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The three major travel trends that could take brands to new heights in 2024

16th November 2023

Didn’t make it to World Travel Market this year? Anna Penson, Associate Director at Citypress, summarises how brands can embrace the latest travel trends coming out of the summit.

Last week, travel professionals from all corners of the globe came together for the World Travel Market (WTM).

The theme “Reconnecting, Reimagining, and Rebuilding” acknowledged the obstacles the industry has faced in the wake of Covid-19 and global events, and provided the chance to reconnect and share ideas to reshape the future of travel.

Clearly the industry has faced a challenging road of late, but the rebound in travel over the past year is plain to see, with global outbound trips set to exceed 1.25 billion this year, over 85% of the peak level achieved in 2019*.

However it is important to question if demand is overly reliant on the post-pandemic rebound in travel – otherwise known as the “revenge travel” trend – and if brands can sustain the demand into 2024 and beyond.

Now more so than ever, travel brands need to be on the very top of their game to stand out, tapping into the latest travel trends to ensure they appeal to consumers amid rising cost pressures and a crowded market.

From the desire for more unique experiences, to an increase in “bleisure travel”, there were several trends discussed at WTM that present real opportunities for travel businesses across the globe if they are prepared to adapt to them.

Desire for experiences

A major shift seen in travel spending preferences has been a growing desire for experiences while on holiday.

The WTM’s Global Travel Trends* report shows a 10% increase in demand for experiential activities when travelling and a 65% increase in people spending on unique experiences compared with 2019.

Experiences are becoming the new luxury, and many travel brands are already responding to that in their marketing and communications strategies. Just look at the success travel startup Dharma is having for evidence of this, with the whole business premise around experience-led trips hosted by well-known people and brands – including an Emily in Paris trip with Netflix!

Major cultural and sporting events have also presented opportunities for tourism destinations, whether it be the World Cup in Qatar and Saudi or Taylor Swift concerts causing chaos all across the globe, and those who are on the front foot in promoting these events will no doubt see the most success.

From a marketing perspective, this means aligning experiences to the cultural news agenda to tap into people’s passions, while considering how to bring experiences to life through mid-fi video and a influencer or digital creator lens.

“Bleisure”

“Bleisure” – i.e., blended business and leisure travel – was highlighted as another opportunity for the industry at this year’s WTM.

A report by Hilton** found that one in four business travellers plan to take either a friend or family member with them on a work trip next year, highlighting an opportunity to extend the length of stays and spend of business travellers.

Many organisations and destinations will therefore be keen to embrace this trend, prompted by people continuing to enjoy greater workplace flexibility now compared to pre-pandemic.

From a communications perspective, this new trend of “bleisure” could open doors for tourism boards and hoteliers to do more to expand their media pool beyond MICE titles. There is an opportunity to showcase more than just meeting rooms and conference centres, highlighting a destination’s further strengths and draws instead.

Those that can cater to “bleisure” travellers will likely come out on top – taking the time to understand the needs of these travellers. Formulating a unique rewards programme suited to them would be a good first step.

Personalisation

Finally, increased personalisation was another huge trend discussed at WTM

From tracking customer booking behaviours, to even monitoring their movements when on holiday to offer tailored rewards, customer personalisation has already become an important tool to increase revenue and help holidaymakers enjoy even more memorable travel moments.

For example, the Hilton group have been laser focused on personalisation in recent years, saying they aim to obtain a 360 view of every customer to meet their needs and preferences every step of the way, from contactless check-ins to a successful rewards programme. They say that customers are happy to provide their personal data if it is going to be used in the right way.

However, the biggest watch out for brands is losing the human touch whilst striving for tech-enabled personalisation, with the Global Travel Trends report also revealing that 50% of consumers are now more likely to use a travel adviser when booking their holiday.

Personalisation is great, particularly when used creatively to attract and capture the right audiences, but balancing this with still having a human face to a brand, is key. This means leaning into personalisation to achieve creative results and efficiencies, but ensuring the fundamentals of customer care are still a priority.

Consumer confidence will likely remain low next year, but the travel industry is resilient and those willing to adapt and respond to the opportunities that lie ahead will be the ones most likely to succeed.

While revenge travel might only be a finite trend, bringing to life experiences, leaning into the “bleisure” mindset and balancing the opportunity of personalisation with the desire for the human touch should mean travel brands are primed for long-term success.

If you are a travel brand looking to adapt to the latest trends, get in touch with our travel team via https://www.citypress.co.uk/contact/.

* https://www.wtm.com/content/dam/sitebuilder/rxuk/wtmkt/documents/WTM-Global-Travel-Report-v4.pdf

** https://stories.hilton.com/2024trends-business-travel

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