Consumers are getting bolder, looking for unique experiences and far-flung destinations as they plan their travel for 2024, according to a survey of more than 100 luxury travel advisors who attended Global Travel Collection's Elevate conference, which took place October 22-25 at the new Virgin Hotels New York City.
Advisors who participated in the survey said that experiential travel is a growing trend among their clients, who want to do something new and different when they go on vacation. Bookings for exploring and touring new destinations has increased by nearly 75 percent, according to the advisors. At the same time, demand for family travel has risen by 63 percent and interest in luxury cruises has grown by 60 percent.
"Expedition cruising, including the Arctic and Galapagos, is becoming increasingly popular even for clients who don't prefer cruising," said Brooke Liberman of Protravel International Encino. Many of her clients also say they want to revisit their favorite cities for a deeper dive into the culture and even smaller surrounding areas. "Familiarity is comforting to my clients when revisiting a destination, but they want to explore up-and-coming neighborhoods, restaurants and art scenes, too."
Africa and Asia are popular vacation destinations and climbing Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro remains a top bucket-list item. Travel advisors are seeing a big increase in the Pacific, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand and South Korea, as well as some smaller, off-the-beaten-path places, like Malta. That said, the top 10 destinations for 2023 were the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Argentina.
Said Lisa Taub of The Travel Collaborative: "2024 is already showing renewed interest in Asia—particularly, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. Australia and New Zealand will also see high interest coming into their summer, but availability will be a challenge unless clients start booking six months or more in advance."
Protravel Long Island’s Shawn Goldberg said, "Cartagena is hot, hot, hot." She adds that she is booking a lot of first-time African safaris, trips to Japan and trips to Patagonia. “My clients are taking that transformative bucket list trip now and are not waiting for a special time or event."
Stefani Horowitz and Stephanie Kaufman, both with Protravel International, are observing a shift in preferences among travelers. While Europe has always been popular, people are thinking outside of the box. Beyond Italy, Greece, France and the UK, clients are also exploring Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Iceland and other alternative destinations. Moreover, many of their clients are combining multiple destinations. For instance, trips that combine Italy with Spain or Croatia create a diverse travel experience. This is a trend Horowitz and Kaufman expect to pick up in 2024.
When it comes to cruises, consumers are looking for longer voyages that will take them to more exotic destinations. Advisors report strong interest in adventure/expedition cruises and river cruises. Trips in general are getting longer, too.
Vikram Seshadri, with Protravel International in Beverly Hills, noted that his clients, especially those who have retired, travel longer. For example, he recently had clients who traveled around the Nordic countries for six weeks this past summer and are doing the same trip length in 2024 to Australia and New Zealand.
"Exotic trips are becoming more common," added Seshadri. "I have noticed more requests for exotic trips this past year and into next year than ever before. Swimming with whale sharks in Rajah Ampat in Indonesia, doing an expedition trip to Antarctica to recreate the Ernest Shackelton experience, and week-long sailing trips around the Caribbean, South Pacific and Kimberly region of Australia are now everyday requests."
Nearly half of the advisors surveyed reported a jump in the demand for their services. About 30 percent say that they've seen an increase in the number of their Millennial clients, those aged 29 to 43. "Mindful and socially conscious travel are also in high demand," added Protravel’s Goldberg. "People are looking to us to help them travel with purpose."