Bucket list holidays ‘top motivator’ for travel in 2024, says Audley Travel

Bucket list travel remains the biggest motivator for travel in 2024 but demand had dropped significantly in comparison to this year, according to Audley Travel.

The tour operator surveyed its country specialists in September on trends for travel in the next year, based on bookings made up to October 16, 2023.

Ticking off bucket list destinations was cited by 72% of Audley’s country specialists as a driver for travel this year, following a surge in demand post-Covid, while only 36% said that was key to customers for 2024.

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However, despite the decrease in demand year on year, the operator said a long-awaited bucket list trip remained the top motivator for 2024 travel.

The firm’s specialists said travel to mark a personal milestone such as an anniversary, birthday and retirement was the reason for 24% of trips while spending time with family was cited by 14% of its destination specialists quizzed about clients’ bookings.

The operator reported continued growth in demand for luxury properties and experiences but noted that clients were opting to switch destinations or travel off season to capitalise on cheaper deals and better availability.

It said luxury lodges in Australia and New Zealand have been selling faster than pre-2020. It also cited demand for small ship expedition style cruising, and for more comfort and upgraded flight seats for travel to Latin America.

Top destinations for travel next year for the operator are India, Canada, Japan, the US and Costa Rica, which replaces South Africa in the top five when compared with this year.

The average duration for 2024 bookings is 18.5 days, up 6% from 17.4 days this year.

The trends for the coming year include consumers choosing alternatives to popular and iconic sights and experiences away from the crowds, particularly with availability often tight in key destinations.

Examples of this include South Korea instead of Japan’s cherry blossom and Nicaragua rainforests instead of Costa Rica. There is a similar trend within destinations for lesser-known sights. In South Africa, for example, this includes consumers flying into Durban to see KwaZulu-Natal’s game reserves and the Drakensberg Mountains, learn about the history of the battlefields and then stay in a remote beach lodge on the coast.

The operator said holidaymakers were increasingly booking popular, established destinations and experiences in the off season for 2024 when prices are lower and there is more availability.

Examples include Canada, typically visited for the salmon run from October to December. Travel earlier in the year, such as in May or June, allows clients’ budgets to stretch further and offers opportunities to go spring beach watching instead, the operator said.

Other trends include a return to curious travel and off-the-beaten track adventures. The operator’s country specialists reported rising interest in cultural experiences such as the Maasai in East Africa and more remote safari destinations, such as Ruaha National Park, and more requests for ‘authentic’ hotels reflecting the culture of the country.

In line with that, clients were also asking for more experiential and customised travel, and ‘unique’ experiences, said the operator.

In the US, the operator is suggesting experiences such as guided kayak and camping trips to see whales and wolves or lesser travelled regions such as Saskatchewan and the Yukon, while demand for more customised trips is leading to a move away from set tours.

Separate consumer research, part of the operator’s first Premium Travel Report, highlighted the importance of sustainable travel, with 57% of 2,000 consumers surveyed saying that sustainable travel options were important to them.

The operator said it has focused new product for 2024 on sustainable and responsible tourism and more luxury stays. Additions include private island safari camps in Botswana and trekking the newly opened Pekoe Trail in Sri Lanka.

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