Back to nature — and other travel trends for 2013

Rosemary McClure

Frosty winter temperatures offer a good excuse to while away time indoors thinking about the hot spots you’ll visit this year on vacation. If you haven't decided where to go yet, perhaps the trend spotters at the marketing communications firm JWT can point you in the right direction.

If they're reading the tea leaves correctly, this vacation season will find us tromping through the woods to escape cell phones and email, headed down rivers on unconventional cruises, exercising in airport gyms while we travel, and fleeing to exotic back-country locales in places like New Zealand and Africa.

"This is a super-stressed era," says Ann Mack, the Director of Trendspotting at JWT. "People are looking for unplugged holidays. They want to escape noise and pollution. That's why we see nature as an antidote."

Mack says with urbanization steadily rising—today more than half the world’s population lives in cities, compared to less than 40% in 1990—more people will retreat to mountaintops, forests and other low-key locations to commune with nature and avoid the pressures and traffic of the city.

Other upcoming trends:

Fitness on the go. San Francisco International Airport recently opened a yoga room, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport offers a heart-healthy walking path for travelers who want to decompress by grabbing some exercise during layovers. Hotels and other travel venues also are providing more opportunities to work out on the road, with such in-room amenities as yoga mats and fitness videos.

Rolling on the river. Younger travelers who are looking for something different will try river cruising, says Mack. In Europe, barge-and-bike cruises are popular, and British cruise brands Voyages of Discovery and Hebridean Island Cruises both introduced river cruises recently.

Set-jetting. We love to see where movies were made. That’s why New Zealand has seen a 50% spike in tourist visits since The Lord of the Rings debuted, and The Hobbit is expected to bring more travelers. Life of Pi (filmed in India) and The Lone Ranger (the American West) are expected to help draw visitors to filming locales.

Africa boom. Suddenly, hoteliers from throughout the world are interested in opening new hotels in Africa. Starwood, Accor and Marriot are all planning to add rooms there. In Starwood’s case, there are plans to add 10 hotels there in the next three years. Business travel is the main driving force, but tourism is also important.

Live-streaming life. We love for everyone to see our memories live-streamed in real time. The newest super-compact video camera from GoPro is 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessors—a big selling point for extreme sports enthusiasts who love to document their exploits—and includes built-in Wi-Fi, enabling live-streaming of footage.