The 9 Biggest Travel Trends of 2016

Out with the old, in the with the new. That's what happens each year in the fashion industry, right? Well, the same holds true for the travel world as well. As the environments, destinations, and demographics of travelers change, so do hotels, airports, and everything in between as a result. So to make sure you're up-to-date, here's a look at the nine biggest travel trends to have already emerged this year. Some with hold, others will fade -- but this is what's trending in the industry right now.

1. Wellness Travel

The Refinery Hotel's Gym
The Refinery Hotel's Gym

You used to consider yourself lucky if your hotel had a gym or a few healthy options on the room service menu, but now properties are launching full-scale wellness programs. IHG’s EVEN Hotels offer wellness amenities like morning runs with the property’s Chief Wellness Officer. Refinery Hotel announced the launch of its Wellth Series in partnership with Wellthily, Co. Westin has long led the way with its WestinWORKOUT rooms, and has since been followed by other hospitality groups such as the Trump Hotel Collection, which now offers the Trump Wellness signature program. And famed gym brand Equinox is entering the hospitality business and developing its first hotel in Manhattan.

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2. Working Out at the Airport

The JFK Terminal; Photo: Flickr

The JFK Terminal; Photo: Flickr

How many times has your flight been delayed or you missed your layover and got stuck twiddling your thumbs in the airport? Wouldn't it be great if you could sneak a workout in? Many airports have walking paths and yoga rooms, but this year gyms will be a part of the other concessions offered while you wait. A startup company called AirFit is planning to have facilities starting in New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, followed by San Francisco International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, that will include state-of-the-art workout rooms, showers, clothing purchase/rentals, and luggage storage.

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3. Adding Personal Time to Business Trips

Hotel Renew
Hotel Renew

Get ready for “bleisure” travel to become the next big thing. While business travel has been around for ages, many business travelers are hoping to get more out of these trips by planning leisure activities in between meetings. Nearly half (46 percent) of business travelers add personal days to all or most of their business trips. In fact, today three in five business travelers are more likely to take a bleisure trip than they were five years ago. Spots like Hotel Renew even offer “Board Meetings” that allow guests to paddle out to surf the swells and hold business meetings between sets. 

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4. Technology, Technology, Technology

The Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Quantum; Photo: Royal Caribbean
The Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Quantum; Photo: Royal Caribbean

This might seem like a no-brainer that hotels (and all things travel) are becoming more high-tech. But it's true, and the trend continues in 2016. This year the face of hospitality is changing with hotels offering more robots -- like robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean and the robot butler at a Crowne Plaza in California -- and fewer people. RFID wristbands and phones are being used as keys and for payment methods. And hotels and cruise lines are now even offering super-fast Wi-Fi speeds to accommodate streaming in rooms.

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5. Solo Travel

Games for Guests at Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, a Wyndham Grand Resort
Games for Guests at Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, a Wyndham Grand Resort

According to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, solo travel is up 15 percent overall since 2013 and up to 37 percent from 16 percent among first-time travelers. And travel companies are taking note, particularly in 2016. Single travel has doubled for touring companies like Country Walkers over the past year as 35 percent of travelers arrive solo and gravitate towards these tour operators due to the group dynamic and the freedom it provides to go off on your own adventure. Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa in Puerto Rico invites singles to meet with other guests seaside at their Tiki Bar's daily happy hour. And Zemi Beach House Resort & Spa in Anguilla provides a personal guide to solo travelers to suggest fun social activities on the property, such as cocktail parties and communal dinners. 

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6. Hotels Revamping Uniforms to Cater to Millennials

JW Marriott Grand Rapids's New Uniforms; Photo: JW Marriott Grand Rapids
JW Marriott Grand Rapids's New Uniforms; Photo: JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Ninety-three percent of millennials say they want a job where they can be themselves at work, and that includes dressing in a way that makes them feel both comfortable and stylish. More hotels are revamping staff uniforms strictly to cater to young, millennial travelers -- and employees. From fashion-forward suites to sexy beachwear, hotels are stylistically thinking outside of the norm. JW Marriott Grand Rapids debuted fashionable suits with colored pocket squares after getting feedback from millennials. The Hilton West Palm Beach valet staff will wear all black Shell Top Adidas outfits, bartenders will rock leather vests, and baristas will wear flat caps. And Hotel Indigo -- Lower East Side partnered with TopHat to design trendy uniforms for every member of staff -- including the engineers.

7. Hybrid Travel Services

A Madrid Apartment Offered by BeMate.com; Photo: BeMate.com
A Madrid Apartment Offered by BeMate.com; Photo: BeMate.com

Forget your typical concierge or travel agent; companies are going above and beyond to cater to their clients so that travel can be both exciting and a breeze. Madrid-based Room Mate Hotels' BeMate.com offers travelers apartments as accommodations, but with the services of a local hotel, including luggage storage, airport transfers, housekeeping, and a concierge. When it comes to flying, all-business class airline La Compagnie recently unveiled its own Chauffeur&Co service which enables travelers to book car transfers through the airline, to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

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8. Farewell Amenities

Rooftop Bar at the Dream Downtown
Rooftop Bar at the Dream Downtown

A welcome towel and cocktail at a hotel certainly get you in the vacation mindset, but don't you want to keep it going once you leave? That's where the farewell amenity trend comes in. Places like Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris treat guests celebrating birthdays with personalized gold-dusted chocolate tablets carved in the shape of the guests' zodiac signs. Meanwhile, Dream Downtown and Dream Midtown send guests home with a little memory of NYC, such as Broadway tickets for their next stay or a favorite bottle of wine.

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9. Spa Treatments Using Precious Gems and Stones

The Beverly Hills Hotel Spa Treatment Room
The Beverly Hills Hotel Spa Treatment Room

Spa treatments are going to get a whole lot more expensive. While the cost of services won't necessarily increase, the items used will certainly have a bigger price tag. In 2016, hotel spas will utilize more precious gems and metals than ever to provide spa-goers with the ultimate decadent relaxation. Gstaad Palace in Switzerland is offering Gemology Face and Body Care treatments that draw cosmetic properties from precious stones including jade, rubies, pearls and sapphires in order to fade wrinkles and fine lines. The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air have incorporated pure platinum into their anti-aging, head-to-toe Platinum Rare Facial treatment. And in Colorado, Madeline Hotel & Residences in Telluride offers a Gemstone Ritual to help enhance overall balance in the body using the energy of the crystals.

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