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5 Travel Trends for 2015

02/12/2015 05:23 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

5 Travel Trends for '15

Working in a travel company, I'm constantly talking to people who are planning trips up to 18 months in the future. What that yields is a terrific inside look at how people are thinking about travel, where they intend to go, how they are collecting information, and what matters most to them. Some trends are evergreen and constantly growing. For example, sustainability is on more minds now than it ever was. The quest for authenticity runs deep as well; the thirst for unfiltered experiences that are faithful to a local culture is unquenchable and stronger every year.

The big-hearted interest in voluntourism -- blending socially conscious activities into an itinerary -- is an impulse we're proud to support in a broad sweep of locations from Myanmar to Peru to Morocco. Looking deeper, though, we've spotted some interesting trends that are coming on especially strong for 2015 -- and will have an impact on destinations all over the world.

1. The Apple Watch Effect
Heard in Amalfi in mid-September: "Check this out! I did 3,427 steps today." Wearable fitness technology has been around for a couple of years now. Jawbone. Fitbit. FuelBand. And on and on. Equipped with satellite trackers, pedometers, heart rate monitors and more, they've been showing up on more travelers every week. So count on the new Apple Watch to blow the top off of this trend in 2015. Travelers are counting their steps up the Inca Trail and watching fluctuations in their pulse. If the early word has it right, Apple Watch will do all of that -- and add in mini apps that will have people keeping one on their wrists. We can debate whether you really need that level of info all the time and whether or not the technology takes you out of the travel moment. Either way, if past experience is any indicator, wearable health devices will show up on a record number of packing lists next year.

2. Curated Experiences
In a museum, a curator culls the collection to be sure what's on display does the most vivid, efficient job of telling a story -- be it about dinosaurs or Abstract Expressionism in the '50s. The same discipline is going into travel planning these days and is really taking off in 2015. A well-curated vacation is a personalized blend of meetings with locals, visits to cultural and historical sites (with minimal repetition), and a rich variety of eating experiences - all tailored to a specific traveler or group. The idea is actually the hybridized result of two other trends. First, even the most dedicated travelers are often spending fewer days a year on their travels, and they want to invest wisely in the ones that remain. Add to that the societal shift toward customization from bespoke jeans to Pandora music channels. "I want what I want when I want it." More and more companies are meeting that demand with specialized product lines. At my company Classic Journeys, we started made-to-order Private Journeys in 2000 and 2015 looks like the biggest year yet.

3. Lobby Parties
Maybe you've read about this one. Several domestic hotel chains are redesigning their properties to turn them into living rooms. Millennials (and, frankly, travelers of all ages) are expressing the urge to leave their rooms and to mix and mingle in common spaces. In chain hotels, it's a new idea. Though in fine hotels and inns around the world, we can point to an endless array of libraries, lanais, rooftop terraces and -- yes -- lobbies that were created long ago to stimulate sociability. The neat thing is that we're seeing more and more guests think of the hotel rooms as bedrooms and the lobby as the living room. It's a looser more expansive attitude, and we're all for anything breaks down barriers, builds relationships and features a glass of wine while we watch the sun set.

4. Destination Celebrations
Speaking of parties and personalized travel, we've just designed a trip for a group of 12 friends to Montenegro, and the centerpiece event will be a joint 60th birthday celebration for three of the participants. In part this trend is being driven by the Baby Boomers who are hitting milestone anniversaries and birthdays -- and feeling younger than ever. As travelers have found, destination celebrations work on a lot of levels. They're a great excuse to spend extended quality time with family and friends who don't get to see each other as much as they used to or want to. Linking travel to a special occasion is a perfect way to tempt folks to come along. And, you know, it's that much harder to lament that your age now starts with a "5" or "6" when it happens in a Tuscan villa, at a luxury encampment in the Moroccan Sahara, or over a candlelit dinner in Angkor Wat.

5. Sourcing Smaller Crowds
Crowd-sourced reviews are a staple resource for most travelers: TripAdvisor and Yelp to name just two of the most familiar. The problem becomes that the people who post reviews on some sites may have tastes, pocketbooks and interests that are very different from yours. A recent New York Times article recommended how to find your "travel tribe." And it sure looks to us like a worthy trend. The idea? Understand which sites have the travelers who are most like you. That way, you can get more value from the reviews you read. Seems like a smarter way to spend time if you can look at 10 or 15 relevant reviews instead of sifting through hundreds.