Healthy holidays and a sunscreen rethink: top five travel trends for 2019

Healthy holidays become the new norm

Last October, Club 18-30 holidays staggered off into the sunset, aged 50. To the relief of Mediterranean resorts that had spent decades dealing with the carnage caused by epic drinking challenges, it appears that buckets of warm sangria – or worse – have lost their appeal. We have entered the era of the healthy holiday, driven by young people who want to be sober enough to take a flattering selfie. The rise of ‘ego travel’ was cited by Thomas Cook when it retired the Club 18-30 brand, turning its focus on its Casa Cook and Cook’s Club brands, design-conscious hotels with gyms, tasting menus, upmarket cocktails and yoga.

But the staggering rise in wellness tourism – now worth $639bn globally and growing more than twice as fast as general tourism, according to the Association of Travel Agent’s 2019 Travel Trends report – isn’t just down to young people. Wellness resorts are targeting all ages, with holidays for every stage of life, from fitness stag dos to baby moons, mumcations and menopause retreats.

In the summer, Longevity Health & Wellness Hotel opens on the Algarve with a raft of fitness activities, a medical spa and meals that cater for all sorts of diets. It follows in the footsteps of sports resort FeelViana Hotel, on the coast of Portugal, north of Porto. In Italy, Lefay Resort & Spa’s second resort, Dolomiti, also opening in summer, promises a 24-hour fitness centre and a huge east-meets-west spa.

But it’s not just specialist resorts and hotels catering for the demand. Holiday companies such as G Adventures and river cruise operator Uniworld are introducing trips with yoga and meditation sessions and healthy food.
Isabel Choat

Single-use plastic will become as antisocial as smoking

Last year was the year the travel industry joined in with the general stand against single-use plastic, with tour operators and hotels clamouring to announce bans on plastic straws or eliminating single-use plastic altogether. Some went further, introducing trips that actively involve holidaymakers in litter clearing and beach clean-ups. This will continue in 2019 as a commitment to tackling the global plastics crisis goes mainstream and consumer pressure grows.

Over a third (36%) of people would opt for one travel business over another if it has a better environmental record – up from 23% in 2014, says the Abta report. Last November, Thomas Cook announced its pledge to reduce plastic in its supply chain – though without saying by how much. Global hotel chain Melia International, which has 370 hotels in 40 countries, will have eliminated all plastics by summer 2019 (in 2017 alone it got through 22 million plastic bottles).

In 2019 regulations banning all single-use plastics will come into effect in several destinations, including the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Grenada, the Galapagos and the Californian city of Santa Monica. Single-use plastic is becoming as anti-social as smoking and it would be a brave, or stupid, travel business that didn’t join the fight to help reduce the amount clogging up the planet. Consumers will have to work out which ones are genuinely making a difference and which are just paying lip-service.

Rethink your sunscreen

While sunscreens are crucial for UV protection, recent research indicates that once certain chemical ingredients, particularly oxybenzone and octinoxate, enter the water, they become harmful to humans and nature, and have been implicated in coral reef bleaching.

In a world first, last May Hawaii passed legislation that will ban the sale and distribution of any non-prescription sunscreen containing these chemicals (found in 78% of the most popular brands) from 2021. The Caribbean island of Bonaire followed in the same month. The most comprehensive ban so far is in the small Pacific island nation of Palau, which is to ban the buying, selling, importing or manufacturing of sunscreen and skincare products that contain these chemicals and eight additional ones, from 2020.

The trend will continue in 2019. More than 30 countries and 19 US states are currently discussing the issue or have bills progressing. Expect more consumer pressure to make manufacturers review and improve their products, and provide clearer labelling.
Dr Catherine Wilson, freelance writer
specialising in sustainability, tourism and technology

Instabans will spread

Instagram has transformed travel. Today, 61% of 18-24-year-olds want to share “beautiful or important” holiday experiences online ( Aware of the power of the ’gram, tourist boards, hotels and resorts now pay photographers with large followings to post shots from their hotel or poolside. In doing so they’ve helped the canniest ’grammers to forge lucrative careers. The rest of the travel industry has scrambled to get in on the act, slavishly promoting “Instagrammable” trips and places at every opportunity.

But the backlash has started, and will be picking up pace in 2019. Spoof accounts such as “youdidnotsleepthere”, which lampoons adventure travel feeds showing people camping in amazing locations, have been around for a while, but Instagram is now being blamed for more serious offences than encouraging hipster road trips. “Instagram deaths”, caused by people trying to get the perfect shot in precarious locations, and unsustainble crowds, lured to beauty spots by photos seen on the site, are leading some destinations to take action.

In autumn 2018, Vienna launched an anti-social media campaign with the slogan “Welcome to Vienna. Not #Vienna” while one Bali resort hit the headlines for banning smartphones by its pool.

For every ban, there are hundreds of other destinations desperately promoting themselves as Instagram-friendly, but for those of you who have resolved to scroll less this year, the options for a digital detox are on the rise.

Your face will be your passport

Brexiteers excited about the return of the good old blue British passport will find that their new document’s days are numbered. New facial recognition technology is already being trialled, with Heathrow airport planning a full-scale rollout of this summer, introducing biometric technology that uses facial recognition at check-in, bag drops, security lanes and boarding gates, which it claims will reduce time spent at airports by a third. Heathrown says this will be the largest deployment of biometrically enabled products in the world, but it’s not alone in planning for a paperless future: 63% of UK and international airports are planning to invest in biometric ID management by 2020 (source: In Singapore, Changi airport’s new Terminal 4 makes extensive use of biometrics and the Australian government is funding its introduction across that country’s airports. With global air passenger numbers set to double in the next 20 years, anything to smooth the worst part of international travel – the airport experience – will to be welcomed by many, though experts have also raised concerns about data security.
Ryan Ghee of the Future Travel Experience

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