Laura French speaks to the specialists to get their top predictions for booking trends in 2020.

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“Sell the experience”

Carole has been in travel for more than 30 years, working for several independent luxury agencies before joining Beaver Travel in 2005. After a stint at Mr and Mrs Smith, she returned in 2013 to head up the retail sales and development team.


Beaver Travel, Carole Short, head of retail sales and development

“Luxury no longer just means the best hotel in the best place – it’s definitely more about the experience now. We’re seeing a big increase in gorilla watching in Rwanda, for example, and cultural experiences in Japan.

People are prepared to pay for unique, personalised experiences. We recently had a Rome booking where the client wanted a private tour of the Colosseum to celebrate a special birthday, for example. Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are making a return, and we’re getting interest again in Sri Lanka, where there are some amazing properties. Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are all doing well, and the Galapagos is definitely on the increase too. Antarctica is definitely one to watch too.

Even with fly-and-flop holidays in the likes of the Indian Ocean, clients want something a bit different now – an unusual dining experience or something else they wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves.

Demands have changed in the sector as people want to learn more. They’re more conscious of the environment, they want adventure. There’s still demand for traditional big-brand hotels, but we’re also seeing a trend towards smaller, one-off boutique hotels, such as Luxury Lodges of New Zealand.

When it comes to booking for next year, personalised service is really important. It’s about giving the best service you can and building relationships; making sure you find out what your clients like and then making hoteliers aware of that so they can then provide a tailored experience that will make your clients feel special.”


“Sustainable adventures”

Michael has worked as a sales manager at Dragoman and Imaginative Traveller for the past eight years, specialising in adventure. He has travelled extensively in Patagonia, Africa, Central Asia and beyond.


Imaginative Traveller and Dragoman, Michael Battley, sales manager

“I believe sustainability and responsible travel will be the biggest-growing areas over the year ahead. We’re seeing a big move towards making trips as sustainable and responsible as possible right now, and sustainability credentials will become a key factor in helping clients decide who to travel with.

We’re also seeing a lot of demand for adventure travel, with growing interest in our overland truck tours – more and more clients are wanting to get off the beaten track and see something a little different.

In terms of destination trends, Patagonia and the Central Silk Route are getting a lot of interest, and Tajikistan trips are also selling very well for the year ahead.

When it comes to types of clients booking, we’re still seeing a lot of solo travellers but we’re also noticing interest in family trips. Families now want to experience something interesting when they travel; it’s not just about the beach.

My top tip for selling adventure travel over the year ahead would be to know the product. It has many layers and there are differing levels of adventure, so it’s vitally important to know what your client wants and find the right trip for them. Clients want to talk to people who have expertise, can give them a fair price and can offer them something a bit different. The destinations might change, but good customer service and expert knowledge will remain key in 2020 and beyond.”


“The best cruise deals”

Michael has worked in the cruise industry for more than seven years, with roles at Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. He now works as sales and product manager for specialist agency Worldwide Cruises.


Worldwide Cruises UK, Jordan Brewer, sales and product manager

A majority of our customers for next year are booking either far in advance or very late, which points to a price-sensitive market. Cruise deals with more included – drinks, tips, excursions etc – will lead the way in 2020.

Destination-wise, we have seen a big increase in Mediterranean and Caribbean fly-cruises for 2020, partly driven by a range of new, big ships launching there.

We’re also noticing that one-off itineraries and new and unique destinations are selling much quicker for next year compared to the more mainstream options, and there’s a big focus on the destinations themselves – we have been specialising in more in-depth land and cruise tour combinations, where the customer can experience more of what the embarkation and disembarkation ports have to offer, particularly in the US and Asia.

Customer expectations are also growing, as cruise lines introduce newer ships at an ever-higher standard. The amount of change in the industry over the last few years is staggering. Two key examples are Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion, which has revolutionised the Princess customer experience, and Virgin Voyages, which is introducing a completely new concept to appeal to a different audience.

My key advice when it comes to selling in 2020 would be to explain the value a cruise offers, rather than just focusing on the bottom-line price. Cruises offer fantastic value for money and more often than not, an agent has access to the best prices or can offer a deal with more value included compared to a direct booking.

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