What will 2016’s hottest destinations be? We’ve placed our bets on these four destinations, with the help of the Orbitz Insider Index. Orbitz.com’s team of global travel experts also expect key 2016 travel trends to include expanded personalization in the air travel experience, as well as a shift in “bleisure” travel culture with the rise of the millennial business traveler. Scroll down to see what else we can look forward to in the coming year.
Top destinations for 2016
San Francisco – The West Coast Hot Spot: San Francisco and the Bay Area will be a top destination for sports fans in 2016, thanks to three World Series wins in just five years by the San Francisco Giants, a 2015 NBA Championship from the Golden State Warriors, and now the region playing host to Super Bowl 50.
Visitors can expect an increase in flight and hotel bookings, as well as prices, February 4 – 8 as the “Big Game” takes place at the new $1.3 billion state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium. According to Orbitz.com booking data, the flood of sports fans visiting during Super Bowl weekend could drive average daily hotel rates in the area up from $156 in 2015 to $434 in 2016 – a 178 percent increase.1
“If you’re a football fanatic, paying more to travel over Super Bowl weekend may be worth every penny. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this year’s West Coast hot spot and lots of off-peak travel weekends to plan an affordable escape,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor of Orbitz.com.
Beyond the sports draw, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will re-open this spring after a nearly three year-long renovation. Or visit in October for Fleet Week, when the Blue Angels perform and the city enjoys some of its best weather of the year. Year-round, Star Wars fans can enjoy the public park space of George Lucas’ Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center, the headquarters for Lucasfilm.
Rio de Janeiro – The Marvelous City: Brazil’s state-owned tourism agency estimates 380,000 foreign visitors will attend the Olympic Games this August. According to Orbitz Worldwide global data, flight bookings to Rio have increased from 2015 to 2016 by 99 percent, half of which are from the U.S., with top origin cities including Washington D.C., Cincinnati, Houston, Orlando, and Los Angeles.
With major improvements taking place in anticipation of the games, Rio will be an even more desirable destination in 2016. Known for its beautiful beaches, green mountains, samba-driven nightlife and famous landmarks, travelers looking for more excitement should visit during the five-day Carnival festivities in February. In October, the city will host the Rio International Film Festival with over 500 movies.
The Great State of Texas: Travel to the Lone Star State is on the rise, with Texas Tourism reporting steady growth from domestic travelers with annual increases of five percent since 2009. Recently named the best place for millennials by Forbes, San Antonio is growing in popularity as a getaway for those looking for culture and history. The city will host a number of anniversaries in 2016, including the 180th anniversary of the Alamo February 23 – March 6; and Fiesta, the 125th anniversary of the city taking place April 14 – 24. Expect over 100 full-scale events, including 11 parades, music and dancing gatherings, athletic events, fashion shows, military celebrations and more.
Austin has established itself as a destination for music lovers and foodies alike. Those more interested in the “Stay Weird” culture of Austin can tour the eclectic shops, restaurants and live music on South Congress Street any time of the year. Meanwhile, the city draws more crowds during South by Southwest (SXSW), which has become much more than a music festival – attracting nearly 100,000 attendees, including celebrities, tech elite and top musical acts. The X-Games will also be a major attraction here, featuring 200 world-class action sports athletes June 2 – 5.
Tulum – A Destination on the Rise: 2016 is the year to visit Tulum due to a favorable exchange rate. Mexico consistently ranks as the #1 booked international destination for U.S. travelers, and with tourism up across Riviera Maya, expect to see the same in 2016.
Cancun has long been a go-to destination for U.S. travelers, but as more vacationers seek quieter alternatives, Orbitz.com experts anticipate nearby Tulum will continue to grow in popularity, thanks to new green hotels, an open-air jungle restaurant and healing spas like Yaan Wellness Energy Spa. In fact, according to Orbitz.com data there has been a 55 percent increase in hotel bookings in Tulum since 2013. Tulum is also gaining an unexpected reputation as a fashion town, drawing celebrities and fashion icons annually for the Tulum Fashion Show in December.
Adventurous travelers can also enjoy Mayan ruins, the world’s second largest coral reef and a 65-million-year-old underground cave system.
COMEBACK KID 2016
Napa Wine Country: Months of drought and wildfires made 2015 a challenging year for California’s wine country, estimated to be worth $50 billion. However, the Napa region is set to rebound in 2016 with the planned opening of several new culinary developments, including the region’s first izakaya, or Japanese-style gastropub, a “Vintners Hall of Fame” and a casual lunch spot run by student talent from the Culinary Institute of America. The BottleRock food, music and wine festival from May 27 – 29 will also bring visitors to Napa.
Wine is still the main attraction, and Orbitz.com recommends first-time Napa Valley visitors experience top sights including the ritzy terrace at Domaine Carneros estate; Sterling Winery, which is reached only by a gondola to the top of the mountain; or the famous Napa Valley Wine Train.
2016 travel trends
The Evolution of “bleisure” travel: The shift in “bleisure” travel – combining business and leisure on a trip – is being driven by the rise of millennial business travelers and is influencing in-destination travel experiences.
“Millennials travel more, have spending power, are extremely influential via social media, harness the power of mobile to search, shop and buy, and they look for ‘authentic’ experiences. Plus, their loyalty is up for grabs,” said Tornatore. “For these reasons, they are arguably one of the most important segments of bleisure travelers right now.”
In the next few years, destinations are set to adapt their tourism tactics to turn the new generation of business travelers into repeat leisure visitors. Destinations are already making more authentic connections with travelers and identifying more ways for them to “share” their experiences. Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, for instance, offers personalized perks for tagging the brand on social media, such as spa credits or a welcome amenity. In addition, Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas announced an all-inclusive package for groups attending meetings, which comes with deluxe beverages, exercise facilities and free luxury accommodations. Hotels are fast-adding the amenities and tech luxuries millennials demand — from free Wi-Fi to boutique coffee shops.
Personalization of Air Travel: From the terminal to the plane, in 2016 U.S. travelers will revel in a more tailored (and tech-focused) air travel experience. Major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport and Newark Liberty International, are making major upgrades to provide travelers with their own in-airport iPads to read the latest news, order food directly from the screen and pay the bill on-the-go using frequent flier miles. Once completed, Newark’s United Airlines terminal is expected to be only second to Apple’s retail stores as the largest customer-facing iPad platform in the world.
In the air, expect to see more airlines join the likes of Virgin America in offering personal screens that allow travelers to do everything from message fellow passengers to choose what to watch and order meals. Now that in-flight Wi-Fi has become almost standard, passengers can use their own technology on many planes to stream free entertainment. To keep those devices charged, many airlines are also expanding in-seat power outlets to economy class.
Individual mood lighting is also a growing trend. While select airlines are already known for this comfort feature, travelers will see more of this with the roll-out of more Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as well as new Airbus models. Looking beyond 2016, the future of airplane seating may also include dedicated storage for laptops or tablets, thanks to global aircraft supplier Stelia Aerospace’s “Celeste,” a 19-inch wide premium economy seat.
Big (Package) Purchases, Small Screens: Mobile booking is predicted to continue to grow in 2016. Not only are consumers making more purchases on their mobile devices, but they are booking larger and more complex itineraries. Over the last year, Orbitz.com saw an over 80 percent increase in mobile vacation package bookings.6
On average, customers are spending nearly $1,700 on package vacations and purchasing them almost two months in advance according to Orbitz.com mobile booking data. The shift away from last-minute bookings is expected to continue to drive mobile package popularity. In addition, the average package savings per booking is over $225 and travelers can save up to $775 when booking a package through a mobile device.