVID restrictions.
  • Use content to offer insider tips and candid advice, and to fuel paid campaigns to position your organization as the go-to resource.
  • Reimagine your print travel guide and ensure digital content is at the forefront of your marketing strategy.

Sources: Airbnb, American Express, Brand USA, Destinations International, Expedia, Fast Company, International Civil Aviation Organization, Marriott International, UN World Tourism Organization

About the Author

Paul Peterson headshot
Paul Peterson
Chief Client Officer
Casual Astronaut
Paul Peterson oversees client service at C/A, working with our account management team to shape content and digital marketing strategies for clients. His nearly 20-year career in marketing and public relations ranges from healthcare to hospitality, consumer products to government relations, high-tech communications to entertainment. Paul has worked with destinations such as Brand USA, the Arizona Office of Tourism and Niagara Falls USA to build measurable, audience-engagement strategies.

A father to two boys, Paul usually spends his weekends at flag football games, chess tournaments, bowling leagues and coaching soccer (all of which may happen in the same Saturday). And when snow starts to fall in the mountains, he looks for any excuse to hit the slopes.