Predictions: 7 real travel trends that will happen in 2022

Trips based on Instagrammability, “bleisure” (combining business with leisure travel), design-friendly airports (Singapore Changi, Istanbul, etc), indulgent travel (splurging)… these were the biggest travel trends in the past few years (well, if you take Covid out of the equation), and 2022 travel trends will be entirely different.

In fact, 2022 trends feel more concrete rather than generalized, and I’ll discuss how things will change when you hit the road next year.

Unlike other trends in the past (overtourism, passenger shaming, frequent flier program changes, etc), I love the new direction travel is heading for 2022 since they’re mostly positive. Also, people have been seeking more experiential and meaningful travel lately, meaning they want to truly connect to destinations rather than just sightsee, especially now that travel is becoming great again post Covid-19.

I’ll touch upon this more below, but interest in the travel industry has significantly increased, too. People really know their hotel chains, they know what airlines they like (and dislike), they’re seeking better restaurants (over tourist traps) and they’re taking more risks and going beyond typical destinations. It’s pretty awesome. There’s genuine enthusiasm for travel, and everyone seems to be part of the conversation. In the past, I would tell friends about lesser known places I visited, but now, they’ll know exactly where that place is, what new hotel opened there, a cool attraction they saw on Instagram and other notes that truly surprise me. I think this is happening all over the globe. Thanks to constant developments, and of course social media, travel is front and center, and people want to be a part of it. That excites me.

The main square in Quito, Ecuador.

Before I highlight the most significant travel trends for 2022, I’ll quickly go through some of the best shortlisted trends you’re probably aware of, or not really surprised to see. These “trends” aren’t really trends per se; I consider them standards. Here they are:

1. Eco travel. Many travel outlets continue to push “eco-friendly travel” as a trend. While I love the fact eco travel will continue to rise, the world is already changing in general, and more humans are making a strong effort to contribute to an eco-friendly world (thanks, Greta!). So, for me, eco travel is not really a trend, it’s simply become a standard.

Due to demand, I think more hotels will catch on and get rid of plastic straws, add more recycling bins in rooms and use eco-friendly detergent for laundry and cleaners; more restaurants will work with local farms and stop flying product in; airlines will continue cutting back on single-use plastic items and offset greenhouse gas emissions; and more destinations will strive to become carbon neutral.

2. Transformational travel. This is something that appears on travel trends lists every year, but it’s what travel has always been. Transformational travel is exactly as you would guess: It’s when travelers go on a trip to learn, expand their minds, have a moment of clarity, and basically grow from the experience. Now, if we say “meaningful trips” over “transformational travel,” then that’s a trend. Even a party trip to New Orleans or Las Vegas is transformational through the people you meet, the food you eat and the experiences you have, whether you consider it or not.

The way this type of travel is elevated is based on that connection people have with a destination and see things in a new way. Again, transformational travel is not a new trend, it simply reflects the way people have been changing. I love that transformational travel does appear every year on lists, since I do believe people should be encouraged to go on meaningful trips.

3. Tech-centric travel. Here’s a trend that also appears every year. While tech is integral to travel (booking flights on your phone, social media, advanced tech in hotel rooms), it’s not a trend… tech simply improves every year. Tech is constantly evolving; that’s part of the travel package. We will continue to use apps, order room service through an iPad, use WIFI on flights, things like that… it won’t change. Artificial Intelligence is definitely not going to make a big splash in 2020 (that will happen much later!), and innovations like driverless cars and better cameras on phones will get better, but for now, tech will not change the way we travel this year, just advance it.

There are other trends on the rise in 2022, like solo travel, airlines adding more direct routes, the younger generation hitting the road more than ever, but here are the 7 travel trends that will really hit home next year.

7 real travel trends for 2022!

1. Staycations will be extremely popular in 2022.

Suite at Refinery Hotel in NYC.

There’s nothing like going on a far-flung trip, but some people don’t have that opportunity. Many young folk can’t afford travel, and older professionals are tied to a 9-to-5 work week with limited vacation time (yes, even with remote working). That said, they still want an “escape.”

As I mentioned earlier, from what I’ve noticed in the past few years, more people, whether they travel or not, have shown increased interest in hospitality. People know hotel brands more than they did five years ago, reflecting desire and interest, and many will go as far as having ‘staycations’ to have that experience.

Staycations are not new, and WalletHub has been ranking the best staycation cities for the past few years. So, why are staycations trending now? Sure, Covid-19 happened, and people have been going more local for vacations to avoid flights and crowds, but there’s a real reason staycations are hot.

The cheapest deals are on TripadvisorTripAdvisor

“Mini-vacations” or “micro-vacations” have been rising in travel, where travelers go on very short trips over a weekend. Now, because many great hotels, restaurants, tours, and attractions are opening in their very city, they don’t have to go far… and they can save on airfare or car rentals.

In NYC, a whopping 16 new hotels opened in 2019, many that offered introductory rates, locals rates and even forced competing hotels to reduce rates. People in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can have an amazing vacation right in their concrete-jungle backyard without spending hundreds on a flight, and with constant new hotels, restaurants, shows, etc in NYC, they can have a completely different experience from their last visit. As another example, 14 hotels opened in Nashville in 2019. That is not a typo. Nashville, one of the fastest growing U.S. cities that is also one of the smallest major cities, opened 14 hotels in a year! So those who live in Nashville and nearby cities definitely had a blast staying in them.

Think about the closest major city you live in. How many new hotels are there compared to 3 years ago?

Ultimately, hotels are an experience unto itself. The hotel scene is growing fast across the country, and hotels are tapping celebrity chefs, cool spa partners, and many amenities and attractions and events that speak to the local. In fact, some destinations, like Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma and Israel, are known to offer local rates and deals at hotels, theater, nightclubs, restaurants and other experiences.

You’ll likely see #Hotels on Instagram, which hovers at 4 million posts, will increase this year.

2. Curated, modern art will be HUGE in hotels, restaurants and destinations.

Kimpton Arras Hotel Lobby ceiling mural.

It is not uncommon to see engaging, museum-worthy art in hotels now. In fact, I wrote a story a while back on surprisingly famous art in hotels, and since I wrote that story for Thrillist, I’ve seen a lot more hotels get their art fix.

The Art Hotel in Denver is great and offers curated artwork, as well as Gramercy Park Hotel in NYC, but 21C Museum Hotels really contributed to the movement when it opened in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006. In fact, it truly paved the way for hotels to really think about putting art in their lobbies and public spaces.

I visited 21C Louisville when it opened, and it now has more than 3,000 pieces of art throughout the hotel, mostly in the main museum. I stayed at 21C Durham over New Years recently, and it was equally art-centric (the main art gallery starts in the same space as the check-in desk) but the 21C Nashville, opened three years ago, truly floored me when I stayed there. The hotel was the museum, and you could find art on every floor, even guest rooms.

Also, can we talk about Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas? It had a $620 million renovation last year, most of which included priceless artwork by Damien Hirst, in public spaces. I wrote about it for CNBC. More hotels I check into lately have great, commissioned art, whether paintings, sculptures or interactive pieces, and it’s going to be a huge hit for 2022, something a lot of hotels will tout to stand out.

And modern art in travel is not limited to hotels. Restaurants are investing in great art, and they’re quietly putting them on walls, behind the bar, even in bathrooms. I love The Woodstock in Meatpacking District, which has an original Picasso!

Speaking of Durham, the entire city is essentially a canvas with murals, and of course, many other destinations have embraced public art, mainly in parks and popular streets.

I’ve seen this art in hospitality trend start many years ago, but it definitely is getting rooted into the travel industry DNA and will make a big splash this year.

3. Boutique hotel chains will grow bigger than you ever expected.

Moxy East Village.

Boutique chains are popping up all over the world—and fast. Legacy chains, like Marriott, Hilton, etc, are introducing smaller brands that are experiencing a major growth spurt. I need to make a distinction that these smaller chains are not just a collection of hotels that have a new label slapped on them (like “Autograph Collection” and “Curio Collection”), they are actual new hotels. But, the main point: they are being pumped out fast, and it’s why it’s one of the travel trends in 2022.

Moxy (by Marriott) went from one hotel in Milan, Italy in 2014, and now there are 44 hotels across North America, Europe and Asia, and 96 new hotels in the pipeline. Four new Moxy Hotels opened in NYC alone in the past year, which is pretty insane. Also, Hilton recently introduced its Motto micro-hotel brand, with 6 hotels opening by 2022, so you can bet Motto will likely expand like Moxy. Remember, Hilton already has a lifestyle brand, Canopy, if that says anything about this trend.

Even smaller hotel chains have launched lifestyle brands. Montage Hotels introduced it’s lifestyle brand Pendry in San Diego and Baltimore in the past two years, and it will have new locations in LA and NYC soon.

Sometimes you don’t need legacy to become a hotel chain these days. Many new independent hotel chains are helping drive the market, like Found Hotels (a co-living lifestyle brand), which just opened its San Francisco location last month (December 2019), with other locations in Boston, Chicago, San Diego and DC, as well as Miami and Los Angeles to open this year. Proper Hotels, a luxury boutique chain, launched two years ago and already has five locations. Then there’s Lifehouse, which debuted last year in Miami, now with three locations in Miami and one in Denver, and another to come to Brooklyn, New York this year.

Book with confidence on Tripadvisor!TripAdvisor

See what I mean about growth?

I’m also seeing more one-off, independent boutiques opening, and people are loving them. Just look at Riviera Maya, Mexico, where almost ten independently owned boutique hotels are opening this year, like Palmailla and Senator. Even in a place as remote as the Maldives, which is ruled by large chain hotels, unknown independent hotels, like The Nautilus and Kudadoo, both that opened last year, are dominating “best new hotels” lists.

4. Pet travel will go next level in 2022.

Ruby at Kimpton Arras.

You won’t believe the number of pet travel-related pitches I receive a week, and I’m not surprised. I’ve written many stories about the rise of pet travel because it’s huge. Honestly, can you remember, just five years ago, not every airline accepted pets, hotels were not pet friendly, etc etc? Now, Amtrak allows dogs, all major U.S. airline now accepts pets, and if a hotel doesn’t accept pets, it’s considered outdated.

But pet travel is going to a whole new level this year. North Carolina has a dog mascot/travel agent, the first of its kind, and an actual pet hotel recently opened in Utah. It’s called Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile and, as you guessed, it’s not a dog shelter or boarding while you’re going on vacation. It’s an *actual hotel designed for dogs,* who will bring their owners for a hotel experience. Also, can we talk about all the pandemic puppies?

It’s not just hotels that are becoming pet friendly. Have you noticed more US airport have dog relief stations, whether inside the terminal or a dedicated section outside? This is mere proof more people are traveling with pets.

As you may know, I travel frequently with my pup Ruby (@JetSetRuby on Instagram), and the effort and thought going into pet amenities at hotels we stay at are ridiculous. We obviously love it, and it shows how much pets are becoming incredibly pampered, just like guests.

Also, what blew my mind recently, at Kimpton Arras in Asheville, North Carolina, where I recently checked in, I did not see one guest without a dog. I truly believe 2020 will show that pets are part of the travel DNA.

Oh, and speaking of Asheville, I saw a pet psychic there. Why is there a psychic for pets, you ask? More pet travelers are looking for unique experiences when they travel.

5. Longer hotel stays with *complimentary* nights.

Christian and I upgraded at Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour.

As I mentioned earlier, the hotel scene is crowded, and some hoteliers are panicking from fierce competition. They’re also a little over the fact people are doing “micro vacations,” so one thing a lot of hotels will do this year is offer a free night or two if you stay more than two nights. I’ve seen this type of deal offered not just over slow travel periods, but *as a standard,* like it’s simply become the new way hotels operate, and you know when one hotel does something, a competing hotel will likely match it.

Hilton now offers a “Stay 3 nights, get a 4th night free” deal that’s *not* a promotion. It’s just how it is. Intercontinental had the same offer as a promotion last year, though will likely do it again, Four Seasons offers it, and Starwood has the same offer but throws in room credit.

You’ll also see better deals, as well as better packages and bundles at hotels. Of course, when you package this with how hotels have been hurt so much by Covid-19, it’s not unrealistic that they will do anything to get guests back into their hotel rooms.

6. Minimalism.

Ruby at Four Seasons Surf Club.

Minimalism is going to be huge and a real travel trend for 2022. Hotels are understanding that guests don’t really care about the flashy, lavish design and decor and amenities. They want simple… but simple done well. They want experience, not materialism. They want to be wowed but with meaningful things, like amazing customer service, thoughtful approaches (like art and cool mini-bar items), simple luxuries and they want maximized space.

So, yes, you’ll see a lot more minimalism in hotels. Think neutral palettes, less clutter, larger windows to maximize space, more geometry, even paring down on furniture (those desks are leaving hotel rooms since no one is using them) and wasteful hotel plastic toiletries (which you know how I feel about!)

It’s not just hotel design. Minimalism is a huge 2022 trend in fashion, home design, brochures, restaurants (both design and dishes).

7. Gig economy will change… but move forward!

Lin Beach House on Airbnb.

The gig economy in travel is a standard, but wow, will it completely change travel in 2022! Uber and Lyft are already changing the way they pick up passengers at airports (instead of waiting for your ride at Laguardia airport for instance, the cars are already there. You get in one like a taxi and give him the pin).

Newer hotels are opening *without* spas, giving apps like Soothe and Zeel a great way to get into a guest’s hotel room, and of course, there’s AirBnb, and all its competitors, offering experiences like cooking classes, etc.

I’ve seen this trend cross over into affiliate programs.

Those are the biggest travel trends that will happen in 2022. Do you have any predictions for this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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