Where in years past travel has been a means to escape life, Booking.com is releasing research that shows that travel is life in 2024. With almost three quarters (71%) revealing that they feel more alive than ever when they are on holiday, and 65% wanting to be more like their holiday self in their day-to-day life back home. That’s because 66% also think 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, tune into their intuition and spark more soul-stirring experiences.
To explore how travel will transport people out of autopilot and into unleashing their best life, Booking.com commissioned research among more than 27,000 travellers across 33 countries and territories, combining it with its insights as a leading digital travel platform to reveal seven predictions for travel in 2024.
(Alter) Ego Enthusiasts
In 2024, travellers will feel more alive by creating their very own epic alter egos on holiday, with more than a third of UK tourists (32%) 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 self, with over a half of UK travellers (56%) 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, over two thirds of UK tourists (66%) feel they are the best version of themselves on holiday, able to shed inhibitions and embrace new aspects of their personalities, while 32% would even pay to rent a nicer car than they drive at home to live their finest lives with confidence. What’s more, over half (51%) of UK travellers feel ‘main character energy’ on their travels, with these performers empowered to be the stars of their own life.
Aliases and avatars abound, both IRL and through VR and AR. Those digital alter egos with a desire for wanderlust can go anywhere and do anything in the metaverse, and in 2024 the people behind them will bring their digital fantasies to life in real-world destinations.
Heat has officially had its holiday 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 of UK travellers (42%) report that climate change will impact the way they plan their holiday in 2024, while more than two out of five UK travellers (43%) say that as temperatures soar close to home, they will use their holiday 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. Just under three quarters of UK travellers (74%) agree that being close to water instantly makes them feel more relaxed, with just under a third of UK tourists (28%) are interested in water-centric holidays 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 (thanks, Wim Hof). 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.
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 holiday, with half of UK tourists (50%) 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 holiday, with 52% preferring to venture off the beaten path and a third (30%) 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 their life motto. Over half of UK travellers (56%) would like to have no plans set in stone prior to travelling in 2024 so they can go where the wind takes them, while two thirds of UK tourists (60%) prefer to travel with loose plans so they can change direction based on what feels good in 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, which has already seen the launch of Booking.com’s AI Trip planner, is going mainstream in 2024: 36% would trust AI to plan a trip for them, with a third of baby boomers (30%) and one in five (20%) of the silent generation finally surrendering to AI in order to assist their travels plans in the year ahead.
The food archaeologists of 2024 will dig deep into the roots of food on holiday to unearth new culinary treasures, with over a half of UK travellers (52%) 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.
Almost four in five of UK tourists (78%) 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.
Foodie travellers in 2024 will be experientialists who fluctuate between digital and physical realities to transform every discovery into a heightened multisensory extravaganza, with two in five of UK tourists (40%) 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.
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 55% who want to travel in 2024 to solely focus on uninterrupted shut-eye.
For those who are used to sleeping solo, over a third (33%) of UK travellers would carve out time for a matchmaking holiday to find a spark with a new partner or lover, while more than a third (34%) would focus on a heartbreak holiday to get over an ex. On the contrary, for those still rocking their relationships, just under a quarter of UK tourists (23%) want to deepen that human connection with their partner as their main priority for travelling in 2024. On the flip side, for those increasingly frazzled parents, they are surprisingly seeking solace on completely solo holidays, with just under a half (45%) planning to travel alone in 2024, dropping the kids and their partners to prioritise their vitality.
Taking the impetus to reinvent their ‘real’ life even further, almost half of all UK travellers (46%) revealed that the stripped-back lifestyle of agrarian and indigenous communities, where self-sufficiency is a way of life, would appeal to them in 2024. Beyond just back to basics, the focus is on a better balance with nature and the elements to reset their day-to-day back home.
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 holidays 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, almost a half (48%) of travellers will want insights and tips from AI when on holiday to upgrade experiences with suggested ancillaries and deals, all with a flick of their finger.
Additionally, more than a half (53%) of UK 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 holidays to reduce costs in 2024 (43%). Many (46%) UK 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 (48%) planning to take their children out of school to travel outside of peak season to make their money stretch further in 2024.
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 new and inspiring doors for travellers 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 almost half (48%) looking for accommodation that has wow-factor sustainability innovation. Almost a half of UK travellers (49%) want to see sustainability in action, while nearly two thirds (59%) want to see the outside brought indoors with green spaces and plants in accommodations on holiday.
In 2024, in exchange for contributing to conservation efforts, sustainable itineraries will give travellers exclusive access to the places that they are helping preserve, in the most mindful and responsible way. A large number are interested in sustainable travel apps where they can unlock rewards (46%), such as experiences with locals in off-the-beaten-path areas (50%) or visiting remote locations that tourists otherwise have limited access to (44%). The mindful aesthetes are a reminder that it’s possible to bring home all the holiday feels, but also that bold sense of purpose to feel more deeply connected to the environment and surrounding communities when back at home as well.
Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com comments: “Our 2024 travel predictions reflect the idea that travel is not a means to escape life, but instead a catalyst to live our best lives. From thrilling adventures in a new destination to feeling the pulse of a new culture and every experience in between, travel allows us to become the best version of ourselves. At Booking.com, it’s our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world and we believe in the power of travel to inspire, transform, and enrich lives and we are committed to empowering extraordinary experiences that resonate with the heartbeat of each and every traveller in 2024 and beyond.”