Unpacking the top travel trends for 2024

The final weeks of the year are when travel marketers start proclaiming the trends for the year ahead. Some of them are based on real data, others are things they hope will come true because it benefits their businesses. I looked at a variety of predictions and tried to distill them to the ones that seem the most plausible.

AI will revolutionize trip planning

In 2024, Expedia Group predicts the “generation of generative AI” travellers will come of age and fully embrace this tech throughout their travel journey. Even though only six per cent of American travellers used AI tools to plan their trips last year, Expedia’s survey data reveals that half of them are interested in using generative AI to plan their next trip with 1 in 3 saying it’s very useful when making travel plans.

People want to travel more sustainably

Sustainable travel is a trend that seems to be predicted every year, but according to a December report from the Tourism Panel on Climate Change no country, no destination and no travel industry sub-sector has achieved meaningful reductions in tourism greenhouse gas emissions which account for 10 per cent of the world’s total. Despite that,  Trip.com believes the rise of sustainable travel is becoming evident, with more than 16 million of their customers opting for low-carbon travel options. They state that their low-carbon hotel standard initiative, with over 1,500 partners, indicates a growing interest in eco-friendly exploration.

TV shows and movies will influence where we go

The popularity of TV shows like ‘The White Lotus’ or movies like ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ will inspire many viewers to visit the exotic locales portrayed on the big and small screens.  Expedia calls this concept “Set-Jetting” and predicts destinations like Thailand, Romania, Malta and Paris will be popular in 2024 based on upcoming releases.

Tour tourism will thrive

Music festivals and concerts are becoming integral to the travel experiences for many. A growing number of fans are eager to see their favourite acts in different cities and will travel far and wide to catch their shows, with Taylor Swift’s ‘Swifties’ being the best-known example. Look for unexpected destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Edmonton and Mexico City to benefit from tour tourism, says Expedia.

Chinese outbound travel is set to surge

The reopening of China’s borders has triggered a substantial increase in outbound travel, with a six-fold rise in bookings compared to 2022, says Trip.com. They predict Southeast Asian destinations, especially Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia will likely be the greatest beneficiaries of this trend.

Canadian travellers setting their own trends

As for Canadians, Flight Centre predicts an increase in city trips this year, a preference for 4-star properties and a significant number of them seeking romantic getaways in 2024. They’re also seeing a rise in group bookings and a growing interest in destinations that are out of the ordinary.

More travellers will seek out alternative destinations

As overtourism renders places like Venice and Barcelona unvisitable, a growing number of travellers will seek out alternatives to crowded destinations. Expedia calls these ‘Destination Dupes’ and includes places like Taipei, Pattaya, Paros, Curaçao and Perth, which offer similar delights to their more well-known cousins but are often more affordable.

Booze will become less of a focus for some travellers

With the perpetual popularity of vineyards, craft breweries, whisky and rum distillery-tours, it’s hard to see “Dry Tripping” being a major trend, but Hotels.com predicts that more destinations will cater to an increasing number of travellers choosing low- or alcohol-free lifestyles. Their research shows that more than 40 per cent of travellers say they are likely to book a detox trip in the next year, and half of travellers say they would be interested in staying at hotels that offer easily accessible alcohol-free beverage options

Shoulder season is the new high season

Summer time is typically the busiest time of year for travel, but it’s also the most expensive. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere also gets busy over the Christmas season as people fly south to escape the winter which prompts similar price jumps. With inflation and rising costs forcing people to watch their budgets, expect more people to look for bargains in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Increasingly hot summers in Europe are also driving this trend.

We want to be outside more

Perhaps its a holdover from the pandemic, but travellers will continue to prioritize activities and experiences that will get them outdoors in 2024, either doing something active or getting in touch with nature. Vrbo reports that nearly 30 per cent of the customers they surveyed would choose a vacation home with outdoor amenities, with things like pickleball courts and cold plunges being a priority for them.

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