Here’s what we discovered:

1. Exchange rates continue to influence travel choices

Exchange rate fluctuations continue to be an important factor in choosing travel destinations. We saw this last year when the strong dollar expanded the travel menu for American citizens. According to Forbes, the Swiss Franc, the Euro and the U.S. Dollar remain among the top 10 strongest currencies in the world. A trip to Peru, Thailand, Japan or Vietnam, where the exchange rate is favorable, can be a good option.

Let’s take just one example and zoom in on Japan, where the yen is having a tough time. The weakening yen, among other factors, has been beneficial to many tourists from Europe and America. The number of tourists visiting Japan continues to grow, with a notable spike in interest among Chinese Gen Z, whose searches for travel in Japan have jumped more than 700% from the last year. However, this influx of tourists has led to challenges such as overtourism, human traffic jams and garbage problems, prompting Japan to impose restrictions on some popular destinations, including Kyoto and Mount Fuji.

In addition, the surge in tourists has inevitably led to a rise in travel prices. Everything from airfares, accommodations, car rentals, hotels and restaurants to entertainment tickets are up 20-40% from pre-pandemic levels. Any savings from favorable exchange rates will likely be offset by higher travel costs, especially during peak seasons. However, travelers can still take advantage by choosing modern budget-friendly hostels, looking for new flight routes, and, of course, avoiding airport currency exchanges with their exorbitant rates can all help save money. In the UK alone, families stand to lose 374 million euros this year if they exchange their holiday money at the airport. Therefore, smart choices and in-advance planning are a path to an enjoyable travel experience.

2. A surge to pre-pandemic levels and record travel spending

After years of uncertainty due to the pandemic, 2023 was a relief for the tourism and hospitality industry as, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism ended 2023 at 88% of pre-pandemic levels, which corresponded more or less to 1.3 billion international arrivals. Furthermore, projections made back then were even more encouraging for the industry, as 2024 was expected to reach pre-pandemic levels. So far, those predictions are accurate. Indeed, in Q1 2024, a record of 15.9 million Americans traveled internationally.

The European Travel Commission has confirmed that intra-European and long-haul tourist spending increased in early 2024 in Europe. Major international events like the Olympic Games in France are expected to drive demand for specific markets. Inbound spending growth is expected to increase by 13% for Paris and 24% for France compared to 2019. Moreover, some sectors, such as airlines and cruises, already see more than encouraging numbers. Indeed, nine of the last ten record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurred in the first quarter of 2024, according to the MasterCard Economics Institute.

3. Bleisure travel is on the rise

The rise of “work from anywhere” policies and the blending of business travel with leisure, known as “bleisure,” is reshaping the landscape of work and travel. More companies are embracing at least hybrid work, with some even offering remote work exclusively. This shift toward remote work is significant and is becoming the most important aspect of job selection for at least 63% of employees.

“Leisure” dimension is gaining momentum, with 78% of business travelers planning to combine business and leisure, adding personal vacation time to at least one business trip. This concept of blended travel is expected to see substantial growth. According to Statista, the market will double by 2027. By 2032, the blended travel market could reach a staggering $731.4 billion, fueled by the blurred lines between work and leisure.

Much of this growth is driven by digital transformation which is revolutionizing various sectors, enabling more flexible and efficient ways of working and traveling. Yes, the future of work and travel is here, and it’s more integrated than ever (see trend #5).

4. Sustainable travel can take a backseat in consumer choices

While sustainability was expected to influence consumers’ decisions in 2024 significantly, new data from research conducted by Booking.com in February 2024 shows that the reality is more complex. This study reveals that 45% of people feel that traveling more sustainably is essential. However, they do not consider it a primary consideration when planning or booking travel. This may be because 28% of travelers feel that their time spent traveling is too precious to put sustainability at the top of their decision-making list. Nevertheless, a reassuring 75% of global travelers indicate a desire to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months, while 43% would feel guilty about making less sustainable travel choices.

5. The future of travel is digital

The digital transformation in the travel and tourism industry is not just a trend but an ongoing process in which an increasing number of digital solutions are being used for travel planning, booking and personalized experiences. This transformation requires a robust online presence, and industry leaders are actively embracing social media and personalization. GlobalData emphasizes the need to invest in big data, artificial intelligence and travel apps to stay competitive. Datafication, as evidenced by projects such as Resilient Tourism, is a critical step for the entire travel ecosystem. Research confirms that evidence-based decision-making fuels tourism development, and data is the key to that evidence.

Generative AI-based solutions, like AI integrated into workplace applications, are already transforming business travel. These solutions streamline the entire travel process, making it faster and easier to organize trips, with seamless expense management and booking experience. Leading companies are experimenting with cutting-edge technologies like robotics, automation, AI, machine learning, biometrics, digital identity, personalization, collaboration with startups, sustainability, private networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). However, experts note that some travel technologies, like VR/AR, Web3 and IoT, remain underappreciated, and there is a wealth of knowledge to be unlocked to leverage the potential of these advancements.

The future of travel is digital, and staying adaptable to these changes is crucial for success and survival in the rapidly evolving industry landscape.

6. The rail industry is on the road to growth

Traveling by train continues to be developed in Europe as new intra-European train routes and schedules are being launched in 2024. Brussels-Berlin & Paris-Berlin will be connected daily from October 2024 by the Nightjet Sleeper company, as well as a second Vienna-Berlin-Hamburg ICE service. The Warsaw-Vienna sleeper train, Chopin, which currently also runs to Graz, will be extended to Salzburg and Munich.

In addition, more and more incentives are being put in place to encourage travelers to take the train. A recent example is the UEFA EURO 2024, which launched a Fan Pass that allows ticket holders access to discounted national and international train tickets, as well as a 36-hour Travel Pass for public transport. However, the threat of strikes will always be present in 2024 and might discourage some travelers from opting for trains compared to other ways of traveling.

7. Looking to travel off the beaten path

This year, in the face of overtourism, one tendency is noticeable: the search for destination duplicates or so-called destination dupes. These are budget alternatives that offer similar experiences to more expensive destinations, e.g., choose Liverpool over London, Paros over Santorini, Krakow over Rome or Taipei over Seoul. Skyscanner confirms that 93% of travelers would consider a dupe destination. There are also more adventurous options such as Baku instead of Dubai or Bengaluru instead of Silicon Valley or some other “overlooked” travel destinations in Romania or the Balkans.

Those traveling solo (which is becoming increasingly popular in 2024) are recommended to consider Ermoupoli on the Greek island of Syros – Europe’s most welcoming city according to Booking.com, Viana do Castelo in Portugal and Grindelwald in Switzerland. Gen Z and Millennials are increasingly looking to Asia, with interest in these destinations up 50% compared to last year. Southeast Asia is particularly attracting attention for its unbeatable scenery, affordability, and “instagrammable” experiences, such as the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam, a full moon party on Koh Phangan in Thailand and a Komodo tour in Indonesia. In addition, the eventful economy is on the rise, with travelers eager to experience iconic, once-in-a-lifetime events such as solar eclipses, Taylor Swift shows, Eurovision or the Olympics. Want to know where Swiss travelers are going this summer? 

8. Keeping local travel and ‘farm-to-table’ dining in play

As of May 2024, finding data or confirmations that local travel is expanding in 2024 is challenging. So far, only Airbnb has released information about that trend. According to the company, “Exploring our own backyard remains a trend this year, as the appeal towards smaller, regional destinations continues” for the Australian market. Data have yet to be available when it comes to increasing the consumption of local foods. However, Forbes advertised it as a nice Mother’s Day gift, selecting nine European restaurants offering Finest Farm-To-Table Dining Experiences.

That’s how these eight trends have persisted and evolved. We hope you find these insights valuable for navigating the future landscape.

Explore these hospitality trends further.

Tatyana Tsukanova is a Research Associate at EHL Hospitality Business School