The golden age of at-home genetic testing may be over - but it's still a critical part of one of the biggest trends in how people will be traveling in 2020

Monastery of Santa María de Carracedo, Castilla y Leon, SpainXurxo Lobato/Getty Images

  • Sales are slowing for leading direct-to-consumer genetics testing sites AncestryDNA and 23andMe, Business Insider's Lydia Ramsey reported.
  • Despite sales projections for genetics testing companies, ancestry tourism is still booming.
  • In 2018 and 2019, major hospitality brands including Airbnb and Cunard entered the ancestry travel space, offering trips and recommendations based on DNA tests.
  • Luxury Travel Magazine predicted this month that ancestry tourism will be "one of 2020's fastest-growing sectors."
  • Ancestry travel is part of the larger search for meaningful travel.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over the past decade, millions of people have used genetics kits to identify their roots.

Since launching in 2007 and 2012, industry leaders 23andMe and AncestryDNA have gained 10 million and 15 million users respectively.

The process for consumers is a simple one: Spit into the kit tube, send it off in the mail, and within a few weeks, receive a detailed report on where your ancestors came from - or in the case of 23andMe, genetic predispositions as well. The kits are also affordable: AncestryDNA's currently start at $59, and 23andMe's start at $79.

The golden age of at-home DNA tests, however, may be nearing its end. Earlier this week, Business Insider's Lydia Ramsey reported that the demand for these sub-$100 tests is plateauing.

"The fad's over," Luke Sergott, an analyst at Evercore ISI, told Ramsey. Sergott noted that many people have taken the test and are looking for the next best thing. Concerns over privacy and ethics are two other reasons why sales may be slowing.

One trend that these DNA tests have spawned does not seem to be seeing the same slowdown: Ancestry tourism - or traveling to the places where your family and ancestors lived - has been on the rise, and it's still gaining momentum.

2018 and 2019 were big years for ancestry tourism

Ancestry travel has experienced a boom over the past several years.

In fall 2017, Go Ahead Tours and Ancestry DNA partnered to offer customized heritage trips featuring hand-picked hotels and on-hand Ancestry genealogists. In 2018, luxury cruise ship operator Cunard launched its "Journey of Genealogy" series in collaboration AncestryDNA. The inaugural trip was a seven-night cruise from Southampton in the United Kingdom to New York's Ellis Island.

And in May, Airbnb announced a partnership with 23andMe in which the hospitality giant provides users with custom travel and experience recommendations.

DNA travel has become increasingly popular, Airbnb said in its announcement of the collaboration: "Since 2014, the number of travelers using Airbnb for tracing their roots increased by 500 percent, and 78 percent of these trips are taken in pairs or solo, suggesting that these are introspective journeys or an important moment to share with a significant other."

Independent tour operators have also hopped on the ancestry travel bandwagon with new heritage-based tour offerings. Small-group adventure travel company Classic Journeys offers to match travelers with trips after reviewing their DNA results from23andMe, AncestryDNA or another provider. Luxury service The Conte Club designs travel experiences that can span weeks and cost as much as $132,000 based on DNA tests.

Ancestry tourism is behind a forthcoming hotel boom in Warsaw and a cruise designed to replicate the Mayflower voyage

According to Luxury Travel Magazine's travel predictions for the new decade, "ancestry travel is one of 2020's fastest-growing sectors."

In May, Airbnb noted that travelers who have expressed the most interest in ancestry tourism are from places "typically known for their history of immigration." These include the U.S., Canada, Australia, mainland China, the UK, France, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Brazil.

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, a time when many Poles fled Eastern Europe, Poland is preparing for an uptick in ancestry travelers. Over a dozen new hotels, including a new branch of Robert De Niro's Nobu Hotels, are set to open in Warsaw next year, Luxury Travel Magazine reports.

Cunard is looking ahead to another immigration anniversary: the quatercentenary of the Mayflower voyage. In August, the cruise ship operator will be offering a journey on the Queen Mary 2 that replicates the English Puritans' journey to the New World.

While Airbnb says travelers between the ages of 60 and 90 are "most likely to take heritage travel trips," the preference for ancestry travel may be skewing younger.

"[Home DNA tests are] much more approachable to the younger generation than sitting in front of a computer screen or [microfilm reader] trying to do family history," Dallen Timothy, a professor at Arizona State University and editor of the Journal of Heritage Tourism told Business Destinations in April. "This trend is likely broadening the genealogy tourism market by attracting younger generations."

Ancestry tourism is part of the larger search for meaning in travel

Travelers are transitioning from looking for local experiences to seeking experiences that fundamentally change them, Chris Roche, business director of luxury safari company Wilderness Holdings, told Business Insider's Katie Warren.

"'Experiential' would've been the buzzword five years ago," Roche said. "The last couple of years, that's transitioned into 'transformational.'"

This search for meaning is redefining the travel space, Warren noted, citing the Global Wellness Summit's 2018 trends report.

Robin Hauck, director of Business Development and Partnerships with Go Ahead Tours, told NBC last winter that AncestryDNA had been hearing from an increasing number of customers that they wanted to bring the results of their kit to life. "It's just so important for people to fill in in actual living color where they're from and how their ancestors lived. It makes people feel more complete," he said.

Rebecca Fielding, CEO of The Conte Club, echoed Hauck in conversation with Conde Nast Traveller, noting that ancestry trips are a deep dive into one's identity.

"It can be a complicated and emotional process, but the journey into our own past might be the most meaningful trip we can take," she said.

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