With visitor numbers having recovered to around 95% of 2019 levels, there’s much for European destinations to be optimistic about in the lead up to 2024. Here we take a look at some of the biggest trends and insights from the travel and tourism sector right now, from rising inflation and the resurgence of train travel to the impact of AI.
The latest quarterly report from the European Travel Commission suggests that Europe had recovered to around 95% of 2019 levels of international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2023. This recovery has been fuelled by a strong desire to travel in spite of widespread inflation and higher living costs.
According to the latest booking data, international air ticket sales into or within Europe have reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels, with domestic flights trailing slightly at 82%.
Transatlantic travel has performed particularly well, thanks to a strong US dollar and more low cost carriers making travel to Europe more affordable. This marks a stark contrast to recent years in which the pandemic has forced people to focus more on domestic travel.
This positivity is being replicated across the globe. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) forecasts that nearly 50% of the 185 participating countries will have either recovered to pre-pandemic levels or be within 95% of full recovery by the end of 2023.
Affordability will be a key theme across much of Europe as it experiences high levels of inflation. Travellers are still showing willingness to pay for experiences, but destinations which can provide value for money are set to reap the greatest rewards.
Value for money will be a key consideration for British holidaymakers in particular as the UK contends with one of the highest levels of inflation in Western Europe. This has already impacted the off-peak travel season and many are expecting the data to clearly reflect this during peak-summer season (late July and August).
As tourism rebounds to pre-pandemic levels prices are rising accordingly. One example of this is Accor, Europe’s largest hotel chain, which increased its average room rate by 18% in the first six months of 2023 compared to a year earlier. According to a recent piece in the Financial Times, there are even fears that a wave of inflation driven by tourism demand this summer could complicate efforts to keep wider price rises under control.
This surge in tourism has made it difficult for certain airports to keep up with demand - recent data from FlightAware showed an average of 30,000 delayed flights per day globally. When combined with greater understanding around sustainable and responsible tourism, it comes as little surprise then that train travel is set for a renaissance in 2024.
Italy has gone so far as to announce a ‘Tourism Focused Train Initiative’ aimed at helping visitors to the country travel around more sustainably. Tourists will be able to choose between ‘lusso’ (luxury), ‘espressi’ (Express) and ‘treni storici’ (vintage) trains that will connect major cities to popular tourism destinations.
The more luxurious side of train travel also ties in nicely with ‘experiential’ tourism, another predicted trend for 2024. This all points towards a style of tourism that isn’t just about the destination, but about travel itself.
Other trends for the year ahead:
- Bleisure travel - A regular feature on trends lists and 2024 is no different. Expect the line between business and leisure to becoming increasingly blurred in the year ahead
- Sustainable tourism - another regular on the travel trend round up circuit, opting to travel in a way that supports local communities and helps minimise environmental impact will remain a core consideration for travellers in 2024
- Augmented Reality exploration - In 2024, expect the boundaries between reality and fantasy to begin to disappear as augmented reality (AR) allows destinations to come to life like never before
According to a recent report from the World Travel & Tourism Council, AI and machine learning may increase the global economy of the travel and tourism sector by $1 trillion by 2025. Forward-thinking businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries are already benefiting from the efficiency gains provided by the latest AI technologies. As early as March 2023, the all-in-one travel app KAYAK announced that users could access ChatGPT and ask questions about their hotel and flight inquiries, which the bot would then ask KAYAK.
One of the many ways AI is set to impact tourism in 2024 is automated bookings. This isn’t anything particularly new - In 2020 the online travel booking market was worth $432 billion. By 2025 however, this is estimated to rise to a massive $833 billion.
AI will also play a big role in the rise of personalisation. According to research by McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver increasingly personalised interactions. They also found that 76% of people become frustrated by a lack of personalisation.
For more insights into AI, read our guide to using AI as a PR professional
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