Skift Take

Travel is where all the Permanxieties show up in a concentrated form. What can travel brands do to participate and alleviate travelers’ Permanxieties?

Every fall to accompany Skift Global Forum we publish a collector’s magazine devoted to one big topic. These have focused on larger issues that have an outsized effect on the travel industry and travelers.

In 2015, our inaugural Skift Global Forum magazine revolved around the Faultlines of Disruption in the Global Travel Industry, and covered the larger clashes in travel. The next year our second magazine featured exclusive essays, custom research, and an expert panel to better understand Supertravelers and how tech has changed their habits — and what this means for the future of travel.

This year, we’re focusing on a very current and relevant topic, something we’re calling the State of Permanxiety, a near-constant state of anxiety that exists around the world. Travelers endure a barrage of worries about terrorism, security, neo-isolationism, racial tension, Trumpism, technology and its adverse role, the widening economic gap, culture wars, climate change, and other geopolitical and local issues.

The state of Permanxiety is exacerbated by hyper-connected citizens using social platforms to create a state of permanent frenzy on all of the above issues. “It is difficult to tell where your anxiety disorder ends and where actual news begins,” read a recent New York Times essay. Another Times essay puts it in terms of a new sociological condition, “a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media.”

Permanxiety is also spawning a slew of new industries, services, and gadgets to soothe this collective human condition: meditation apps, meditation retreats, activity trackers and body monitoring devices — seemingly endless variations of them. Not to mention fidget spinners, FOMO (fear of missing out), overcoming FOMO, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop (Ugh).

What is the travel industry’s role here? Travel, as Skift has been saying for several years, is a global crucible for everything. “It is where the largest consumer and tech trends first meet and are quickly tested. Everything converges in travel,” we wrote in a manifesto last year. Travel is where all the Permanxieties show up in a concentrated form. From the security theater at airports, the cattle-prod state of U.S. airlines, the Trump Muslim travel ban, the laptop ban on airlines, the high-profile terrorist attacks at tourism landmarks in Western countries, and more, travel has become the global crucible for these Permanxieties.

As Michel Dugas, a psychologist at the University of Quebec said in the Times essay, “[F]eelings of anxiety are closely connected to an inability to handle uncertainty. What might make human beings less anxious, it seems, is having a firmer sense of what in the world is happening and what’s likely to happen next.”

In this age of Permanxiety we are short on both these imperatives. Uncertainty in travel goes hand-in-hand with the increasing state of Permanxiety and travel has to play a bigger role than just putting people on planes and sticking them in hotels.

Travel’s promise is an antidote to anxiety and that’s how it’s marketed to consumers. But is that it? Can travel be disengaged from the world in which it exists? Can and should travel exist in a sensory deprivation cocoon?

What can travel brands do to participate and alleviate travelers’ anxieties? What role do brands play in all phases of the travel cycle, from inspiration to research to booking to post-booking to the actual trip?

This magazine explores the intersection of Permanxiety and travel, the role of the travel industry therein, traveler expectations and how to address them, and related issues. We hope it becomes the first in-depth dissection of our new shared sociological reality, a reality reflected in all facets of travel.

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Tags: permanxiety, sgf2017, skift global forum, tourism

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