Meet the Woman Predicting the Future of Travel: Jenny Southan, Founder & CEO, Globetrender
A combination of serendipity and curiosity led Jenny Southan to become a top travel trend forecaster. It all began with sleepless nights spent in a smoky Internet cafe in Tokyo, where she chronicled her experiences living in Japan as an expat English teacher on a blog. This ignited her passion for travel writing, which led her back to England where she enrolled in a journalism course and in short order landed a job at Business Traveller magazine. Jenny spent the next ten years jet-setting around the world on assignments, all the while keeping a keen eye on emerging travel trends. Her interest in predicting what's next in the industry eventually led her to launch Globetrender in 2015, now the UK's leading travel trend forecasting agency. In this exclusive interview, Jenny shares her entrepreneurial journey and insights into what the future holds for the hotel industry.
Hi Jenny, before we get into your career path, what is Globetrender?
Globetrender is the UK's leading travel trend forecasting agency and online magazine dedicated to the future of travel. We publish stories of innovation across different sectors––from hotels, aviation, and wellness, to space tourism, Web3, and working from anywhere. In addition to offering trend-based strategy and consulting to companies, we produce trend reports and newsletters including our free weekly Innovation Briefings, and VOLT, which delivers deep-dive reports for travel professionals on a weekly basis. How did you get into travel writing? What has been your career journey?
After I graduated I moved to Tokyo for a year to teach English. When I was there I started a blog called "Genki Wren" about my life as an e-pat and spent most nights working on it in a smoky internet cafe. It was at that time that I realised I wanted to be a travel writer. I returned to the UK to do a three-month intensive post-grad diploma in journalism at the London School of Journalism. Through one of my tutors, I managed to get an internship at Business Traveller magazine––although it was unpaid I managed to get a full-time job there after a few months. I spent ten years working in-house and traveling the world on assignment. What inspired you to start your own site?
I became very interested in travel trends and began to take on an annual feature for Business Traveller on what was coming up in the year ahead. It began as a side project, I would write up stories related to leisure travel that weren't the right fit for my employer but even at the beginning, I had a clear vision of the company I wanted to ultimately build. I knew trends were becoming a commodity in 2015, and could see that insights into the future of travel would be valuable. There was a glaring gap in the market that I wanted to fill.
What have been your biggest challenges as a female entrepreneur?
Working while pregnant and suffering from morning sickness (I did this while living in an Airbnb in LA); not receiving any proper maternity leave because I was self-employed; juggling caring for my child with no nursery and almost no childcare support for three years during the pandemic; and making the professional sacrifices required in terms of less traveling, for example, for a long time. Every other challenge I have faced has probably been the same for any other entrepreneur regardless of gender. I have never felt disadvantaged by being a woman. What lessons have you learned/advice you would give women starting up in the travel space?
You need to have a really positive attitude––you have to believe in yourself unwaveringly. You have to be clear-sighted, creative, and tenacious. You need to enjoy what you are doing. There are much easier ways to make money in the short and medium term than building your own business. Shifting gears, what are the biggest innovations you are seeing in the hotel sector right now?
3D printed architecture, VR tours in the metaverse, crypto payments, and self-sufficient design.
Which hotel companies do you see as well positioned for future growth?
Accor is hugely diversified and has launched a very savvy joint venture with Ennismore that has a slew of trendy Millennial-focused brands such as Hoxton, 25 Hours, and Mama Shelter. Other brands that I think have a lot of potential: Janu (from Aman), Life House, Yotel, Ruby Hotels, Habitas, Siro, 1 Hotels, and the Ned.
I saw a stat from MMGY that women make something like 80% of all travel buying decisions, do you see hotel and travel companies shifting towards the female buyer?
No, not really... and I don't think they should specifically target by gender. I don't think hotels should be different for men and women - I think they should be genderless concepts. Name some travel trends that should be on our radar?
You can download our free 2023 Travel Trend Forecast here - trends that should be on your radar include Modern Family Travel (taking into consideration solo parents and queer parents), China Boom, Rebel Spending, Dry-Cations, and Indigenous Appreciation.
For hoteliers that want to work with Globetrender, what is next for you and the site?
Globetrender is launching a series of new trend reports and live event launches this year including projects on the Future of Queer Tavel and the Future of Transformational Travel. We are always looking for partners who can provide sponsorship, advertising, and venues. We can also produce bespoke trend reports for brands (either for internal use or external thought leadership), deliver trend briefing webinars, and trend-based strategy consultations. I am available to book for international speaking assignments and teach an on-demand half-day workshop for PRs called "Think Like a Journalist". Quickfire with Jenny
What is your morning routine?
My daughter is my alarm clock. My wife and I try to share the childcare equally so we take turns making her breakfast and dropping her off at school so one of us can get started on work asap. I'll listen to a business podcast or do a few Master Class sessions while getting ready and then blitz some emails. I am obsessed with making lists so my desk is usually covered in Post-It notes. I drink one black tea in the morning and then a black coffee after a couple of hours.
What do you do for self-care?
Almost nothing. I come very low on my list of priorities and I know that is a problem. I think the best thing I do is try to live without regret––I try really hard never to under-prioritize time with my daughter and family. I always try to make sure we have happy times together every day. I also try not to be unkind to myself in my head. I know I am doing my best. I sleep well. I eat reasonably healthily and endeavor not to drink too much. What is your top travel hack?
Avoiding painful flight times that will be miserable when it comes to departure. It's important to protect your future self when you are making travel plans. Pack half as much as you think you need. What is your best advice for working moms?
All mums are working...raising a child is the most important job you can do, and is the most under-appreciated. Don't compromise your well-being or the happiness of your child for a job or money. You will never get that time back with them. Insist on working flexible hours and from home as much as you need or want to. Any employer who isn't fully supportive of this is not worth working for. The average human lifespan is 700,000 hours, we all need to use it wisely. I think my best advice is to make up your own rules and don't conform to gender norms or expectations. Give yourself time out when you need it.
The average human lifespan is 700,000 hours, we all need to use it wisely. I think my best advice is to make up your own rules and don't conform to gender norms or expectations. Give yourself time out when you need it.
Where are you going this year?
My next trip is to Belfast to pick up a new passport (due to the passport office strikes I couldn't get one in London where I live). Then it will be Dubai where I will be moderating a couple of panels at Arabian Travel Market. I will then review a new wellness concept at the Byblos St Tropez, and speak at the International Hospitality Investment Forum in Berlin. The half-term holiday will be spent in Cornwall and we plan a summer holiday in France. What new hotel amenity or program has impressed you the most?
Social Supermarket-stocked minibars in the Inhabit hotel Queens Gardens in London. What books/TV shows/podcasts are you loving right now?
I am reading The Candy House by Jennifer Egan and the last show I watched was Beef on Netflix. I am also obsessed with Succession and the White Lotus. I have recently discovered that I love watching survival shows such as Out Last (I secretly fantasize about being marooned on a desert island.) I would highly recommend my wife's podcast From Gay to Ze, which is for LGBTQ+ parents and curious others, and celebrates the messy reality of modern families and the intersection of queer culture.