Mar 5, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Now trending in travel: "Coolcations"

Illustration of a beach chair and umbrella under snowfall.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios.

Summer vacations in colder climates like the Arctic are getting more popular, travel experts say, as people turn to "coolcations" to avoid record-breaking heat.

Why it matters: Despite the wince-inducing name, "coolcationing" could potentially reshape the travel and resort industries — as well as real estate investments, as climate change alters where people choose to recreate.

Driving the news: Condé Nast Traveler named coolcationing one of the "biggest travel trends to expect in 2024," noting that heat waves are making a summer vacation in Norway seem more appealing than one in Sicily or southern France.

  • Booking travel in "temperate destinations" also has the benefit of cities "being less crowded," the magazine said (perhaps only for now).
  • Iceland, Finland and Scotland — already popular for summer travel — are getting even more so.
  • The Baltic nations are on the rise, too.

What they're saying: "The effects of climate change have really become more pronounced in the travel space," Misty Belles, a spokeswoman for the Virtuoso travel network, tells Axios.

  • "People used to want to travel in June, July, August because they were more assured to have sunnier skies, and now people are less concerned about rain and more concerned about soaring temperatures," said Belles, whose company specializes in luxury and experiential vacations and counts 20,000 agents worldwide.
  • Travelers are also "willing to go further afield than they really have before" to avoid wildfires and heat waves, she says.

🧊 By the numbers: British travel company Iglu Cruise says it saw demand for Arctic destinations increase 235% in 2023 compared to 2022.

  • After years of record-breaking tourism to Antarctica, "the Arctic is the new Antarctica," Belles says.
  • As global warming opens up new shipping lanes in the Arctic — and climatologists wring their hands —  companies offering polar cruises are proliferating, featuring Champagne-soaked trips to remote places like Svalbard (a Norwegian archipelago) and Canada's Baffin Island.

Threat level: "Coolcationing" comes with climate risks of its own, including the fact that increased shipping and tourist boat traffic in the Arctic will likely cause further environmental damage.

⛸️ Between the lines: "The 'Frozen' effect" is how the travel industry refers to the avalanche of interest in travel to Norway, the country of inspiration for the Disney films.

  • It's also very hip to go see the Northern Lights these days.

Zoom in: The emergence of the "coolcation" trend has set off a wave of promotional social media posts just as people are planning their summer travel.

  • "Coolcationing in Norway: 2024 Travel Trend," one travel agency advertised, paraphrasing Condé Nast Traveler and offering to help people plan a trip there.
  • "Cooler climates are emerging as focal points for luxury travel and real estate ventures," one Indian travel company wrote on Medium.
  • A luxury-lifestyle newsletter called the James Edition dubbed coolcationing "the travel trend shaping real estate investments," saying that investors and travelers alike are scoping out high-end properties in cold-weather markets.

Reality check: The top travel destinations in 2023 were Paris, Dubai, Madrid, Tokyo and Amsterdam, according to a report by market research company Euromonitor International.

  • "Italy is still our #1 destination," Belles says. "No one is saying, 'No, I can't possibly go to Tuscany.'"

🤮 Ick factor: The word "coolcation" is "possibly the worst portmanteau ever," travel writer Laura Wallwork writes for battleface, a travel insurance company.

  • "But it is how this trend is being named across the board, and I am sure it will stick."
  • Other yuck-inducing names of travel trends? "Star bathing" (going to see the aurora borealis or total solar eclipse) and "goccasions" (like visiting Paris for the Olympics or Europe for a Taylor Swift concert).

What's next: Condé Nast Traveler also predicts we'll be doing more home-swapping, frontier tourism, eco-diving and "skip-gen travel," in which grandparents go on trips with their grandchildren.

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