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  • ‘Authentic’ leisure is in high demand
  • ‘Authentic’ leisure is in high demand
    Jacalyn Beales (2017) ©

2018 Expert Outlook on Leisure

How are hotels catering to pick-and-mix consumers? Why do fans want sports to be more ‘authentic’? And what do people expect from out-of-home leisure? In this part of the 2018 Expert Outlook series, we speak to three experts about what’s changing in the way people spend their free time.

Location Global

Time is more important than money for many people, making their spare moments increasingly valuable. To lure them away from the convenience of at-home leisure options, brands and venues are having to offer premium, higher-fidelity experiences – be that through gifs or memes in sport or pick-and-mix travel arrangements. With expectations of out-of-home destinations increasing, the advent of mixed reality technology will provide people with new ways of ‘experiencing’.

In the Leisure chapter of the 2018 Expert Outlook, Canvas8 speaks to Lisa Jane, editor of Trips100; Randy White, CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group; and James Kirkham, head of Copa90.


Lisa Jane is the editor of both Travel Loving Family – a blog that shares travel tips, holiday reviews, and destination guides – and Trips100 – the UK’s largest travel blog directory – and is also the co-editor of Cruising with Kids. She's been selected by the World Travel Market as one of ‘100 leading world travel bloggers’ and has previously worked for P&O Cruises and Abercrombie & Kent.

People are looking for more from their holidays than what they used to. It's not just about flying away and flopping down to sunbathe on the beach for a fortnight anymore. We are more experienced travellers now and we travel for all sorts of reasons. Medical travel is on the up, with people spending more time recuperating from operations wherever they might be, while others are travelling to learn new skills and tie that in with a unique experience ​– maybe it's a sailing holiday, or a painting course.

At the same time, there's people looking for more adventurous, once-in-a-lifetime trips. Before, you were more likely to go on big adventures – like trekking to Everest Base Camp or walking the Inca Trail – if you were raising thousands for charity. Now, people are happy to pay for it themselves to 'find themselves' or just take on a personal challenge. Social media is having a huge influence on this increase in adventurous travel, raising people's expectations of what they can achieve out of a holiday. We see status updates and images on Facebook or Instagram from friends or even celebs that we look up to and we are inspired to travel and visit similar far-away places.

Although long-haul travel to exotic places is continuing to be popular, there will be a trend towards staying closer to home in 2018. Amid rising interest rates affecting people's monthly mortgage payments, the spiralling cost of ​going abroad, and the fear of terrorist attacks, families in particular may opt for a staycation instead.

Social media snaps are inspiring exotic adventures Social media snaps are inspiring exotic adventures
Muhammad Raufan Yusup (2017) ©

Tourist resorts ​like ​Blackpool ​have ​invested ​huge sums ​of ​money ​into ​regeneration ​projects ​to revamp ​their ​image ​and ​the ​hotel ​industry ​is upping its ​game ​too. We are beginning to see regular ​tourists (families, couples) ​opting ​to ​stay ​in ​seaside ​towns that over the last ten years have been attracting stag and hen parties.

In ​a ​bid ​to ​cut costs ​further, people ​will ​travel ​in ​ways ​they ​may ​not ​have ​considered before ​– ​booking ​self-catering accommodation, ​opting ​to ​hire ​a ​camper van, ​or ​booking ​an ​Airbnb ​rather than a ​hotel. I've noticed a significant increase in friends ​​travelling ​with ​their extended ​family ​too, ​with ​multi-generational ​holidays becoming ​increasingly ​popular. Accommodation providers will need to cater to the huge gap in the market for affordable accommodation for larger families; many hotel resorts still cater for the typical two adults and two children, resulting in the cost of a holiday for families with more than two kids being prohibitively expensive for some.

Tour operators ​and accommodation providers ​are ​starting ​to ​offer ​a ​much ​broader ​range ​of ​packages ​to ​cater ​to travellers’ ​diverse ​needs, ​from budget ​all ​the ​way ​to ​luxury. Even ​campsites ​are ​offering pitch-a-tent ​basic stays through ​to ​high-end ​luxury cabins with facilities you would expect from hotels (e.g. hot tubs, minibars). ​Catering for all budgets is something that ​Center ​Parcs ​has ​always done ​really ​well, ​but ​we are ​going ​to ​see its competitors catering ​to ​this ​pick-​and-​mix ​kind ​of consumer – those who opt for budget accommodation to allow more funds for luxury experiences, for instance.

It’s ​not ​just ​about flying ​away ​and ​flopping down to sunbathe ​on ​the ​beach ​for a fortnight anymore. We are more experienced travellers ​now ​and ​we ​travel ​for all ​sorts ​of ​reasons

Lisa Jane

Another ​trend ​we’re ​seeing ​on ​the ​rise ​is ​film-based ​travel, visiting destinations that have been used as locations for popular movies. ​Universal Studios and Disney have obviously benefitted from this for many years ​and UK travel ​brands and tourist boards ​have had some success over the last few years too. ​People ​want ​to ​experience ​the ​movies ​they ​love ​for ​themselves. They want to ​visit ​the ​film ​set, ​meet ​the characters, ​and ​get ​behind ​the ​scenes. ​

The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley ​has run a Myths ​and ​Legends campaign ​all year that has promoted some of the attractions in the area. It also heavily promotes Puzzlewood, where some of the Dr Who and Merlin scenes were filmed. VisitBritain is currently promoting specific areas in London that were used to shoot scenes for Paddington 2. These experiences will continue to be hugely popular with film enthusiasts and offer affordable travel options for families and students on a tight budget, who may consider the popular theme parks in the USA out of their reach.

People are finding holiday inspiration on the silver screen People are finding holiday inspiration on the silver screen
Igor Ovsyannykov (2017) ©

Randy White is the CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. He is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, social-tainment, agritourism, and leisure.

Considering the availability of domestic leisure options, people are cocooning at home more often – they’re attending a football match, a soccer game or a concert in the comfort of their pyjamas. People are spending less time socialising face-to-face and it’s because they’re able to do almost everything at home, which is far more convenient. They’re increasingly willing to have a slightly lower-quality experience as a trade-off for saving time.

Live experiences are having to get even better to compete with the convenience and cost of at-home options. Gen Yers, in particular, are after unusual, unique experiences they can share online to feed their social capital. Festivals are a great example of this, but to create more of a reason for people to go, they’re becoming hybrid events. Instead of just a beer festival, we’re seeing a beer and wine and barbeque and music festival.

The threat of at-home convenience is a really disruptive movement. We saw in retail that everyone had to reinvent themselves, move up in quality and become premium – the entire leisure industry is having to do that now. People would rather save up and pay extra for a super-premium experience when they leave their home.

Experience hunters are seeking the extraordinary Experience hunters are seeking the extraordinary
NeON BRAND (2017) ©

What’s really going to make the difference is food and beverages. You can’t taste food on the internet, it’s an experience in and of itself, and we’re seeing it become the anchor for entertainment attractions. In the US, we’ve got Punch Bowl Social, which has bowling and arcade games, but the majority of the chain’s sales are from food and beverages. In Italy, Eataly World has just opened. It’s a theme park that’s 100% about food, and as well as the socialisation factor, it’s the food that’s really luring people out of the home.

But that’s not to say food and beverage is the be-all and end-all. Brands have got to have a relationship with people when they’re in their home, as well as when they’re at the venue. If people are sitting at home and decide they want to go out, there’s probably only room for two, maybe three things on their mental list, and brands want to stay up there. To do that, they need to have the technology that can offer people access right away, maybe through an app or seamless payment via smartphone. Even in arcades, we’re on the verge of going cashless because that’s what’s easiest for the consumer. We’re seeing RFID technology popping up too where consumers walk into a venue and they get a more tailored experience because technology has told the store who that person is.

Next year, another shift to watch out for is virtual reality. Already, we’re seeing people meet in virtual environments with their friends as avatars online, and soon you’ll be able to see real representations of your friends and have conversations with people. It’s all on the immediate horizon, but the price just needs to go down and in some cases the tech needs to get better too.

Entertainment venues have a tough task competing with e-leisure Entertainment venues have a tough task competing with e-leisure
Samantha Gades (2017) ©

James Kirkham is the chief strategy officer for independent digital media company Bigballs Media, and head of online football channel Copa90. He was previously the global head of social and mobile at Leo Burnett.

Premiership football is this huge commercial beast and we're increasingly seeing that there’s a duality to the game among young people and parents of young children. People still go to see the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea, but they also have a very cultish devotion to grassroots clubs – they want to help support them, to rescue them when they’re in trouble.

This second layer of football feels more real for fans now; people are even hashtagging #properfootball on social media and it’s taking the piss but there’s a truth behind it. From the food and the nature of the conversations that you have, to the ambience and even the way that people watch the game, it just feels more authentic.

Everything about the big league matches feels like a totally different industry. It’s akin to going to a pop concert – there’s fireworks in the stadium, queues to get to the seats right in the upper echelons of the stand. The reasons to go are very different and the emotional impact it leaves on you is very different, and increasingly we’re seeing people couple up these experiences.

Sports fandom is about much more than the in-stadium event Sports fandom is about much more than the in-stadium event
Krishh (2017) ©

Football fans now have this insatiable appetite that just can’t be satisfied with the diet of established media. Sky Sports and the NFL are experiencing a decline in viewership because viewing at-home is driven by convenience for the consumer and an on-demand mentality. As a result, sport is becoming much less about that 90-minute product now; it’s why channels like Copa90, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube are seeing increasing searches for content.

Younger audiences especially want to get their blurb of the game on their own terms – be that through downloads, video highlights, gifs, memes or graphics. And it’s all happening through their own social ecosystems online. People are spawning narratives and leveraging social media to consumer further angles to the story, curating it for themselves in their own way.

The influence of gaming on sport is another big shift at the moment. It's becoming popular for people to hype up a game by playing FIFA beforehand – maybe doing tricks and playing as Ronaldo. And it’s because of games like FIFA that fans now have this huge global knowledge of the game and they really care about it, whereas 20-30 years ago, fans were so much more tribal.

Sport has the power to bind people together – it’s a common denominator across different cultures and countries

James Kirkham

Businesses are changing in the wake of these shifts. Amazon and Facebook are big in football and I don’t know if Sky and BT Sports can really compete with their scale. If you look at the emergence of Facebook Messenger, Facebook Marketplace, and these ecosystems, it's really not much time before we're sending micro-payments through Facebook to watch the next match or subscribe to exclusive updates from big league games.

Whether they’re on Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook, Stories deliver more real, authentic live content that makes sport so much more in the moment and augmented. And there’s a real desire for that, especially for Generation Z. This mindset is going to push sports; if content looks stage-managed or pre-planned, then it’s going to fail, whereas if it’s authentic, real-time and honest, it can succeed.

Sport has an incredible power to bind people together – it’s an unbelievable common denominator across different cultures and countries. And with Gen Z so passionate about purpose, brands that can truly engage them and ignite their passion are going to win big. Next year is going to be about brands using what they are good at for a greater good.

Hannah Elderfield is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research, who has worked with global clients including BelVita, the UK Government, the FCO, Depend and Superbrands. Outside of work, she can be found shopping, walking her dog or attempting to curb her addiction to Nutella, not all at once of course.


Hannah Elderfield is a Senior Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8, and has worked with global clients including Facebook, BelVita, Wagamama, the UK Government, the FCO and Superbrands. Outside of work, she loves indulging in bottomless brunches, watching trashy TV shows, and walking her golden retriever Baloo.