7 traveller trends for 2024

Travel has long been a means of escapism. Now, a new travel research by Booking.com for 2024 reveals that 80 percent of Hong Kong travellers assert that they “feel more alive than ever when they are on vacation” and has unveiled seven travel predictions for the upcoming new year

To explore how travel will transport people out of autopilot and into unleashing their best life, online travel operator Booking.com commissioned research among more than 27,000 travellers across 33 countries and territories to reveal seven travel trends in 2024.

The results show that 74 percent of respondents want to be more like their vacation self in their day-to-day life back home, believing that they are the best version of themselves while on holiday. And with AI set to transform 2024, travellers are increasingly plugging into tech to do the grunt work, freeing them up to stretch their imagination, tuning into their intuition and sparking more soul-stirring experiences. Among them, the survey found seven distinct travel behaviours to emerge in the new year.

1. (Alter) Ego Enthusiasts

Watching the sunrise at a Moroccan desert camp

In 2024, Hong Kong travellers will feel more alive by creating their very own epic alter egos on vacation, with more than 63 percent making up stories about their real life 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 enjoying the anonymity of travel and the chance to recreate themselves.

Fuelling the idea that people take on different personas when travelling to feel more alive, 78 percent feel they are the best version of themselves on vacation, able to shed inhibitions and embrace new aspects of their personalities. What’s more, 66 percent of Hong Kong travellers feel “main character energy” on their travels, with these performers empowered to be the stars of their own life.

2. Cool-cationers

A massive arch within a tabular iceberg in Antarctica.

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 travellers chasing cooler climes to revive and refresh themselves. The majority (60 percent) of APAC travellers report that climate change will impact the way they plan their vacation in 2024, with over half of Hong Kongers saying 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 and helps people wash away their worries. Almost three-quarters agree that being close to water instantly makes them feel more relaxed, with over a third interested in water-centric vacations in 2024. As people dive headfirst into aquatic escapes, mindful water immersion will quickly become the next mainstream version of meditation, where the wild-swimming craze meets the ice therapy movement. This fresh form of feel-alive 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’, with water no longer the backdrop but the main event.

3. Surrender Seekers

Sunrise Scene of Red Sand Dune and Amazing Rock in Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

In 2024, just bring yourself. Travellers increasingly want to surrender themselves to the element of surprise, explore the unknown and venture into uncharted territory on vacation, with over half of Hong Kongers keen to book a surprise trip where everything down to the destination is unknown until arrival. Averse to the ‘sameness’ of everyday life and actively avoiding cookie-cutter experiences, the intuitively adventurous traveller of 2024 wants to step outside of the homogenised vacation, with 63 percent preferring to venture off the beaten path and 47 percent seeking to travel with strangers.

Shifting from rigorous planning to chance encounters and experiences with a roll of the dice, these surrender seekers are relinquishing control for the art of letting go – with carpe diem as their life motto. The majority would like to have no plans set in stone prior to travelling in 2024 so they can go where the wind takes them, while over two-thirds prefer to travel with loose plans so they can change direction based on what feels good at the moment.

The travel industry is already responding fast with tech-enabled flexible services, giving travellers the option to cancel, change plans, and buy now, pay later at the press of a button. The explosion of AI is going mainstream in 2024: 59 percent would trust AI to plan a trip for them, with a third of baby boomers and one in five of the silent generation finally surrendering to AI in order to assist their travel plans in the year ahead.

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4. Culinary Excavators

The food archaeologists of 2024 will dig deep into the roots of food on vacation to unearth new culinary treasures, with nearly three quarters 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 favour of preserving the true craftsmanship of traditional dishes; leaning on gastro-tourism to embrace the unique history, geography and produce that makes for one-of-a-kind cuisine that will awaken the senses.

90 percent of Hong Kongers want to try indigenous cuisines in 2024, and heritage flavours are in the spotlight with travellers putting power in the hands of the under-represented, unlocking the secrets of cultures which may have been lost or forgotten in other parts of the world. Expect an increase in indigenous experiences that take travellers on trails that tell the story behind the food they serve, bringing pride and income to communities around the globe.

Foodies in 2024 will be experientialists who fluctuate between digital and physical realities to transform every discovery into a heightened multi-sensory extravaganza, many have expressed wanting an immersive ‘phygital’ food experience enhanced by VR or AR. Think mood-altering lighting, paired fragrances and sensual soundscapes that enhance the traces of foodways past.

5. Reboot Retreaters

When things are falling apart back home amid global instability and an ever-hectic world, dishevelled travellers 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 76 percent of Hong Kongers who want to travel in 2024 to solely focus on uninterrupted shut-eye.

For those who are used to sleeping solo, they would carve out time for a matchmaking holiday to find a spark with a new partner or lover, while 51 percent would focus on a heartbreak holiday to get over an ex. On the contrary, for those still rocking their relationships, a quarter want to deepen that human connection with their partner as their main priority for travelling in 2024. On the flip side, those increasingly frazzled parents, are surprisingly seeking solace on completely solo holidays, with the majority planning to travel alone in 2024, dropping the kids and their partners to prioritise their vitality.

6. A La Carte Affluencers

Fuelled by the cost of living crisis alongside the mainstream stealth wealth trends of 2023, travellers in 2024 will employ money-saving hacks to cut costs, yet level up vacations with ‘à la carte’ luxuries, scoring a rush from travelling like the rich – even if just for a moment in time. These à la carte ‘affluencers’ 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 their travel partner in crime, AI. In fact, more than half of travellers will want insights and tips from AI when on vacation to upgrade experiences with suggested ancillaries and deals, all with a flick of their finger. 

Additionally, 60 percent of Hong Kong travellers plan to pick destinations in 2024 where the cost of living is less expensive than their hometown while travelling closer to home is also a draw for some who will be searching for luxe-for-less copycat vacations to reduce costs in 2024. Many travellers 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 planning to take their children out of school to travel outside of peak season to make their money stretch further in 2024.

7. Mindful Aesthetes

Once upon a time, the words sustainable and stylish were not necessarily synonymous, with the words ‘eco-travel’ conjuring up visions of primitive 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 exceptional design were solely associated with excess and extravagance, with a growing movement of hotels and other unique places to stay presenting inventive, yet aesthetically pleasing responses to significant environmental and social challenges. These discerning travellers will hunt down jaw-dropping architecture that has environmental features at its heart, with over half looking for accommodation that has wow-factor sustainability innovation. An overwhelming amount of respondents want to see sustainability in action, while a majority of travellers from Hong Kong want to see the outside brought indoors with green spaces and plants in accommodations on vacation.

Photos courtesy of Booking.com

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