No matter how they choose to unwind, every leisure traveler will expect one thing: a community approach to exceeding their expectations. That is where Destination Managment Organizations (DMOs) come in. Successful DMOs pull community leaders together to build brand awareness for their attractions and recreational opportunities. When everyone is on the same page, their destination is more attractive, and business takes off.
Read more about attracting visitors as a community. First, dig into the 2024 travel trends.
2024 Trends: More Bleisure Travel, A Focus on Wellness, and Train Trips
Travelers are spending slightly more money this year than last, but not on the same things. The U.S. Travel Association’s October report shows overall spending on travel is up 3.8% year-to-date, and hotel revenue was flat in September—the fifth month in a row. The demand for air travel increased 10% in September compared to a year ago.
Next year may not be so good. In August, Destination Analysts surveyed travelers on how much they expect to spend in the next 12 months. The average answer was $3,505, the lowest budget since fall 2021.
Yes, travelers are on the move, but they are spending wisely and vacationing in novel places and in new ways. The top 2024 travel trends include combining leisure travel with business travel, taking trains instead of planes, and more luxurious vacations.
More Bleisure Travel
Destinations have an excellent opportunity to capitalize on the trend of combining business and leisure travel. Visit Anaheim surveyed 2,000 business travelers in 2022 and found that 65% had combined business and leisure travel. Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim, says Americans have made the most out of being able to travel again in the years since the pandemic.
“Americans are splurging and making up for lost time by treating themselves to trip upgrades, luxury experiences, and longer stays,” Burress says.
Take advantage of the bleisure travel trend by inviting guests to book more nights after a convention; collaborate with community partners to promote your city’s offerings to business travelers; and offer opportunities to wind down after a meeting.
Travelers who want to rejuvenate their minds and bodies are fueling a surge in wellness tourism. The sector brought in $800 million in 2022. Revenue is expected to double by 2030.
Forbes’ latest list of top wellness destinations includes resorts and spas around the world. Most are in stunning settings in the mountains or desert, or on a beach. The Peninsula New York also makes the list. On its website, The Peninsula describes its Fifth Avenue Wellness Retreat as a wellness journey to “pursue your mindfulness and nutritional goals.”
Tap into the wellness tourism trend with some ideas inspired by top resorts:
- Meet the exercise needs of guests by paying attention to what is hot in fitness, then adding amenities. Hilton has Peloton Bikes in nearly all its hotels. Guests log into their Peloton account and stay on top of their fitness goals while they travel.
- Offer classes on organic gardening. At the Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania, chefs use organic ingredients grown at the resort’s own farm. Guests walk through the gardens with the resort’s farmer, learning along the way how to grow fruit and vegetables without chemicals.
- List nearby wellness activities on your website and give guests a copy of the list when they arrive. Get ideas from L’Auberge de Sedona, Conde Nast’s #1 hotel in the Southwest and West. The resort’s website has a complete guide to nearby outdoor activities, art galleries, yoga studios, excursions, and more.
- Cater to the popularity of cannabis tourism by giving guests information on local shops and events. Visit Oakland's Cannabis Trail takes visitors to iconic cannabis shops like Harborside Wellness, art galleries, and restaurants.
Find more ideas on the websites of wellness resorts, then create your own wellness activities.
Expect to see more visitors arriving by train in 2024 than in recent years. Environmentally aware leisure travelers are choosing train trips instead of flying and enjoying the sites along the way.
When a train stops in a town, and the tourists disembark, they want to know what to do and where to find it. Destination organizations can seize this opportunity to further engage their communities. When restaurants, shops, and attractions are on the same page, the visitor experience improves, and customers keep coming back.
The luxury travel industry is seeing record growth. Virtuoso reports sales of its luxury travel packages jumped 37% in the first half of 2023 compared to last year. The growth since 2019 is even more remarkable. Virtuoso's first and second quarter sales were 56% higher than the same period in 2019.
Trends within the luxury travel sector include guests booking earlier and for longer stays. High-end travelers care more about the experience than the price. They want VIP treatment from knowledgeable employees including privacy, safety, and fast-tracked entrances.
Align the Values of Your Community with Your Visitors’ Vision
Decide which travel trends apply to your community and get ready to seize the moment. While you are doing that, do not forget to continue asking whether you are delivering what guests want. Do your values align with theirs? How do guests feel while they visit your community? Are their needs met by knowledgeable staff with excellent interpersonal skills? What if they are not?
Improve the visitor experience with a well-crafted strategic plan. Treat ‘em Right will help you with this. Our services include:
- Assessments of how well your practices align with the values of your visitors;
- Guidance on when and how to improve your community’s culture to better meet the needs of visitors; and
- Visitor experience education (VXE) for both employees and community members.
Visit Manhattan successfully engaged the community in improving its visitor experience with help from Treat ‘em Right. Dozens of employees at retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and other attractions have received VXE online. Karen Hibbard, retired president of Visit Manhattan, knew exactly what she wanted when she launched the program.
"We want to make sure that when people come to Manhattan, Kansas, that they experience unsolicited friendliness.”
Karen’s enthusiasm is contagious. Other DMOs, including Destination Niagara Falls USA, share VXE with everyone who meets visitors including cab drivers, travel agencies, tour operators, and short-term rental owners.
Destination International’s New Community Vitality Wheel
When a city becomes known for its hospitality and welcoming spirit, more people want to visit, live, and work there. Destinations International created a new way to illustrate the work of destination organizations—a wheel describing how communities grow through destination promotion.
People get on the wheel when they visit your community. Their visitor experience guides them in deciding whether to take the next steps—living, working, and investing in your community.
Visitor experience education is priceless for both your organization and your community. Let us start a conversation about how to improve your visitor experience in 2024. Contact us online or call us at 314-221-6037.