All change

From ‘cool-cationing’ to the return of long-haul stars across Asia, Charlotte Flach reveals the biggest trends for 2024

As New Year’s resolutions are made and big plans for 2024 start to take shape, many have already started compiling their travel list for the next 12 months.

For some destinations, this year marks the first for restriction-free travel since Covid, with big-hitters such as Asia and South America back on the travel scene. Meanwhile, last year’s string of wildfires is prompting a shift in booking windows, with travellers increasingly exploring the concept of ‘shoulder seasons’, driven by the desire to avoid overcrowded destinations during the summer as well as the effects of climate change, in particular on Southern Europe.

Destinations in demand

Summer sun favourites such as Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, as well as Italy and Spain, are becoming too hot during the summer months, pushing travellers to seek cooler alternatives like the Alps, Slovenia and Poland.

“Cool-cationing is a brand-new trend for 2024 that sees travellers swapping sun-seeking trips for cooler climates,” claims Mary Bragg, UK Product Manager at HF Holidays. “This will lead to a continued rise in UK staycations, particularly to cooler destinations, including Scotland and Wales, but also to snowy destinations such as Norway.”

Popular new contenders for 2024 include Albania, which is the latest region in the Balkans to gain increasing awareness as a viable tourist destination with a 50% increase in enquiries in 2023, according to Wild Frontiers.

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are also coming into view. Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, expects the popularity of this region to keep growing. “Central Asia was incredibly popular in 2023, with a 68% increase in travellers compared to 2022 and a 30% surge in bookings to Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan is more popular than ever, with booking levels back to pre-Covid levels,” he says.

Explore Worldwide is reporting a 98% increase in traffic to India trip webpages in 2023 over 2022. Meanwhile, Cambodia (+76%), Vietnam (+82%) and Thailand (+60%) have also seen a huge spike in popularity.

“This time last year, believe it or not, much of Asia was still closed to travellers. Over the last six months or so, Asian destinations have been experiencing a rebound,” says MD Michael Edwards. Japan, for instance, is currently experiencing record tourism numbers, according to the Lemongrass Annual Travel Trend Report.

Meanwhile, the Wayfairer Travel team has seen double the interest in Antarctica and its top five most searched-for destinations are Kenya, Japan, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Tanzania.

Major sporting events such as the Olympic Games in Paris and the Superbowl in Las Vegas are set to draw in crowds in 2024.

Trending travel themes

Trend paris
Paris, Olympic host city
Trend Khaza
Kolsai, Kazakhstan, image by Dreamstime

In addition to big, far-flung holidays, customers are looking to transformational travel or experiences that provide a challenge or accomplishment, such as walking the Camino de Santiago or Inca Trail treks. “We’re seeing a trend more towards breaks with a sense of accomplishment where travellers can bag those big-name achievements” says Bragg.

In a similar vein, travelling for ‘peace and purpose’ will be significant this year, as travellers look to switch off from their daily life and find a new purpose in their given destination.

Hartnett says: “This ties into ‘slow travel’ and being able to truly appreciate a destination, feel reinvigorated and that you are giving back to the local economy and community. People are increasingly seeking these experiences and want to travel in a more meaningful way.”

‘Duality holidays’, from the growing trend of island-hopping in the Maldives to twin-centre holidays in the Caribbean, will be big in 2024. “Duality trips are going to grow as travellers seek diversity and a range of experiences in their holiday,” says Helen Tabois, Senior Product Manager – Caribbean, Inspiring Travel.

“In the Caribbean this is down to new flights such as Tradewind Aviation’s service between Antigua and Anguilla, St Barts and Anguilla, and Cayman Airways’ flying to Barbados.”

Culinary tours in particular are seeing a boom, especially when combined with walking tours.

“Culinary tourism allows travellers to explore a new culture through food and continues to be a good sell at HF Holidays, with our Sicily Food & Hike trip proving popular in its first year, showing a continued growth of 31% for bookings into 2024. We anticipate food and walking to be amongst our top-sellers for 2024,” says Bragg.

No-fly holidays will continue to be a conscientious choice as travellers try to minimise their carbon footprint when travelling abroad. “Rail adventures across Europe have soared in popularity with over 120 pax choosing to book our new European holidays by rail with HF Holidays in 2024,” adds Bragg.

Notably, new night-time routes connecting Prague to Basel, Stuttgart to Venice and Rijeka and a weekly train connecting the Black Forest city of Freiburg to Bordeaux were introduced last year and for 2024 and 2025 more exciting routes such as Paris to Madrid, Paris to Berlin and Amsterdam to Barcelona are planned.

Bolder bookings

Trend Croatia
Brac, Croatia
Trend Scot
Scottish highlands, image by Helen Hotson

Travel bookings into 2024 are healthy, with 36% of Brits having already booked what they would consider to be a bucket list trip for 2024, according to SkyParkSecure, with a further 35% “considering it”.

Despite the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence), which claims to recommend destinations, accommodations, and activities based on analysed traveller preferences, it seems that travellers are keener than ever to look to agents to help them book memorable trips.

“The travel industry is seeing an increased consumer confidence and appetite for adventurous, once-in-a-lifetime trips,” says Tom Blakey, Founder, Wayfairer Travel. “Within the luxury space, this is coupled with an even stronger demand for a high level of itinerary tailoring and assistance from trusted industry experts.”

Jennifer Hartnett, Colletts Collection’s Head of Tour Operations, agrees and believes that some travellers are now in a position to take multiple bucket list trips. “We are seeing a high likelihood that clients will be able to do these trips more than just once in their lifetime, and with the expertise and guidance of a travel advisor these are very accessible.”

Escaping the crowds and visiting more remote, esoteric destinations holds greater appeal than ever, with Namibia (+49%), Romania (+103%) and New Zealand (+69%) seeing big growth for 2024, says Explore Worldwide.

“Choose Croatia’s pristine Brac island over trendy Hvar for an equally blissful beach experience away from the crowds. Take in Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca, but don’t miss the festivities in Guatemala, which are incredibly vibrant but usually only frequented by locals,” suggests Edwards.

New markets will keep appearing, says Tabois. “For example, as the Maldives successfully expanded into the family market and continues to do so with sales ever growing, Inspiring Travel is also looking forward to working on growing the luxury market in Jamaica.”

To summarise, Blakely offers: “From travelling to far-flung destinations with toddlers to exploring new flight routes or switching off completely to prioritise wellness, the 2024 traveller will be bolder with their travel choices than ever before.”