Country specialists from bespoke tour operator Audley Travel have shared their insights into what clients are booking for 2024 and why, as well as their thoughts on other travel trends for the coming year. Here’s what they had to say:
With availability tight for many popular destinations, Audley’s specialists report clients are opting for alternatives to enjoy popular or iconic sights and experiences away from the crowds. South Korea is a popular “switch” for clients wanting to see Japan’s cherry blossoms and Nicaragua is an excellent alternative for a client keen to visit the rainforest instead of Costa Rica. The same trend is seen within destinations, with clients choosing to visit lesser-known parts of countries like South Africa—for example, flying into Durban and exploring KwaZulu-Natal’s game reserves and the Drakensberg Mountains, learning about the history of the battlefields and then relaxing at a remote beach lodge on the coast.
Clients travelling in 2024 are increasingly booking popular and well-established destinations and experiences in the offseason. From booking a winter trip on the popular Glacier Express and Golden Pass trains in Switzerland, to taking a safari vacation in “green season,” Audley’s clients are taking advantage of lower prices and better availability away from the peak times.
A Move Back to Curious Travel
As borders reopened, ticking things off bucket lists was a key motivator for travel (cited by 72 percent of Audley’s country specialists for 2023 travel, but only 36 percent for 2024 travel). Clients who have taken their much-longed-for bucket-list trips are now moving back to more curious travel exploring off-the-beaten-track for future adventures.
Along those lines, Audley’s country specialists report an increasing interest in cultural experiences—for example, around the Maasai in East Africa as well as an interest in more remote and authentic safari destinations like Ruaha National Park. They also have seen more requests for “authentic” hotels that reflect the culture of the country.
Luxury Bookings Continue to Grow
Despite the rising cost of living, Audley reports continued growth in demand for luxury properties and experiences. Luxury lodges in Australia and New Zealand are selling faster than they did pre-2020 and there is a lot of demand for small-ship expedition-style cruising. Audley’s country specialists for Latin America report that people are looking for more comfort and upgrading their flights.
More Experiential and Customized Travel
Following on the heels of the last trend, clients are asking for more “unique” experiences when they travel. Audley’s North America specialists are responding with suggestions of experiences such as guided kayak and camping trips to see whales and wolves.
This trend is also being recognized by Audley’s partners in destinations. These country specialists report that an increasing number of partners are customizing the excursions and experiences that they offer for individual clients, moving away from set tours and adapting their plans to the needs and wants of the customer.
Travelling responsibly remains important. Research conducted recently found that 68 percent say that having sustainable travel options (e.g., lower carbon flights) is important to them. T
Motivations for Travel
Despite an increase in “curious travel,” a long-awaited bucket-list trip remains the top motivator for 2024 travel (albeit at lower levels than in for 2023 travel). Audley’s specialists cite this as the reason for 36 percent of all trips. Following, celebrating a personal milestone (birthday, anniversary, retirement, graduation etc.) was cited as the reason for 24 percent of trips and spending time with the family was the reason for 14 percent.
Where Audley’s clients are booking: According to bookings for 2023 and 2024 made by October 16, the top destinations for 2024 travel are Italy, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand (matching the top five destinations for 2023 bookings). The average duration for 2024 bookings is 15.8 days, up 2.6 percent from 15.4 days in 2023.