Mid-2022 may be the time that travel finally starts to return to norms. With that in mind, Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.), a tour company specializing in personalized small group and solo-friendly travel for Americans ages 50-plus, announced its top four travel themes for the year ahead.
“Our travelers are very optimistic,” said Brian FitzGerald, Chief Marketing Officer. “From seasoned travelers to solos traveling on their own for the first time, people are making plans to start seeing the world again, especially those places that they’ve vowed to see in their lifetimes.”
The company resumed travel in July 2021 and brought 11,000 travelers to more than 30 countries. In 2022, nearly 69,000 travelers have reserved travel with them, typically to 85 countries. Groups are limited to 16 travelers (average of 13) by land and 25 (average of 22) by sea. Here are the four themes:
1. Solo surge – With recent Omicron pandemic surges currently receding and vaccines and testing available, people who have been putting their dreams on hold because of health and safety concerns are ready to go. And if friends or spouses won’t join them, they are no longer waiting: they are stepping out of their comfort zones and booking solo.
O.A.T. has seen a 17 percent uptick in the number of solo travelers since 2019. The company just added 2,000 more single spaces in 2022—92 percent of which have free single supplements.
Solo travelers — the majority of whom are women with O.A.T. — often find small group tours appealing because they meet and spend time with others easily when they want, and can also have alone time.
2. Small ships – With the much-publicized problems of cruising in this pandemic period, ships with fewer people are more attractive to travelers in 2022. At O.A.T., bookings for small ships in 2022 are up 10 percent compared to 2019. More than 14,000 travelers are scheduled to travel with them through 2022.
Travelers are also attracted to small-ship travel for the opportunity to visit remote and smaller ports, and the chance to mingle in small groups with locals in a less touristy way. That doesn’t happen when hundreds of passengers disembark from a large ship.
3. Sustainable travel – “How can we travel more responsibly?” is a question with travelers of all ages. Travelers’ interest in environmental travel dovetails with initiatives such as the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, which is spurring on the travel industry to track and improve travel’s impact on the environment.
For some travelers, sustainable travel involves ecological conservation. For others, it is seeking out destinations where their travel dollars will have a positive impact on the local community – for example, benefiting its economic development. Travelers are highly interested in O.A.T.’s trips to the Arctic, Norway and Galapagos.
I wrote about green travel in an earlier Forbes article. Outdoor travel with respect for nature is an obvious start for travelers of all ages, and for family trips.
4. Longer trips – Travelers want to make the most of airfare deals. Others feel the urge to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, and want to immerse in a different culture and engage with the locals. This results in more longer trips planned for 2022.
At O.A.T., 55 percent of solo travelers who reserved for future travel have opted to arrive early before a trip or stay later after the tour concludes. Extending a trip by can help a traveler to acclimate. Staying later after the group departs allows time for independent exploring and offers a chance to savor the experience a bit longer.
With 2023 departures of many adventures already open, O.A.T. reports nearly 9,000 are looking ahead. Let’s hope for healthy travel opportunities to continue and improve.