Flight Centre says small shifts in travel preferences could end up being ''seismic'' for the industry and travellers.

Technological advances, political and social upheaval, climate change and changing tastes and preferences are shaping the path for the industry, which is facing major disruption.

The 45-year-old company today released a report, The Tides of Change, prepared to help it ride out the next wave of change.

"While some changes or cultural shifts might seem insignificant at first, they might also bring seismic shifts within our industry,'' said Flight Centre NZ managing director David Coombes.


''This change is for the better, and holds opportunity for all in the industry if we ride the cultural currents correctly."

The report by data analytics company TRA touches on key themes:


This is the shift to an experience-orientated culture where people seek more meaningful ways to live life. This will mean more travel for festivals, events and novel and stimulating experiences. Festivals such as Burning Man in the United States, Rainbow Serpant in Australia and Kiwi Burn in this country are becoming more popular.
Sean Berenson, Flight Centre's general manager product said be it an airline, cruise line, tour company or tourism board, those that prioritise the quality of experience will thrive in 2019 and beyond.

"Our customers are seeking more; they want to be travellers rather than tourists.''

Trust and Integrity

The growing demand for transparent business practises relating to personal data, privacy and security.

The report says people increasingly expect honesty and clarity from the organisations they deal with, both in the organisation's ethos and operations and how they deal with personal information.


Travellers trust providers with highly sensitive data - passports, credit cards, home addresses and contact information. New European rules on data regulation had meant some firms had to re-learn how to handle clients' information, said Andy Jack, the head of the agent's corporate travel arm, FCM.

''There are potentially multiple data security implications for the 190 million business trips that take place annually.''


As travellers become more reliant on technology, seamless experiences become an expectation rather than a preference.

Emerging expectations around personalisation and customer service may hold the travel industry back if it doesn't take them into account. Examples of technology helping are Gatwick Airport's deployment of 2000 beacons to help guide passengers, Flight Centre and airlines being involved in trials using Amazon's Alexa to access deals, get quotes and check flights using voice channels.

Smart baggage handling using radio frequency identification is also being used more widely.

Audacious change

Conscious consumers are demanding creative solutions to social, environmental and economic problems. As travellers want more reassurance that they are making socially responsible travel decisions, the industry needed to be transparent about their own operations and those of their suppliers. There was more ecotourism and travellers choosing hotels and airlines that were environmentally and socially concious. Examples include hotel chains phasing out plastic such as straws and Air New Zealand's airports for schools to help them travel.

Aro Ha Wellness retreat near Queenstown. Such retreats are forecast to become more popular. Photo / Supplied
Aro Ha Wellness retreat near Queenstown. Such retreats are forecast to become more popular. Photo / Supplied

The report also covers secondary themes such as the impact of climate change.
Sustainable travel initiatives have become important to create lasting positive change.
The impact of climate change, with more extreme weather events was being felt at Flight Centre which has a round the clock helpline to help customers affected by travel disruption.

Retail general manager Sue Matson said the need for ''hands on'' expertise in these cases would continue.

The optimisation of ''body, mind and consciousness' to improve wellbeing had resulted in the growth of yoga and meditation retreats, forest bathing and increased popularity of events such as the Arnold Fitness Expo in the the US.

Matson said luxury travellers were increasingly motivated by transforming themselves
''Motivated by self-reflection and development, transformative travellers seek authentic experiences that reach a deeper emotional level and align with their own personal values, passions and aspirations,'' she said.

There was also a big shift in what older travellers wanted. Senior gap years were becoming more common and research had found the average age of solo holiday makers was 57 years old and solo women travellers outnumber male travellers by almost two to one.

Berenson said there was a greater appetite for tailored experiential travel.
''Baby boomers are more active, discerning and confident about travel than generations before them, ' he said.