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Travel Trends 2024

 
2023 has been a huge year for adventure travel – and Explore Worldwide’s highest-revenue year in its 42-year history. Now the operator’s experienced travel experts are looking ahead to predict how, where and why we’ll be travelling in 2024.

We’ve crunched the numbers, looked into thousands of trips and passengers, analysed booking patterns and scoped global trends to provide an adventure travel outlook for 2024. From vast, isolated landscapes and epic pilgrimages to the bustle and buzz of the Far East, and from slow, sustainable trips overland to busy holidays with super-chilled beach extensions, here are our top predictions for how our 2024 adventures might look.

1. Transformational trips

Over the last few years, one thing’s been very clear – we want more from our vacations. Rest and relaxation? That’s great, but what else? We want to come home from our long-awaited breaks having experienced something new, having learned something – about the world and about ourselves - or achieved something. We love vacations that combine wellbeing and growth, and Explore’s booking stats back this up. The company’s active holidays are up 29% this year, with walking holidays up a whopping 52% since pre-pandemic.
 
Walking holidays with particular emphasis on self-reflection and personal growth are selling particularly well, such as the legendary Camino de Santiago, up 20% on 2022, and Inca Trail treks up 40%.    

2. The rebound of Asia!

This time last year, believe it or not, much of Asia was still closed to travellers. Over the last six months, Asian destinations have been experiencing a rebound.

Explore’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Luke Judd reports a 98% increase in traffic to India trip webpages in 2023 v 2022. Meanwhile Cambodia (+76%), Vietnam (+82%) and Thailand (+60%) have also seen a huge spike in popularity.  New to the company’s portfolio for 2024 are Japan’s Sapporo Festival and China, back after a few years’ hiatus.   
 

3. Undertourism

Escaping the crowds and visiting more remote, esoteric destinations holds greater appeal than ever. Destinations like Namibia (49% up), Romania (up 103%) and New Zealand (up 69%) are seeing big growth this year, while trips to Mongolia and Guyana have more than doubled, albeit on smaller numbers.
 
Explore focuses on doing things a little differently to most, and its expert product team are always looking for new destinations for adventure travel, or new ways to take in old favourites. Choose to cycle between the major temples of Angkor Wat while 99% of visitors travel by bus, thus avoiding other vacation makers and getting much closer to the jungle and local life along the way.
Or choose Croatia’s pristine Brac island over trendy Hvar for an equally blissful beach experience away from the crowds. Take in Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca by all means, but don’t miss the festivities in Guatemala which are incredibly vibrant but usually only frequented by locals.
 
New for 2024 is Tunisia – as the first small group operator back into Tunisia, Explore offers a different, quieter take on the country avoiding the mass tourism of the coast. Meanwhile a new family holiday to Albania showcases a stunning, quieter European alternative to Greece or Croatia.

4. Priorities shift – value, not cost

New research* from Explore Worldwide shows that what we value most about our holiday and leisure time is changing, with cost (9%) coming out lowest when it comes to what we value most. Right at the top of our priority list is spending quality time with family and friends (more than a quarter of us value this highest, even above cost and trying new activities), followed by making memories that last a lifetime (20%). 

Head of Business Intelligence for Explore, David Bray says: “we’ve always benchmarked our trips, working really hard to ensure we’re very competitive not just on price but on the experiences and inclusions of our trips, so that our customers get fantastic value.”
 
Check out 9.5 Questions to Ask Your Small Group Holiday Operator before you book to ensure you get the right trip, at the right price, for you.

 

5. The e-bike revolution

E bike snobbery is so 2019! An electric bike can be a fantastic introduction to cycling holidays, and enable cyclists to take on more challenging terrains than they’d usually choose, from rolling vineyards to steeper mountain climbs. Use the support of the bike’s built-in motor to give you an extra boost, or choose to go under your own steam – with an ebike, you can do a bit of both. Ebike options are now available on almost every Explore cycling trip – the latest trip to have a new ebike option is Cycle Mexico.
 
Need more convincing? Explore has compiled a few more reasons to try an e-bike on your cycling holiday in this blogpost. 

6. Overland travel

Sustainable travel is no longer a trend. It’s an imperative way to ensure we can protect our planet and continue to enjoy the world.

Since calculating and displaying carbon footprints for all its trips in early 2022, Explore has been working hard to drive down its carbon footprint, with a target of 7% reduction for this year. The company’s Product Team has been making changes across the board, working in collaboration with higher-carbon suppliers to make greener choices. Sustainability specialist at Explore, Hannah Methven, says:“this year we’ve added a new rail journey in Laos and relaunched an Azores walking tour with two domestic flights removed. We’ve also introduced a brand new foodie trip to Bordeaux that includes several train trips (and indeed can easily be reached by train) and e-vehicles. These are just a few changes that not only help lower our carbon footprint, but add to the authenticity and enjoyment of the experience”.

Another year of innovations in this space have led to Explore being named Sustainable Travel Company of the Year 2023 in the recent Travel Industry Awards by TTG.
 

7. Chill-venture

We know that, due to financial and environmental concerns, many people are taking fewer overseas trips each year, but they are making them count – travelling for longer, and taking time to really get under the skin of their destination – as well as building in time to really switch off. Travellers are packing in a lot to their precious trips when they do happen - culture, experiences, action, and then – increasingly – building in some chill time. Explore has noted an increase of 81% in booking pre or post trip extensions this year. Popular extensions include a four-night Zanzibar island extension for some beach time after a busy Tanzanian safari with early morning game drives and evening wildlife walks, and a three-night Peruvian Amazon extension to discover the rainforest and incredible wildlife from a comfortable lodge – perfect after walking the Inca Trail.

8. Booking early to secure today’s price

Since the Covid pandemic, holidaymakers have been booking trips closer and closer to their departure. What started as a game of ‘wait and see’ on which countries would be open and which trips operating, became a more reactive response to holiday deals and reduced inclination to put off till tomorrow what can be done now – see Explore’s 2023 trends of ‘Carpe Diem travel’. Last year, the average span between booking and travelling on an Explore trip was on average two weeks shorter than 2019. However, as inflation really starts to bite, booking periods look set to get longer again as travellers lock in their 2024 trips to secure current pricing. On bookings for 2024, Explore has already reported a 20% increase in booking lead time compared with the same period last year.
 
Bray says “booking early seems an increasingly popular option for those that want to plan their outgoings ahead of time. Once your Explore booking is confirmed the advertised price is guarantee, whatever the circumstances – so travellers can rest assured that any subsequent surcharges for fuel, currency etc will be covered by Explore.”
 
*Explore surveyed 2,006 nationally representative UK respondents (aged 16+) via Opinion Matters between 18.08.2023 - 21.08.2023. Opinion Matters abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
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Slow travel, ‘Carpe Diem’ adventures and walking holidays – how we’ll travel in 2023

Holidays are getting more active. The number of people booking walking holidays is up by almost a third on 2019. A recent report from Expedia showed that consumers have tired of the traditional ‘wellness’ and spa holidays, and are now seeking more experiential activity. Explore’s report showing a 30% increase in walking holidays certainly backs up this claim.
“During the pandemic, we all got used to walking more and exploring under our own steam. As a result we’ve a renewed love for discovering places on our own two feet. This is such a rewarding and enriching way to travel that we see this trend only continuing into the future,” says Explore’s Managing Director Michael Edwards. 
More people will be joining group tours solo. Solo travellers have always been a huge part of Explore’s groups, and yet as a trend it continues to grow. This year, 67% of bookings came from solo travellers; up from 64% in 2019. And this is a trend that is growing more widely too, with average monthly search volume for solo travel up 52% year on year.

Average holiday travel spend has increased across most regions – 7% on Europe trips and 8% on Americas, for example – a reflection of increased costs post-Covid, but also a hangover from many of us not being able to travel during the pandemic years. Longer haul, bucket-list type trips are selling incredibly well, reflecting a Carpe Diem mindset; with so many travel opportunities now available again, travellers want to ensure that their next adventure helps make up for the time that’s been lost.

And where we’ll go - top adventure travel destinations for 2023

Europe and the UK are consistently up since the pandemic, but now longer haul destinations are taking over the fastest growing destinations list. Aside from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both new countries to Explore’s programme, destinations like Costa Rica (up 44%), Egypt (up 124%) and Morocco (up 34%) are currently seeing great demand.

Edwards says: “We expect to see European and Middle Eastern destinations continue to grow in 2023 as easy-to-access, great value options. But we’ll also see the big return to more Asian and African destinations.”
Ten fastest-growing travel destinations of 2022
1.    Pakistan
2.    Saudi Arabia
3.    United Kingdom
4.    El Salvador
5.    Montenegro
6.    Cyprus
7.    The Ivory Coast
8.    Guyana
9.    Iceland
10.    Egypt
11.    Croatia
12.    North Macedonia
13.    Azerbaijan
14.    Bosnia and Herzegovina
15.    Portugal

Growth measured by % increase on 2019. 
Polar expeditions are selling strongly for 2023, with bookings leaning more strongly towards Antarctica, perhaps influenced by David Attenborough exposure and the sense of Carpe Diem that the pandemic has induced.

And it’s not just Antarctica that has been given a boost by this mindset. Other traditional big-ticket bucketlist trips like Kilimanjaro Climb (up 9%), Maldives Dhoni Cruise (up 17%) and Inca Trail (up 37%) have seen similar growth. Online search terms around ‘bucketlist’ travel, including ‘ultimate bucketlist’ and ‘bucketlist ideas’ are up 39% post Covid. 

On the post-Covid ‘Seize the Day’ mentality of adventure travellers, Marketing Director Jae Hopkins says: “We’re all guilty of saving the epic big adventures we’ve long dreamed of to a mental ‘to-do’ list, for when we have more time, more money or are celebrating a special milestone. Since Covid, I think we’re more aware how quickly things can change, and how we so often don’t get around to those ‘one day’ plans. Since travel has opened up post-pandemic, perhaps unsurprisingly we’re seeing these once-in-a-lifetime trips being booked in far greater numbers. More people are taking on challenges, more people are travelling solo – rather than waiting for friends and family plans to align – and just doing it.” 

How we’ll book it – how our travel booking habits will change in 2023

Across the board, whether booking cycling trips in Europe, family safaris or far-flung cultural tours, travellers are starting to book their holidays much closer to departure. The average time between tour booking and travelling for summer holidays in 2022 was 131 days – that’s almost seven weeks later than bookings were made for summer 2019. 

In the last 12 weeks, Explore has seen a 50% increase in travellers booking Explore adventures via travel agents. Director of Sales, Ben Ittensohn, says “Our travel agent relationships have gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years. We really value the wealth of knowledge and the fantastic relationships our agents have with our clients, and we support them with excellent training opportunities, FAM trips, and 50% discount on their own holiday with us.”

 
For more information, contact Explore’s PR Coordinator Caroline Hook, caroline.hook@explore.co.uk or Senior PR & Communications Manager Laura Dewarlaura.dewar@explore.co.uk
 
About Explore: Explore has over 40 years’ experience in creating expert-led small group tours all over the world. Tours that are all about getting under the skin of your destination: making friends, treading lightly, and being mindful of local communities. With more than 350 trips in 100 countries, the company offers everything from classic cultural holidays and wildlife safaris to walking and cycling trips, family adventures and even polar expeditions.