2013 has been a great year for international travel, despite all the challenges around the world that might have caused travelers to stash away their passports and stick to familiar, home turf. While many people are choosing traditional vacations, more and more travelers are taking advantage of new ways to explore the world.
Here are five travel trends that we've uncovered for 2013, with all indications pointing to a continuation of growth in these areas for the coming year.
1. Travelers want active touring.
That means they want to do more than get on and off a touring coach. They want to hike, climb, bike, and explore -- physically as well as intellectually. They're traveling off the beaten path, and exploring destinations such as Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, and Cuba. Here there are opportunities to put on crampons and trek up a glacier, scuba and snorkel among pristine corals, and ride a horse through colonial towns and tobacco fields.
2. Travelers want to give back.
As they visit the far-flung places of the world, travelers get up, close and personal with the wonders of each new place. At the same time, they witness the less positive aspects of life, such as poverty, lack of basic conveniences like electricity and clean water, and other problems. Many travelers are inspired to reach out and help those they meet, and to fill that desire, many tours now include an element of outreach. Some examples include providing educational supplies to children in a local community or supporting the construction of a well that provides clean drinking water to residents.
3. More families are choosing to travel internationally.
Forget Disney World -- more families are taking flights to international destinations, including ever-popular European cities, as well as exotic locales. Among the favorites are China, where parents and children are equally thrilled to see the pandas and climb the Great Wall, and Kenya, where everyone, young and not-so-young, can delight in the magnificent creatures of the wild by day, and sleep in their very own tent in the bush at night. And that's just for starters. In response to this trend, many tour operators, including Friendly Planet, are offering family-friendly programs that include activities that are kid and adult-friendly, at prices that are truly affordable, making international family travel accessible for families with serious wanderlust.
4. Food is front and center for many while traveling.
Foodies unite! Choosing organic, locally sourced food has become a large focus for many at home. Lots of us are also learning to be serious gourmet cooks, and our food preferences are ever expanding to include foods from faraway places. For many travelers, enjoying the local specialties, sampling new and different foods, and even going outside their comfort zone makes the experience of travel complete. Tour operators are keen to offer foodie travelers lots of opportunities to learn about the food they eat abroad -- how it's grown, prepared, and served. Visits to local markets and lessons in preparing foods under the guidance of local chefs have become really popular inclusions as well, adding a new -- and delicious -- cultural gastronomy component that everyone can enjoy.
5. Wine, beer and spirits, anyone?
It's not just the food that has travelers rushing to dust off their passports, but the beverages of choice that accompany those gourmet adventures that get the travel juices flowing. Whether you're exploring your roots in Ireland, trekking on a glacier in Patagonia or viewing the Taj Mahal in India, you're bound to find travelers sampling the local wine, beer and spirits. In today's world, most countries have found ways to offer their beverage of choice to tourists, and help them fall in love, sending sales at airport duty-free shops soaring. For example, you can't visit Peru without enjoying a pisco sour -- a light, lemony cocktail reminiscent of gin and tonic. In Cuba, mojitos are as ubiquitous as salsa dancing and posters of Che, and you can't make it through a day without enjoying two or three of the beverage. And microbreweries are cropping up everywhere -- from Munich, the holy land of beer, to Beijing. Wine, beer and spirits aficionados are looking closely for opportunities to learn about and, of course, sample their beverages of choice and often make choices about where to go based on what's being served.
Read more of Peggy's insight on the travel industry on blog.FriendlyPlanet.com.