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Travel trends for 2020 from Audley Travel

Published: 16/12/2019   /   Updated: 16/01/2024

Tailor-made travel specialist Audley Travel conducts extensive research to ensure it is offering its clients exactly the range of options they desire for their bespoke trips, which are designed for each client based on their budget, travel wish list and tastes. From this, the travel provider’s specialists have identified several trends in travel for 2020.

Slow travel

A preference for slower and more immersive travel is clear for 2020 across some of Audley’s destinations. Instead of trying to see as much of a country (or region) as possible in one trip, Audley’s specialists (for example, for the USA team) report an increase in people wanting to spend longer in each place they visit, thus reducing the number of stops on an itinerary and as a result, take fewer domestic flights within their chosen destination. Instead they want to spend their time exploring off the beaten track and really getting to know the community they are visiting. Similarly, trains and boats are chosen over domestic flights both to reduce their carbon footprint as well as to enable clients to experience the journey through a destination as locals do. Audley’s China specialists report that due to a greater emphasis on train travel when speaking to clients about their trips, over 160 flights have been replaced with trains.

Away from the crowds

Experiencing a destination at its best is key for clients, with Audley reporting an increase in people actively choosing a lesser-known spot within a destination so they will be able to enjoy it without the crowds. An example cited by Audley includes an increase in bookings for lesser-known Canadian lakes (for example Kootenay Lake in British Columbia) over the ones on every tourist’s itinerary. Audley prides itself on having the inside knowledge on every destination it sells so that it can offer its clients exactly this experience.

Conservation is key

Audley reports an increase in emphasis on eco properties in its itineraries. This comes from both the offering from suppliers as well as a call from clients to provide them. The eco credentials go far beyond the traditional offerings, with properties being fully self-sufficient in terms of water, power and other services as well as promoting solely local produce (for example, Audley cites a property in Mauritius where everything apart from the beds is locally made, and many others that integrate conservation into everything that they do, including giving guests the chance to contribute themselves).

A stronger focus on community tourism

Whilst Audley has always offered high quality and well researched community tours, the team now also notes an increase in awareness from clients about the importance of ensuring that the community tours they join are actually beneficial for the local population. For example, Audley offers a tour of Dharavi slum in Mumbai (and its many businesses from pottery and recycling to soap making and embroidery) that receives excellent feedback from clients as well as being welcomed by the local inhabitants. Dharavi is a self-sustaining microcosm, and a visit there is eye-opening to the reality of life for some in Mumbai, as well as the good-natured manner of those living in difficult conditions. To ensure that all experiences continue to meet Audley’s high standards, the operator has recently introduced a child welfare policy and audited all of its community-led/run experiences to ensure they meet this.

Technology — a 360 degree turn on client requirements

Over recent years, Audley’s suppliers have been marketing the fact they don’t offer Wi-Fi and other connectivity in the bedrooms as a selling point to clients who want to escape from the distractions of day-to-day life. However, the tide has now turned on this, with Audley’s specialists reporting the opposite shift — with a decreasing number of properties that let clients get away from all communication, as people want to be connected again — whether it’s as simple as having internet access to stay in touch with people at home, or taking advance of the technology offered in some properties. This can include pre-loaded playlists in the rooms, sensory experiences and an increase in bespoke apps e.g. maps of a national park/restaurant reviews in the local area.

Save and splurge

Audley’s specialists advise that they are seeing clients increasingly want their budget to work even harder for them for their trip, and as a result, they are happy to plan an itinerary with a mix of accommodation types and experiences to allow them to tick everything off their list. They want to see as much as possible but combine this with a little luxury and are booking a selection of hotels or lodges that include at least one very special luxurious property as well as some moderate properties to allow them to afford the high-end treat too.

Single-use plastic

Whilst the desire to move away from single-use plastic is by no means new, Audley reports an increase in clients actively asking for this from their travel provider. In customer feedback in 2019, the mentions of single-use plastic increased by over 1,100 per cent compared to five years previously — both in praising destinations where it is no longer used (for example, most of the hotels Audley works with in Mauritius have committed to the removal of all single-use plastic bottles — as well as the island wide ban on plastic bags and straws and in China, single use toiletries were banned from all Shanghai hotels this year), and calling for alternatives in destinations where there is still work to do. Audley now offers re-usable water bottles to clients in 12 destinations (with the plan to extend this to 20 in total during 2020), as well as providing filling stations throughout the itinerary.

It’s not just where you go, it’s how you get there

The journey a client takes is increasingly as important as the destination they visit. With this in mind, Audley incorporates more ‘journeys’ into its clients trips — for example, travel by local train rather than taking a domestic flight (across all destinations this was a five per cent increase in 2019 compared to 2018; in China alone the figure rose to a 10 per cent increase). This also extends to seeing travel by ship as a key part of the itinerary, and as a result, an increase in clients booking cruises to explore a destination in a new way, from a different perspective that enhances their overall trip experience — in addition to using a cruise for the more traditional reason of allowing clients to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. As a result, Audley has expanded its cruise offering to offer a wider range of experiences, including the Celebrity Flora in the Galapagos which boasts excellent responsible tourism credentials as well as several new ships that will be completing their first full Antarctica season in 2020 — for example, The Magellan Explorer, World Explorer, and Greg Mortimer.

Destination trends snippets

  • Top destinations for Audley include the USA, India, Canada, South Africa and Japan
  • Mexico and Colombia are popular destinations for 2020, with bookings up 26 per cent and 47 per cent
  • Self-drive is expected to become increasingly popular across Latin America over 2020
  • In Africa, Madagascar and Rwanda are both up 20 per cent year on year for bookings
  • Central Asia has seen huge increase in interest, with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan seeing growth of 87 per cent
  • Sri Lanka has recovered well from a difficult 2019, with bookings picking up faster than expected
  • Vietnam is set for a strong 2020, with bookings up 20 per cent compared to 2018
  • In the Caribbean, Barbados and Grenada have risen by 30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively
  • Egypt has seen a large increase in interest for 2020, with greater demand overall for higher end cultural touring (usually including a cruise)
  • Demand for Jordan is rising fast, with availability for Petra in some months already limited
  • In the USA, the American South shows increased demand of 29 per cent, with its music offering a big pull
  • Audley has seen a 231 per cent increase year-on-year in views of its online family itineraries for China, thanks to the ease of travel on the ever-expanding high-speed train networks, child-inclusive society and fantastic range of activities available.

For more information on Audley Travel’s tailor-made trips visit or call 01993 838000.

Notes to editors

About Audley Travel

Audley Travel creates unique travel experiences through first-hand specialist knowledge and outstanding customer service. Its tailor-made travel experiences are available in over 80 countries across the world. Each trip is designed by a destination specialist who knows the country in great detail, having lived there or explored it many times. Each trip is designed specifically for a client, based on their tastes, interests and budget with a common commitment to quality and to showing clients the highlights of a destination in a different light, and introducing them to places and experiences that others might miss. For more information on all of Audley’s tailor-made trips, please visit


Sample images to illustrate the trends can be downloaded here, with more available on request from