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‘Voluntourism,’ accountability, brand life identified as emerging trends for traveler itineraries

United Arab Emirates: Monday, May 05 - 2008 @ 16:31

These, along with other traveler preferences such as virtual tourism, adults only resorts, and the attraction to destinations with unique political or religious environments encapsulate the emerging travel trends identified in the 2007 Country Brand Index (CBI), a comprehensive study of more than 2,600 international travelers conducted by FutureBrand, a leading global brand consultancy, in conjunction with public relations firm Weber Shandwick’s Global Travel & Lifestyle Practice.

CBI, now in its third year, examines how countries are branded and ranked according to key criteria and includes rankings and trends as well as travel motivations, challenges and opportunities within the worlds of travel, tourism and country branding.

“An overarching travel trend this year is the idea of paradox and distinction,” said Rina Plapler, senior executive director, FutureBrand.

“Now you can work with volunteer organizations such as Conscious Journeys on vacation in Tibet, participate in a carbon-offset program offered by companies such as Leading Hotels of the World, as well as ‘live’ your favorite brand 24/7 by staying at designer hotels such as the Bvlgari Hotel in Milan or the upcoming Armani Hotel in Dubai.

Travelers are continuing to look for new offerings, new attractions and new ways to enjoy more of everything. The UAE is ahead of the curve with this trend, as both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are already planning a breadth of tourist offerings across culture, sports, entertainment and shopping.”

Emerging trends in travel and tourism identified in this year’s Country Brand Index include:

•Easier, Faster, Better – On the ground and in the air, companies are responding to travelers’ desires for simplification and ease. With airports, companies such as Fly Clear allow travelers to pay registration and annual membership fees in return for expedited service through security lines. Some hospitality brands are also creating their own airport lounges as well as providing “flying kits” for customers to make the trip home more pleasant.
•Voluntourism in Demand – As a response to disaster aid, growing global village consciousness and a need to contribute to society in ways big and small, more travelers are planning their trips around humanitarian purposes. From building homes and teaching English to working at refugee camps and participating in animal conservation research, the menu of volunteer vacation options is growing.
•Attraction of “Other” – There is a growing interest in exploring cultures with unique political or religious environments. Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Pakistan all represent countries in transition. Rich histories meet political flux. Despite safety concerns, many seek to recreate and revisit famed cities of the past and at the same time witness modern defining moments of history.
•Accountability Grows in Importance – Travelers are becoming more environmentally responsible and asking airlines and hotels to rally around the cause. The result is that consumers and pioneering travel brands are partnering to minimize their impact on the environment. Silverjet, with a mandatory carbon dioxide offset fee, became the first carbon neutral airline. Car rental companies such as Hertz, Budget and Avis are adding more fuel-efficient cars to their fleets, while leading luxury hospitality providers are offering carbon offset programs. Non-profits and online vendors are inviting travelers to calculate their CO2 footprints and purchase offsets or donate to the websites’ tree planting projects.
•24/7 Brand Life – Now brands outside the hospitality sector are extending into the destination business and creating offerings that allow people to live that brand 24/7. Fashion labels such as Armani and Versace first infused hotels with their signature aesthetics from Dubai to Australia. Today, luxury car companies are following suit. For example, Ferrari has teamed up with Aldar Properties to launch an entertainment development in Abu Dhabi in 2008. With a racetrack, rides and simulators, the destination invites visitors of all ages to explore Ferrari and the company’s history. The complex will also feature hotels, retail, residential and hospitality components that extend the brand in multiple ways and take inspiration from Ferrari car designs.
•Virtual Tourism – Every day, millions of people already travel to fantastical destinations via dozens of virtual reality worlds such as World of Warcraft, Matrix Online or Second Life. You can find a room at the virtual aloft hotel, a Second Life model of Starwood Hotels’ new brand to be launched in the real world in 2008. With all this adventure at your fingertips, it’s easy to get lost, a problem that has spawned a whole new industry of travel agencies, tour guides and digital guidebooks to cater to the confused virtual tourist. STA Travel has launched a presence on Second Life, offering up what it calls a “Home for the Virtual Traveler,” with guidance to the must-see places and adventures in this online world. Virtual tourism offers a new alternate vacation, whether it be lying on a beach, enjoying a ski trip or climbing archaeological ruins. Or all three – in the same hour.

FutureBrand has developed a three-tiered evaluation system for ranking country brands. This Index incorporates global quantitative research, expert opinions, and references relevant statistics that link brand equity to assets, growth and expansion. The result is a unique evaluation system that provides the basis of our rankings. More than 2,600 respondents from seven countries participated in a travel survey.

Participants were screened to include only frequent international travelers (travel internationally more than once a year) between the ages of 21 and 65, with a balanced split between men and women. Business and leisure travelers were both included. More than 50 international travel industry experts spanning writers, editors, analysts and hospitality professionals participated. Experts were recruited from multiple regions to ensure a diverse and representative sample of opinions.

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Monday, May 5- 2008 @ 16:31 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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