Week in Review: Travel Priorities Shift; Record Year for Hotels

“Revenge travel” has seemingly run its course, as just 11 percent of Americans said they were still making up for missed trips at the end of 2023. That said, consumers are exhibiting a sustained interest in travel, with interest shifting from a reactionary impulse to a redefined priority.

According to Deloitte’s “2024 Travel Outlook,” Americans’ travel spending intentions have shown more resilience than other spending categories, such as retail or automotive. Enthusiasm for in-destination activities is growing, as well. Americans also expanded their overseas destinations in 2023— first with very strong demand to visit Europe in the summer, followed by surges in interest in South America, Asia, and Africa. Overall, many Americans’ trips appear oriented toward exploration and new experiences—not just relaxation and escape. All in all, it’s a great sign for the industry and a great sign for travel advisors’ businesses.

To tap into a new market, perhaps, consider StudentUniverse’s “The State of Student Travel in 2024” study. It found that Gen Z travelers are prioritizing their mental health, using travel as a way to reset; they are finding inspiration on TikTok (rather than Instagram or Google); and they are interested in being eco-conscious when planning their 2024 trips, booking with companies that have strong green credentials. On the flip side, they are less about partying on vacation than Millennials; international destinations—including Italy, Japan and Greece—are front of mind; and they are looking to go beyond mainstream experiences with curated itineraries that showcase activities and points of interest specific to them.

Major Hotel Companies in Growth Mode

Several major hotel companies in recent weeks have highlighted their record 2023s and detailed their plans for 2024 and beyond—often noting they have the largest pipeline in their respective company’s history. All of this points to continued confidence in travel for the foreseeable future.

Thompson Palm Springs King Guestroom
Hyatt's Thompson Hotels brand will see several new openings this year. Seen here is Thompson Palm Springs. (Hyatt)

Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott all announced record years for signings in 2023. Hilton, additionally, opened more new rooms in Q4 2023 than any other quarter in its history. Both Hyatt and Marriott’s pipelines are driven by an expansion in the luxury sector, while Hilton’s development is led by two new brands: Spark by Hilton and LivSmart Studios by Hilton, a premium economy and long-stay brand, respectively.

Hyatt’s record pipeline includes 127,000 rooms worldwide, Marriott’s global development pipeline totals nearly 3,400 hotels and roughly 573,000 rooms, and Hilton’s pipeline is the largest in its history with nearly 3,300 hotels, totaling more than 462,000 rooms.

Bangkok-based Minor Hotels is expecting to increase its hotel and room count by 40 percent in the coming three years. In all, it’s planning to debut over 200 new hotels globally, adding more than 30,000 rooms to its existing 80,000. The Anantara, Avani, Oaks, Tivoli and NH Hotels brands are expected to be the key drivers of portfolio growth over the next three years, with Avani alone expected to more than double its property count to almost 100. The company expects to unveil multiple new brands in 2024 and 2025, as well.  

Four Seasons, for its part, is planning to expand across all of its platforms—including its hotels and resorts, branded residents, and its Four Seasons Yachts venture. On the hotel front, the company had more than 50 hotels and resorts in various stages of development, with plenty of additional investments planned for its existing portfolio of 128 resorts. Additionally, Four Seasons Yachts is moving toward its inaugural voyage, which will set sail in late 2025. First announced in September 2022, the first ship will take Four Seasons’ service to the high seas aboard a vessel that touts the higher suite size, more amenities and a better staff-to-guest ratio than currently exists in the market.

Cruise Updates

Sun Princess
Sun Princess' inaugural sailing on February 8 has been canceled. (Princess Cruises)

Elsewhere in the cruise space, Princess Cruises’ largest ship, Sun Princess, will be delayed in its delivery. As a result, its inaugural 10-day voyage, originally set to depart from Barcelona on February 8, has been canceled. Princess and its shipbuilder, Fincantieri mutually agreed to the delay.

Guests who were booked on the voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise fare along with any additional onboard services that were pre-purchased, as well as a 50 percent future cruise credit (FCC) that can be used on a future Princess voyage. Guests also will receive up to $200 per person for change fees related to air travel plans.

The cruise industry also has a new leading voice. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced that Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty has been appointed chairman by its Board of Directors. Liberty succeeds Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, who served in the role since January 2021.

The global chair for CLIA provides leadership to the CLIA Global Executive Committee and the Board of Directors, responsible for establishing the overall strategic direction of the association on behalf of its cruise line members (which represent 95 percent of the world’s ocean-going cruise lines). As part of CLIA’s long-term strategy, member lines have set inspiring sustainability goals, and each year the CLIA member fleet becomes more efficient as member lines embrace new technologies, innovations and, as available, the uptake of sustainable alternative fuels.

Travel Agency Network Events

Internova Plus 2024_Internova Travel Group_J.D. O’Hara_Vanessa Williams_Albert Herrera
J.D. O’Hara, CEO of Internova Travel Group; Vanessa Williams, GM at The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club; and Albert Herrera, EVP, partner relations at Internova Travel Group. (Internova Travel Group)

Internova Travel Group recently concluded its Internova PLUS event at the Pendry Newport Beach in California. The event included 125 luxury travel advisors from each of Internova’s brands (ALTOUR, Global Travel Collection, Nexion Travel Group, Travel Leaders Network and CTS of Mexico City) as well as 125 partners from across the travel industry. Highlights included a conversation between Internova Travel Group CEO J.D. O’Hara and EVP, Partner Relations Albert Herrera, who discussed Internova’s plans for the future and what excites them about the year ahead; Think Tank sessions; networking appointments; and family-style dinners at venues throughout the Pendry.

The next Internova PLUS event will be held at The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, FL, January 27-30, 2025.

Dream Vacations and CruiseOne have announced plans for new training programs designed for the variety of advisor experience levels in the network. The "Foundation Series" is a monthly webinar series focused on the foundational knowledge needed to be a successful travel advisor and the monthly webinar "Masterclass Series" covers essential topics like budgeting, leadership, industry insights, people management/team building, travel agent marketing, back-office solutions, groups, personal branding, entrepreneurship and learning theory.

In-person Business Intensive classes, Regional Trainings and an in-depth "Immersive Education Series," plus more, are also on tap for 2024.

Good to Know

Southwest Airlines aircraft taking off
Southwest's 21,000 flight attendants could strike if a new contract is not agreed upon. (Photo by Southwest Airlines)

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has rebranded as UN Tourism. With the new name, the organization is reaffirming its status as the United Nations’ specialized agency for tourism and as the global leader of tourism for development, driving social and economic change to ensure that “people and planet” are always center stage.

Separately, Southwest Airlines flight attendants have voted to authorize a strike. If the airline and union can’t reach an agreement on a new contract—in which flight attendants want better scheduling for on-call rotations, appropriate compensation for ground time, improved commuter policies, and the ability to have a safe place to sleep on overnights—more than 21,000 flight attendants could strike following a 30-day cooling-off period. This is the first time in the union’s history that flight attendants have taken a vote to authorize a strike against Southwest Airlines. It comes days after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association approved a new contract with the carrier.

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