AMSTERDAM—Booking.com commissioned research among more than 27,000 travelers across 33 countries and territories, combining it with its insights as a digital travel platform to reveal seven predictions for travel in 2024.
Where in years past travel has been a means to escape life, Booking.com released research that shows that travel is life in 2024 with more than three quarters (78 percent) revealing that they feel more alive than ever when they are on vacation, and 68 percent wanting to be more like their vacation self in their day-to-day life back home. That’s because 68 percent also think they are the best version of themselves while on vacation. With AI set to transform 2024, travelers are plugging into tech to do the grunt work, freeing them up to stretch their imagination, tune into their intuition, and spark more experiences.
(Alter) Ego Enthusiasts
In 2024, travelers will feel more alive by creating their own alter egos on vacation, with more than a third (37 percent) making up stories about their real lives to people they meet on their travels. These alter ego enthusiasts love the thrill of embodying a 2.0 version of themselves and go to great lengths to reimagine their best selves, with more than three in five (62 percent) enjoying the anonymity of travel and the chance to recreate themselves.
Fueling the idea that people take on different personas when traveling to feel more alive, over two-thirds (68 percent) feel they are the best version of themselves on vacation, able to shed inhibitions and embrace new aspects of their personalities, while 42 percent would even pay to rent a nicer car than they drive at home. What’s more, over half (57 percent) of travelers feel “main character energy” on their travels, with these performers empowered to be the stars of their own lives.
Aliases and avatars abound, both in real life and through VR and AR. Those digital alter egos with a desire for wanderlust can go anywhere and do anything in the metaverse, and in 2024, the people behind them will bring their digital fantasies to life in real-world destinations
Heat has officially had its vacay heyday, with scorching temperatures pushing the mercury to record-breaking levels and causing heat waves around the world. Sweltering conditions are accelerating a rise in travelers chasing cooler climes to revive and refresh themselves. The majority (51 percent) report that climate change will impact the way they plan their vacation in 2024, while over half (56 percent) say that as temperatures soar close to home, they will use their vacation to cool down elsewhere.
This effect taps into the expected rise of water-centric travel that takes the edge off the heat. Three-quarters (75 percent) agree that being close to water makes them feel more relaxed, with over a third (36 percent) interested in water-centric vacations in 2024. As people dive into aquatic escapes, water immersion will become the next mainstream version of meditation, where the wild-swimming craze meets the ice-therapy movement. This form of wellness travel will see floating yoga, water sound baths, and snow meditation surge, as well as a boom in ice therapy retreats, underwater hotels, and mermania.
Travelers want to surrender themselves to the element of surprise, explore the unknown, and venture into uncharted territory on vacation, with over half (52 percent) keen to book a surprise trip where everything down to the destination is unknown until arrival. Averse to the sameness of everyday life and avoiding cookie-cutter experiences, the adventurous traveler of 2024 wants to step outside of the homogenized vacation, with 56 percent preferring to venture off the beaten path and a third (34 percent) seeking to travel with strangers.
Shifting from rigorous planning to chance encounters and experiences, these surrender seekers are relinquishing control for the art of letting go. The majority (55 percent) would like to have no plans set in stone prior to traveling in 2024 so they can go where the wind takes them, while over two-thirds (69 percent) prefer to travel with loose plans so they can change direction based on what feels good at the moment.
The travel industry is responding with tech-enabled flexible services, giving travelers the option to cancel, change plans, and buy now, pay later. The explosion of AI, which has already seen the launch of the company’s AI Trip planner, is going mainstream in 2024: 48 percent would trust AI to plan a trip for them, with a third of baby boomers (30 percent) and one in five (20 percent) of the silent generation surrendering to AI in order to assist their travels plans in the year ahead.
The food archeologists of 2024 will dig deep into the roots of food on vacation to unearth new culinary preferences, with nearly two-thirds (61 percent) more interested in learning about the origins of a destination’s must-eat delicacies than they were in the past. Culinary excavators are bucking next-gen food trends in favor of preserving traditional dishes; leaning on gastro-tourism to embrace the history, geography, and produce that makes for cuisine that will awaken the senses.
Four in five (81 percent) want to try indigenous cuisines in 2024, and heritage flavors are in the spotlight with travelers putting power in the hands of the under-represented, unlocking the secrets of cultures that may have been lost or forgotten in other parts of the world. Expect an increase in indigenous experiences that take travelers on trails that tell the story behind the food they serve.
Foodie travelers in 2024 will be experientialists who fluctuate between digital and physical realities to transform every discovery into a heightened multisensory extravaganza, with nearly half (46 percent) wanting an immersive food experience enhanced by VR or AR.
When things are falling apart back home amid global instability, disheveled travelers are booking one-track trips rooted in self-improvement to bring themselves back to the life they truly want again. The new era of sleep tourism, for example, welcomes sleep concierges and cutting-edge tech to serve the 58 percent who want to travel in 2024 to solely focus on uninterrupted shut-eye.
For those who are used to sleeping solo, over a third (39 percent) of travelers would carve out time for a matchmaking holiday to find a spark with a new partner, while more than a third (35 percent) would focus on a heartbreak holiday to get over an ex. On the contrary, for those still rocking their relationships, a quarter (24 percent) want to deepen that human connection with their partner as their main priority for traveling in 2024. On the flip side, those frazzled parents are seeking solace on completely solo holidays, with the majority (58 percent) planning to travel alone in 2024, dropping the kids and their partners to prioritize their vitality.
Taking the impetus to reinvent their real-life even further, half of all travelers (51 percent) revealed that the stripped-back lifestyle of agrarian and indigenous communities, where self-sufficiency is a way of life, would appeal to them in 2024. Beyond just back to basics, the focus is on a better balance with nature and the elements to reset their day-to-day back home.
A La Carte Travelers
Fueled by the cost of living crisis alongside the mainstream stealth wealth trends of 2023, travelers in 2024 will employ money-saving hacks to cut costs, yet level up vacations with à la carte offerings. These à la carte travelers want to appear wealthy, sweeping away the reality of having to make financial sacrifices, but behind the scenes are obsessed with see-through spending and curating budget-friendly travel itineraries with the help of AI. In fact, more than half (56 percent) of travelers will want insights and tips from AI when on vacation to upgrade experiences with suggested ancillaries and deals.
Additionally, half (50 percent) of travelers plan to pick destinations in 2024 where the cost of living is less expensive than their hometown while traveling closer to home is also a draw for some who will be searching for luxe-for-less copycat vacations to reduce costs in 2024 (43 percent). Many (51 percent) travelers will be willing to pay for day passes to use the amenities in a five-star hotel rather than actually staying there, with a similar number of parents (47 percent) planning to take their children out of school to travel outside of peak season to make their money stretch further in 2024.
Before, the words sustainable and stylish were not necessarily synonymous, with the words eco-travel conjuring up visions of campsites. Make way for the intersection of design and mindfulness to influence travel in 2024, opening up new and inspiring doors for travelers who have a desire to make more conscious and responsible choices, not just for a short getaway, but as a way of life.
Gone are the days when comfort and design were solely associated with excess and extravagance, with a growing movement of hotels and other places to stay presenting inventive and aesthetically pleasing responses to environmental and social challenges. These discerning travelers will hunt down architecture that has environmental features at its heart, with over half (53 percent) looking for accommodation that has sustainability innovation. Three in five (60 percent) want to see sustainability in action, while nearly two-thirds (65 percent) want to see the outside brought indoors with green spaces and plants in accommodations on vacation.
In 2024, in exchange for contributing to conservation efforts, sustainable itineraries will give travelers access to the places that they are helping preserve, in the most mindful and responsible way. A large number are interested in sustainable travel apps where they can unlock rewards (60 percent), such as experiences with locals in off-the-beaten-path areas (47 percent) or visiting remote locations that tourists otherwise have limited access to (44 percent). The mindful aesthetes are a reminder that it’s possible to bring home all the vacay feels, but also that sense of purpose to feel more deeply connected to the environment and surrounding communities when back at home as well.
Arjan Dijk, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Booking.com, said, “Our 2024 travel predictions reflect the idea that travel is not a means to escape life, but instead a catalyst to live our best lives. From thrilling adventures in a new destination to feeling the pulse of a new culture and every experience in between, travel allows us to become the best version of ourselves.”