We recently released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2025. Because of the havoc that the pandemic triggered, we wrote Travel Megatrends 2025 as a vision of how travel industry dynamics could play out five years from now. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy here.

In 2025, the subscription model, with its recurring payments, is a mainstream business model option for many travel companies. The vast promise of monthly or annual payments as an alternative to one-off purchases has been gaining traction.

In the past five years, lodging brands Selina, Oasis, and CitizenM each debuted a plan that lets remote workers hopscotch from property to property for monthly fees. You can expect other brands across travel sectors to sign-on to the concept, too. Some will seek steadily paying customers with subscription solutions that provide surprises to wow customers. Businesses may stack perks on top of their new mainstay subscription offering. And the subscription model may enhance the environmental sustainability that a chunk of travelers are now demanding.

Surprises

Like the beer-of-the-month club that spotlights rare brews instead of merely shipping big-name booze brands, the best leisure travel subscriptions in 2025 unearth delightfully surprising experiences, and not only offer trips.

“Say you’re staying at a vacation rental and the chef comes to the house and prepares a gourmet dinner for your extended family,” said Amy Konary, chair of The Subscribed Institute, a think tank about the subscription economy that’s run by tech firm Zuora. “That’s the surprise and delight you crave as a traveler.”

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A case in point is Inspirato Pass, which lets travelers book serial stays at many of the hotels and vacation homes that are part of Inspirato’s luxury hospitality club. The startup offers properties with desirable designs and locations. But more importantly, it also provides perks that vary by situation, such as champagne on arrival or the suites with panoramic views.

Stacking Perks

The travel sector already had many membership services that aimed to smooth out the pain points of business travel. But membership needed more privileges.

Consider how, in retail, Amazon for years benefitted not only from its Prime program’s monthly fees, but also from the extra visits to its site that the subscription loyalty plan generated. The additional visits translated into more shopping. Similarly, travel brands used subscription-based membership services in 2025 to boost overall customer interactions by adding benefits.

By 2025, many travel brands were likely enhancing their paid membership programs by stacking many more perks on top of basic offerings. Airport lounge membership programs, for example, could add benefits such as vouchers for short-term parking at airports, access to speedier airport security lanes powered by biometric identity companies such as Clear, or meeting space booked through services such as Peerspace.

Sustainability

Many travel companies wanted to up their environmental games. But they often used vendors that were wasteful. Happily, subscription schemes can overturn old business models that relied on service contracts based on planned obsolescence to make a profit.

Exhibit A for this dynamic is Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which switched from using cheap light fixtures that created waste because of the need to frequently replace them, to a subscription-based lighting service. The airport’s vendor can now afford to install light fixtures with longer lifespans, which are better for the environment, thanks to the guarantee and cash flow of a recurring contract.

Some companies will add subscriptions to their mix of revenue streams, while others will use subscriptions as the main offering, like a Netflix for travel. An example of the latter is London-based BeRightBack, where travelers pay a monthly fee in exchange for three package holidays, where their destinations, flights, and hotels are essentially chosen for them. Bratislava, Slovakia has been among those choices.

Konary was prescient about the coronavirus postscript.

“Subscriptions can help incentivize more sustainable practices,” Konary said. “That’s important because once the travel sector gets out of the coronavirus crisis, it will face the climate crisis.”

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Skift Megatrends 2025 is made possible by our parters: Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau, Accor, and American Express.

Photo Credit: A Selina co-working space available by subscription in Medellin, Colombia. Selina