The next travel buzzword: the un-traveller?
comment 8 Written by on August 11, 2010 – 9:31 pm


“No, I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveller.”

We’ve all covered this debate before. Many times. So much so that people could be moving on and looking for the next trump card…

How long before people start calling themselves ‘un-travellers’?

This seems to be the new trend in alternative tourism. We have One Fine Stay offering the ‘unhotel’ and Urban Adventures (and many others) offering the ‘untour’.

An unhotel, in One Fine Stay’s case, is a private apartment with hotel facilities. Nice idea. And an untour? The idea is to be more flexible than a normal tour and cater to small groups. But with a max of 12 people, it’s still a tour, really, isn’t it?

Anyway, no point splitting hairs. I actually like both ideas a lot and there’s clearly a market for them.

Although if I meet someone in a hostel who says “I am an untraveller”, I may not be responsible for my actions.

But what of the catchy, new travel words? At one point do we stop resisting and make them a part of our vocab?

The timelines goes a little something like this…

Phase 1: the early days

Sample words: untour, unhotel

The reaction to usage: furrowed brows and confusion

When is a tour not a tour? If you’re going to use these, you are going to need to provide an explanation or you’ll be met with blank stares. What exactly is the opposite of a hotel or a tour?

Phase 2: industry terms that are breaking through

Sample words: flashpacking, glamping

The reaction to usage: wry acknowledgment

These words have now been adopted fairly widely, especially among frequent travellers. Travel writers can use them with no need for explanation. They’ve reached a point where you can read them without cringing but you still feel obliged to adopt a sort of wry, don’t-shoot-the-messenger smile when using it.

Phase 3: when things go too far

Sample word: staycation

The reaction on usage: an eye-roll

Staycation first started appearing in the papers in 2008; by 2009 it was everywhere, propelled by the economic downturn. Everyone knows what it means now and it’s a press-release staple, yet most people never let it pass their lips unless accompanied by an ‘oh-the-media-is-so-annoying’ eye roll.

Phase 4: the success stories

Sample word: backpacker

The reaction on usage: zero

Complete accepti0n comes to few neologisms and it doesn’t come fast. It only took 100 years, but who now bats an eyelid at the word ‘backpacker’? It was said to have been coined in the US in 1910.

Travel language is constantly evolving to match trends and changes in needs. It’s a good thing. Especially at the industry becomes more complex, serving more different needs than ever.

Personally, I’d love to see some decent alternatives to the catch-all ’boutique hotel’, but at the same time I dread to think what these will be.

Any good spots you’d like to share? Babymoon? Gaycation? Do they bother you? And travel writers, come clean if you have you ever invented one.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons GarryKnight

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8 Responses to “The next travel buzzword: the un-traveller?”

  1. I think the un-*****s stem from 7ups marketing in the US a good while back, when they starting calling themselves the Uncola.

    It’s classic “positioning” marketing – trying to create a new market segment, but positioning it against something everyone already knows (cola… hotels, tours).

    I thought for a while about calling what I do “untours”, seeing as it’s the opposite of a classic bus/big group tour, but to be honest, I think it’s a load of marketing guff, and I’d rather try to be known for offering a quality service, rather than a gimmick like that.

    I have to say, I do like the word staycation, though. It’s a more intelligent creation, and rolls of the tongue quite nicely. But I don’t like the idea of a staycation! 🙂

  2. Nice post! Really sums up the feeling of the moment around ‘staycations’ – a word that has made up part of David Cameron’s vocab this week while he tries to boost British tourism

    Personally I think this is all part of the 140 character generation. For example, a staycation is just a holiday in Britain/closer to home, but when we’re tweeting about great holidays in Britain it’s easier to talk about staycations and get the whole thing said in 10 characters

    But then there are interesting new concepts like the un-hotel, which I really like. It’s crisp, clean and does what it says on the tin whilst being a little bit provocation. Which is more than can be said for ‘staycation’.

  3. Ha! Two comments, and already there’s one in the ‘staycation’ camp and one against. I love how some buzzwords get under some people’s skin but wash over others. Thanks for your thoughts, Sally and Alan.

    ‘140-character generation’ – that’s surely a buzz phrase we’ll see more of.

  4. We are guilty of coining the word ‘unhotel’. But it was a necessary evil.
    A new category needs a new name, and ideally one that people can relate to. We could have called our new type of accommodation ‘goobildifko’, and that would have been fun, but it would have been hard to remember. What we really wanted was to leave some sort of clue in the name. We also considered ‘ghost house’ as an alternative to ‘unhotel’, but that sounded a bit creepy.

    ‘unhotel’ actually means something a bit like the original French meaning of ‘hôtel’. Long before the word hotel meant somewhere you paid to stay, or somewhere they woke you at 8:30am on a Sunday to fold your toilet paper into a triangle, it meant an urban house that received visitors.

    So what is an unhotel? Well, it’s a bit like a hotel – it’s certainly a place to stay. But it is also a bit different and – in our humble opinion – a lot more interesting 🙂

  5. I unhate unhotel; it’s unboring. I was intrigued enough to look it up. Some terms are meant to be twisted and subverted, others not so much. You wouldn’t buy un-nappies or fly in an unplane; but a maturing hipster, who already drinks unbeer and wears unclothes, would definitely stay in an unhotel.

    Some buzzwords are really keywords in disguise, designed to suck traffic into blogs. If I write a piece for a website about gay couples going on holiday, I’ll probably try to avoid using the term ‘gaycation’ and will feel immensely pleased with myself for having done so. No matter: the editor will ‘optimize’ my piece with a good sprinkling of ‘gaycations’, just to be sure Google catches it.

    By Matt Chesterton on Aug 12, 2010 | Reply
  6. Hahaha. Matt – love your comment. Brilliant. Good point on keywords.

    Tiffany – I think you’re on to a good thing. Clever website name too. Wise not to go for ‘ghost house’, I’d say.

  7. Don’t forget stage 3.5:

    The obligatory, xxx makes it into the OED (which doesn’t seem to be called the OED anymore)

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