By Brad Ross, Trend Forecasting

In the past, travel was somewhat reserved for the elite or affluent (think Pan Am circa 1965). Today, with cheaper airfare, flexible working conditions and global connectivity, travel is considered a necessity for business and a prerequisite for the nomadic generation.

Our boundaries for design, manufacturing, and consumer markets have exponentially broadened in the past 50 years, and with them comes a behavioral change that effects us all comprehensively.

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We are entering a new age of shifting values. This change reveals two separate mindsets moving in tandem:  the “ME”-oriented individuals, who crave authenticity and original experiences, alongside the “WE”-oriented individuals, who focus more on more collective values. Both are equally driving a surge in travel.

  • Genuine original magazine advertisement from a 1965 issue of LIFE

About a month ago, I met a young man from New Zealand.  Benje is 18 and has recently graduated from High School. As he and I talked, Benje shared with me that he was on his “gap year”, touring Asia and Europe. A gap year (sometimes referred to as an “OE" - overseas experience), is a 12-month time period, where students can choose to spend it volunteering, working short-term industry jobs, or simply seeing the world.  The primary goal is to gain experience, independence and responsibility prior to university. Though these concepts and practices have long been common in many countries, most notable, is the recent increase in American participation.

This increase can be attributed to various factors, but the statistics clearly show a mandate for the unique perspective that only travel can deliver. It is the new social capital.

Beyond the simple travel stats, lies a clear culture-shift in values, where experience now trumps possession. “Do I want the ‘McMansion’ or the flexibility to travel and participate in a global community?” The answer today is overwhelmingly the latter, initiating new trends, both positive and negative. Trends like FOMO (fear of missing out), the small house movement, deferring college, retirement and marriage, or even downsizing to enable flexibility in later years, all speak to this shift.  Similar to the gap year concept, cultural exchanges and travel programs are also increasing in popularity.  And with the number of travelers only growing, this once tired industry has been virtually resurrected, however, with a modern twist, to meet the customized needs of today’s patrons.

U.S Travel Association

“In the first half of 2015 alone, the travel industry added 48,600 jobs, and since the overall employment recovery began in early 2010, the travel industry has outpaced job growth in the rest of the economy by 33 percent.”

https://www.ustravel.org/news/press-releases/travel-employment-achieves-record-high-81-million

Distilling these trends clearly indicates that in order to meet tomorrow’s demands we must consider that our society is increasingly altering the value equation by placing travel/experience over status and ownership. We are forming tribes across cultures, beliefs and borders as never before and whether individual or collective, the context of a global community must be engaged as interconnected. The new reality is upon us where travel is no longer just for the privileged, but hardwired into our behavior and influencing our personal and consumer choices.

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