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Travel Trends in 2024 – What’s on the Horizon for the Global Travel Industry?

As anyone who has ever booked a holiday knows, the art of a successful holiday often begins with planning ahead. So join us for a preview of the big travel trends on the horizon for travel customer experience (CX), as we look at both what they mean for travelers and the businesses who rely on them.

As we near the end of 2023, the global travel market itself is still emerging from the single greatest shock to its ecosystem that the industry has ever suffered. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the trends on the horizon for next year are in lots of ways shaped by the after-effects of that shock, which are still being felt around the world. Cancellation, disruption and strikes are regularly part of the customer experience for anyone who has tried to travel by train, plane or automobile this year. 

The outlook is healthy though: a 10-year forecast by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) puts the sector on track to outpace global growth at a rate of 5.8% annually, while global GDP grows at just 2.7%. The WTTC estimates that this could potentially translate into 126 million new jobs by 2032.

After hitting $7.7tn in 2022, this year has seen the contribution of travel and tourism to GDP worldwide rebound to an estimated $9.5tn, almost scaling its pre-pandemic 2019 height of $10tn.

As we approach 2024, the post-pandemic travel boom appears to be subsiding as prices rise and the cost of living crisis bites at consumers’ discretionary spending. That said, at Concentrix we see plenty of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) that are experiencing almost no let-up in bookings, despite the inflationary pressures on living standards.

Partly this is due to the market. Extensive growth from low-cost airlines continues to make holidays appear cheap overall. Companies are also finding ways to adapt to these pressures so that travel remains affordable. Some airlines have moved to pay 50% immediately and the remaining 50% two weeks before. We’re also seeing the duration of booking times increase to 18-24 months, to keep monthly payment costs low and encourage continued growth in bookings.

 We’ll be looking in our next blog at what all this means for the importance of driving customer loyalty. In this article though, we’ll be focusing on the trends that look set to dominate the travel sector in the coming 12 months.

Wellness tourism is only becoming healthier

Anyone who’s traveled recently knows that it hasn’t become any more friction-free in the last few years. Perhaps as a consequence, more and more travelers don’t just want to sit on a sunlounger for two weeks or enjoy a daily all-you-can-eat buffet. Instead, consumers want to fly back as a better, happier, fitter version of themselves. 

These types of wellness-themed holidays offer to rejuvenate the body and mind, with bespoke programmes offering everything from cardio spin classes to hot bikram yoga and how-to-be-mindful workshops.

The rise of yoga retreats and wellness pilgrimages might come as a surprise to some more traditional travelers, but perhaps it shouldn’t. An Ipsos study reports that 62% of Americans now believe their health is more important to them than before the pandemic. And the impact of this change is now being felt: according to a recent survey, 21% of global travelers are traveling for health and wellness reasons, with 29% saying they will be doing the same in future. 

Travelers expect the personalized touch (but don’t get it)

It’s fair to say that one-size-no-longer-fits-all in the travel industry. The disparity between what consumers want – and what they receive – is still glaring. 

Tourists want tailor-made travel experiences that give them authentic, unforgettable moments. The reality for lots of travelers though, is that there is still plenty of friction in the travel booking process, thanks to antiquated, silo-ed systems.

That said, there are some leaders in seamless travel tech and we expect to see some consolidation in the travel industry, bringing airlines and OTAs together. The prize itself is huge: the value of the personalized travel and experiences industry is forecast to more than quadruple during this decade to nearly half a trillion dollars by 2030.

On the holiday itself, personalization might include offering the chance to immerse in local customs and hospitality, bespoke itineraries or guided tours by expert locals. Travelers want the chance to create interest-specific, individually-tailored moments and connections with a destination’s culture, people, and traditions, all of which (they hope) will linger in the memory when the holiday is long over.

Crucially though, from a CX perspective, personalization can (and should) begin as early as possible in the consideration phase of the customer journey. According to research by McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. That means ensuring customer interactions are, where possible, designed around their interests and passions, whether a sports fan or a sun worshipper. 

…and they want it easier, quicker and faster – travelers want to book from their phones, in an instant

At the start of this decade, online and app bookings were worth an estimated $432 billion, and this is predicted to grow to $833 billion by 2025. Around 70% of customers use a smartphone at some point in the holiday booking process and 72% of travelers book via their mobile phone within two days of finding what they’re looking for via a Google search. 

From a CX perspective these kinds of numbers mean that customers expect to be able to research holidays quickly and easily online, and that the timeframe between searching and booking is short.

From a CX point of view, it’s easy to see the increasing role that technology can play in transforming the customer journey. As the maturity of AI-powered booking tools increases, customers will be able to receive rapidly-customized travel itineraries, as well as holiday planning advice via intelligent chatbots powered by machine learning.

It’s been a real bleisure – why we’re mixing work with leisure travel

As its name suggests, bleisure travel is the blurring between traveling for business and leisure. It might involve combining a work trip with a trip just for yourself, or perhaps arranging to meet up with friends and family before or after the work engagement. It might be a few days on the beach after a conference or enjoying a city break the weekend before a big meeting. 

Perhaps the rise of bleisure travel should come as no surprise given the rising costs of living and the corresponding inflationary pressures on travel. Bleisure travel is an opportunity to maximize the potential of work-related stays by adding on additional recreational time. It can feel like a win-win for employee and employer, ensuring a good work-life balance. 

In a survey in the UK, 45% of travelers said they were planning to adapt their business trips in the future to incorporate personal leisure time. It’s estimated that 40% of business trips count as bleisure now, and it’s particularly popular with younger travelers, with 48% of millennials combining business with leisure in their travels.

Sustainable tourism is only getting more important

More and more travelers are hungry for more sustainable alternatives. A report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that 69 per cent of travelers are actively seeking sustainable travel options, and there’s no sign of that trend slowing down.

Online booking platform Booking.com surveyed more than 27,000 people across 33 countries and territories, and more than half of its travelers are considering how climate change will impact the way they plan their holidays in 2024. 

It’s a generational shift that sees millennials as the group most likely to give this response, while the Baby Boomer generation was the least likely, according to Booking.com.

Staycations have seen more hosts join the market with the resulting glut of properties in some countries leading to governments taking a stronger line on regulating the market and imposing tourist taxes.

The natural world will continue to need tourism – or at least the income that tourism brings. The answer will lie in how sustainable tour operators and the industry can make it. From a CX perspective customers want to tell and hear stories about what that positive change can look like, and how we all can contribute to it. 

At Concentrix we love to work with travel game-changers and we’d love to hear from you if you want to talk more about how travel trends are impacting your business and the industry.

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