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2024 Destination Marketing Predictions Part 1: Trends and Triggers Shaping Travel in 2024

Megan Schlosser Filak Senior Marketing Communications Specialist

Looking into the year ahead, we asked a few of our experts to weigh in on what DMOs could expect in 2024. No crystal balls were used, but instead pulling from data, experience, and a firm understanding of the industry, the following are our predictions for destination marketing in 2024.

This first blog in this two-part series focuses on our predictions of what will be impacting and motivating travel in 2024. Part two centers around the technology and trends DMOs will be tapping into in the new year.

Trends and Triggers Shaping Travel in 2024

The travel industry is its own ecosystem — made up of many interconnected elements, influenced by both internal and external factors. As we’ve seen over recent years, a shift, whether positive or negative, can set off ripples across the tourism ecosystem. As we step into 2024, we see this as a time for learning how to stay ahead of these shifts to ensure your destination achieves its goals for both visitors and residents. 

Outside influences 

One of the biggest challenges destinations will have to contend with this year is continued negative economic perceptions among consumers. At the beginning of 2023, consumers’ economic anxiety was higher, with many analysts reporting that a recession was imminent.  While the recession fears were unfounded, and 2024 is starting off with easing inflation and a strong macroeconomic forecast, many consumers are still bearish about the economy.

According to travel and tourism research firm Future Partners, nearly half of travelers carry what they consider to be significant debt, such as credit card debt, student loans, and mortgages. Compounding that is the presidential election happening later this year. Historically, election years have played on the stock market as investors predict how the parties in power will affect economic policies. 

The upcoming election will likely have another impact on tourism as politics once again comes front and center in the news and in homes. “Destinations inside states with polarizing political views will continue to find challenges in separating their destination outside of the heightened noise during the election year,” said PR Director Brianna Francis. 

“Travelers will increasingly (and unfortunately) factor politics into their travel plans, selecting destinations which align with their values and perspective,” Matt Stiker, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy agreed. “This will further alienate and polarize us, at a time when we need to be brought more closely together.”

Looking for an escape

While these factors may deter some from booking vacations, there is evidence that among others, it does the opposite. “Consumers, more than ever, want and need a reprieve. Mental health will be more of a focus than ever, and travel can be an escape,” said Kristin Dialessi, Senior Vice President at Madden.

2024 Destination Marketing Predictions Part 1: Trends and Triggers Shaping Travel in 2024

“In a time of economic uncertainty and general emotional and political distress, folks will be more aware of what they’re spending while also looking to escape the monotony and day-to-day of everyday stressors,” agreed Creative Director Katie Connolly.

According to a Global Travel Trends Survey conducted by American Express, 72% of respondents said they are more focused on self-care than they were a year ago with the majority of respondents claiming leisure travel as a break from overstimulation and multi-tasking. 

A quick review of data from Google Trends shows that over the past three years, “mental health travel” terms have grown 30%. The majority of that was in 2022, but that trend maintained into 2023 with 1% year-over-year growth.

2024 Destination Marketing Predictions Part 1: Trends and Triggers Shaping Travel in 2024

Additionally, in 2023, the interest volume was more evenly spread out throughout the year, versus the previous two years where it was up in Q1 and Q2 and then dropped in Q3 and Q4. This signifies that “mental health travel” is trending to be more of an on-going topic that DMOs should try to capture throughout the year, rather than seasonally, said Insights Director Heather Molina.

2024 Destination Marketing Predictions Part 1: Trends and Triggers Shaping Travel in 2024

Digging further into the data and utilizing one of Madden’s research tools, Molina said the largest segments for ‘Traveler Type’ include (in order): 

“When I layer these in with trends from Google, I can see that Adventure Travel and Family Travel both have high interest from users and are currently on an up-swing,” said Molina. 

With an escape and a break from the everyday as a major motivating factor for travel in 2024, travelers will be making sure their pick of destinations is truly a split from their everyday. “Instagrammable” places and moments will continue to influence decision-making. Future Partners reports that streaming video services, along with email campaigns, online content, search engine results, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are now among the top resources American travelers cite for getting trip inspiration. Additionally, entertainment itself is swaying many travelers.

“There is a rise in inspiration to travel for music artists and concerts (tour-touring) and experiencing destinations seen in movies and tv shows (set-setting),” said Glenn Pena, Senior Media Director. “This behavior is similar to sports fans traveling to different cities to watch their favorite football, basketball, soccer, golf, etc. player or team.” 

Up next…

With so many factors influencing travel in 2024, we look at the trends and technology that DMOs will need to stay on top to engage travelers in the new year: Destination Marketing Predictions Part 2: What’s a DMO to Do?

Reach out to take your marketing to the next level in 2024!