THE BLOG

Demand for International Travel Through the Roof

05/30/2013 05:02 pm ET | Updated Jul 30, 2013

According to Hipmunk, demand for international travel is at an all-time high, which is great news for certain people in the hospitality industry. This doesn't just include Americans heading overseas for their vacations, but a slew of international travelers are also coming to America for their great getaway. Which surprising hospitality pros are benefitting the most from this trend? It's the smaller boutiques and businesses, such as cozy B&Bs which can also charge through the roof for a more authentic experience.

People are getting much savvier when it comes to scoring great deals on international travel. They're booking more often during the off-season to save big bucks on airfare, attractions and hotels. They're opting for standby, which is much easier with more telecommuting options making them not tied as closely to their desks. International travel might be up, but people still want to save money while shying away from the tourist traps of yesteryear.

What Vacationers Want

Big brand hotels and companies might talk about brand loyalty, and people certainly know what they're getting when they go to yet another chain hotel. The accommodations might be acceptable and there might be plenty of perks like free Wi-Fi or a breakfast, but that's not what travelers want anymore. They want a truly unique experience, they want to feel like a local, and they want to travel somewhere new and not run into a bevy of other tourists just like them.

This means previously un-touristy hot spots, such as the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, are seeing more travelers and it's opening up opportunities that were previously impossible. The same is true in the US, with more travelers seeking out smaller, rural areas to experience the Wild West or the real underground of New York City. TV Shows like Bizarre Foods America is also pushing this trend, and people are willing to travel from around the world to try the famous Christmas Enchiladas at a roadside Arizona diner featured on their favorite travel show.

What Accessibility Issue?

Big companies no longer have a corner on the market when it comes to attracting international travelers, whether it's tour companies, airlines or hotels. Instead, the little guys are finally getting their due respect and vacationers from around the world are focusing on supporting local efforts. This might mean visiting a smaller vineyard in Napa Valley or seeking out bed and breakfasts in lieu of another stay at the Hilton. It's equal parts authenticity and supporting local that's making this trend stick in 2013.

In hindsight, it's a natural extension of the green, sustainability movement. People shop at farmers markets to get fresh, tasty groceries but also because they feel good when they support a local farmer. The same is true when it comes to planning their vacation, and even in a recovering economy, people are willing to pay more to feel good about what they're doing. The entrepreneurial spirit rallied during the recession, and now that push to go into small business is paying off handsomely.

The America to Overseas Outlook

It used to be that Americans targeted a handful of destinations when traveling overseas, including Paris, London, and certain resort towns in Mexico. While these destinations still get plenty of action, more Americans are looking for smaller, lesser known vacation destinations whether it's in Ghana or Borneo. They're also looking for experiences like no other, such as cage diving in South Africa or seeking out one of the few remaining restaurants in Seoul, South Korea that still serves traditional dog meat.

Vacations used to be about being pampered, but now they're about exploring new territory, facing a challenge and personal growth and development. Pampering can be great, but Americans are opting for a la carte options, such as ducking into a day spa before continuing on their epic journey working on farms in Central American to earn their keep. It's not just the younger generations blazing this path; older travelers are also looking for something different, especially considering that they've already "been there, done that" when it comes to international travel.

America's Options for International Travelers

Travelers coming to America from overseas no longer limit their destinations to Disney World, New York and Los Angeles. Instead, smaller cities and even rural towns are attracting global visitors. Portland, Oregon is considered a leading boom town by Yahoo! and the idea of working in vineyards in exchange for room and board or the classic American road trip is on many international visitors' bucket list regardless of the price of gas. The desire to travel and experience like a local certainly isn't only for Americans.

The U.S. is a geographically and culturally vast place, and even Americans can spend their entire life here and never see it all. Visiting Memphis is entirely different from visiting the Ozarks, but whether it's a city or the great outdoors, international visitors want the real deal. Hotel chains aren't suffering for business, but they're certainly getting a run for their money with boutique hotels.

Getting There

Even before a person lands, airlines are also facing some stiff competition. It makes sense that baggage fees are on the rise because airlines need to remain profitable -- but travelers want more. They want more leg room, more elbow room, more entertainment and more freebies, not less. Some of the bigger airlines simply can't offer that and remain profitable, which is making room for smaller airlines. Smaller airlines like AirTran can offer cheaper fares, more options and many people report that the customer service is simply better.

This movement to smaller support is a great thing for entrepreneurs, small business owners and travelers alike, and it's not going anywhere. Sites are offering customized travel packages designed for travelers who want something different and something wholly suited to their needs. Of course, luxury and personalization comes at a cost, but it's now much more affordable than people think, and travelers are willing to pay for a better experience. There are only so many vacation days per year, and it's important to make the most of them.