Gadget-free and shopping sprees rule travel trends

BIG SPENDERS: A woman shopping in a Louis Vuitton store. Chinese visitors to Europe alone reserve a third of their holiday budget for shopping, and 95% of Chinese visitors of Louis Vuitton shops in Paris are on organised tours, according to statistics. — Reuters

LONDON: Luxury shopping trips for the nouveaux rich, gadget-free accommodation and booking holidays on smart TVs are some of the future travel trends predicted in a new report.

The Global Trends Report by market research firm Euromonitor International predicted a continued rise in holiday packages which cater to tourists on shopping trips, a recovery in Middle East visits following the Arab Spring, and Americans interested in destinations that have previously been off-limits.

Shoppers from Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC countries with rapidly growing economies, were expected to flock to European cities to splurge on luxury goods.

Euromonitor based this trend on fast-growing affluent middle classes among the BRICs, as well as the high import taxes on luxury goods back home.

“We know that Chinese tourists are more and more travelling in groups across Europe and shopping is one of their main activities,” Euromonitor travel analyst Paz Casal said at the World Travel Market in London on Monday.

“This will only become more pronounced in the next five years.”

Chinese visitors to Europe alone reserve a third of their holiday budget for shopping, the European Travel Commission estimates and 95% of Chinese visitors of Louis Vuitton shops in Paris are on organised tours, according to Euromonitor.

Hotels in the Middle East are locating within or beside shopping malls to take advantage of the trend and nine major malls are due for completion across the region between 2012 and 2014. One of these, Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, will be home to seven hotels.

After experiencing a 10% fall in tourism last year during the fallout from the Arab Spring, 2012 is promising to end with positive growth for the Middle East. This is forecast to continue into 2013 and beyond.

Indian travellers are helping a tourism boom in the Gulf by heading in large numbers to the region’s souks to purchase precious metals for wedding gifts and investment.

Although the report maintains that any growth in tourism arrivals will come from the relatively new outbound markets of Asia Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe, US travellers are showing a particular interest in flocking to countries that have previously been off limits, such as North Korea, Libya, Cuba and Myanmar thanks to the easing of travel restrictions.

American tourism to Myanmar is expected to rise by 71% by 2016, says Euromonitor.

Smart TVs are also highlighted in the report as vital new platforms for travel marketers seeking to use the device to directly connect consumers to the market by enabling them to make immediate bookings through the TV or via travel apps and Internet links.

“The next big thing is to have a presence on these machines,” Euromonitor’s travel and tourism research head Caroline Bremner told Reuters. “With 50% penetration by 2014, it’s going to be fast adoption.”

On the flipside, customers will also want to be prised away from their technological gizmos on “digital detox” holidays in gadget-free hotels or those which offer incentives to put down the “crackberry” for a while.

Relaxing holiday options like spa, cruise and rail sojourns were also expected to perform particularly well through 2016. — Reuters

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