Hospitality in many cultures revolves around alcoholic beverages and there has always been an unspoken social pressure to keep up with paying for rounds of drinks.
Being on vacation mode and travelling for leisure has been closely associated with the activity of alcohol consumption, at least we can say that this culture is predominant in Western cultures. Whether it is enjoying a pint at your favourite airport bar, a gin and tonic on the plane, the complimentary glass of champagne when you arrive at the hotel, or a Mai Tai cocktail by the water, when we think of unwinding, alcohol has often been a part of the equation.
However, the culture surrounding hospitality and alcohol has begun to change, with a “vibe shift” taking place that is being propelled by a soaring interest and comprehension of health and wellness. It is safe to say that this “vibe shift” is being ushered in by a heightened respect for people’s personal choices and quite possibly Generation Z’s general disinterest in alcohol. You may have already come across new terms like “mindful drinking”, which is the practice of being aware of why and how much alcohol you drink. The concept of this is that it often leads to healthier relationships with alcohol and less consumption overall. This brings us to the growing trend of sober travel, and there is plenty of evidence that can be taken from the sales of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics.
According to a report in The Times in January 2023, “Britain has emerged as one of the most dynamic places for sales of low- and no-alcohol drinks, with a sharp increase in new product launches and growth forecasts outstripping many other markets”. Looking at data from drinks consultancy IWSR, no-alcohol volumes have jumped by 21% since 2018, well ahead of the 1% increase of the low alcohol category. Based on IWSR’s analysis of ten key markets, including the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Germany, the market value of low- and no-alcohol products rose from US$8 billion in 2018 to more than $11 billion in 2022.
New contenders to the British market include Guinness 0.0, which was just launched in 2021, and the Athletic Brewing Company, which was founded in the US in 2017.
The pandemic was an eye-opener to the unhealthy drinking habits of many people, which has also played a role in the “vibe shift” we mentioned earlier.
This has led alcoholic beverage companies to recognise that consumers now have a desire to feel more positive and in control of their consumption, especially on holidays when daily routines and healthy habits can quickly take the backseat.
In the hotel industry, we have seen Hyatt jump on the trend when they introduced a new “Zero Proof, Zero Judgment” beverage programme to more than a dozen of its US hotels at the end of 2021, and this has now grown to over 20. The initiative sees it partnering with Ritual Zero Proof, a brand that has devised a range of beverages that are designed to taste like and function as substitutes for tequila, rum, whisky and gin. Sources dictate that the programme was inspired by sober bar manager Anna Welker of Topside at the Revival Baltimore, who launched a zero-proof cocktail menu to ensure non-drinkers visiting the hotel, like herself, were met with “understanding and a variety of delicious beverage options”.
A poll of 23,000 individuals conducted in 2021 by Branded Research has shown that 29% of the respondents said they planned to take an alcohol-free trip after the pandemic. It is also noteworthy to know just as many consumers don’t want alcohol, they don’t want to drink sugar loaded beverages either, or down mocktails with childish flavours and colours.
Whether someone is set on taking a Sober Vacation as a way of detoxing or because they choose to abstain from drinking as a lifestyle choice, the common desire is to have access to sophisticated, elegant drinks that are made with quality ingredients and share many of the qualities of an alcoholic beverage. We are inclined to believe that sober travel is on the rise because people are waking up to how much more of an amazing time they can have without alcohol. It is becoming more and more alluring for vacationers to wake up early, void of hangovers, and maximise the opportunity to enjoy meaningful conversations and make meaningful connections.
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