Luxury Travel Lifestyle PR
From tuning in to switching off, Rick Jordan reveals the travel trends that will shape the world over the next 12 months and beyond
2023 was the first full year without Covid-related travel restrictions – a year in which people roamed far and wide in their desire to see the world again, from bucket-list holidays in newly reopened Japan to slow-travel train journeys around Europe. Compared to 2022, UK leisure travel in the first quarter of 2023 was up by around 31 per cent. So despite world events, 2024 is set to be even more adventurous and far-reaching – and far more focused, as people zero in on what motivates them to travel in the first place.
In October 2023, Bloomberg announced that Taylor Swift had reached billionaire status – a wealth larger than some countries’ GDP – thanks in part to her Eras tour, which began in March and will roll on until December 2024. For her fans, of course, the main question will be: how can I get a ticket? Big-name entertainment is driving travel like never before. Swift’s own impact is known as Swiftonomics: when she arrives in Toronto in 2024, for example, her show is expected to generate upward of $660,000 for the city as fans splurge on hotels, travel and food.
The live-music scene is booming and this is bucket-list travel – in a recent survey, a third of music lovers said they would travel to short-haul destinations to see their favourite artists perform. In May 2023, Beyoncé fans flew to Stockholm to see the start of the singer’s Renaissance World Tour, taking advantage of favourable exchange rates to snap up tickets substantially cheaper than in the UK or the USA – the resulting financial effect, naturally, was termed Beyflation.
And it’s not just the big names drawing fans, either: ticket-buying app Dice reports that Rome, Milan and Paris have the most gigs per city for less than £20 in 2024. Grab your passport and my hand…
In January 2024, the world’s largest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas, takes to the waves for the first time – the size of a small city, it has eight neighbourhoods to explore and enough cabins for 5,600 passengers. But the real sea change for 2024 is happening at the other end of the spectrum.
The fastest growing area of the industry is the expedition cruise, offering more intimate experiences with fewer passengers and smaller ships – Aqua Expeditions, for instance, carries 16 to 40 guests abord its five-ship fleet, with the sort of bespoke 1:1 service impossible on larger cruises – while navigating routes into areas difficult to reach other than by boat: the Peruvian Amazon, the Mekong river through Cambodia and Vietnam and a new superyacht sailing the Galapagos Islands, for example.
Expedition cruises have been taking to the waves since the 1960s, but until recently were mainly no-frills trips using former science ships or icebreakers. According to the Virtuoso Luxe Report 2024, ‘small-vessel cruising is on the rise, with upscale voyagers favouring river cruises for the wide-ranging itineraries and proximity to major cities.’ Recent arrivals such as Seabourn Venture offer five-star luxury, while in July 2024 travel agency Abercrombie & Kent is chartering luxury icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot for a North Pole Ultimate Frontier expedition, limited to 199 places.
“Having offered expedition-type voyages to Antarctica for some years, Seabourn identified a demand for ultra-luxury adventure travel to the world’s remote destinations and have introduced two new expedition ships in the last two years,” says Carly Perkins, Seabourn’s marketing manager. “As well as strong demand for the polar regions, our new sailings to Australia’s Kimberley region in summer 2024 are proving very popular, showing that warm weather expedition travel is also a real growing trend.”
Glamping may put you in touch with nature while enjoying all the luxuries of a hotel room, but rewilding puts the focus back on nature. It’s been building momentum over the past few years, with projects around the world aiming to remove invasive species while increasing biodiversity and regenerate the land, from Isabella Tree’s landmark Knepp farm in West Sussex to the prairie grasslands of Montana – along with more familiar African conservation estates such as Gorongosa in Mozambique.
In 2023, though, Rewilding Europe Travel – a division of Europe’s most established non-profit organisation in the field – launched holidays at 10 destinations, from the Iberian Highlands of Spain to the Velebit Mountains on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, home to Balkan chamois, brown bear and wolf.
At the Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi, the ‘Coralarium’ is an underwater art installation by British eco-artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, that doubles as a sanctuary for ocean life to thrive while providing guests with the opportunity to engage with both art and nature. Over on the exclusive-use Thanda Island in a marine reserve off the coast of Tanzania, the full-time marine biologist monitors the rehabilitation of the Shungimbili coral reef, where young coral is grown until it’s ready to be incorporated into the reef to stimulate its recovery.
“We’ve seen a 34 per cent increase in enquiries for rewilding holidays in 2023, compared to pre-pandemic,” says Tim Williamson of Responsible Travel. “We’ve also seen a 20 per cent increase in enquiries for wildlife holidays in Europe, suggesting the desire to connect with nature and wildlife is spreading to holidays closer to home – not just long-haul safaris.” At Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa in the Cotswolds, head gardener Lucy Bowles-Lewis makes attracting wildlife and ensuring minimal environmental impact her priority, while the no-dig kitchen garden produces ingredients for the Michelin Green-starred dining room. Food for thought.
Analogue’s New Era
Do you remember the fax machine? Whether you do or not will carbon-date the era you grew up in; but maybe that’s set to change, as an increasing number of travellers ditch the latest gadgets in favour of vintage tech. According to a recent survey, 16 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the UK take a Polaroid camera with them on holiday, while 13 per cent bring a camcorder and 11 per cent pack a 35mm film camera.
There’s certainly a backlash against the hyper-connectivity that smartphones have given us: a US poll shows that about 66 per cent of adults over the age of 18 would prefer society to return to a time before constant connectivity.
That may never happen, but you can travel back to the 1980s on the Finnish island of Ulko-Tammio: in 2023 it became the world’s first ‘phone-free’ island, encouraging visitors to keep mobiles tucked away and to absorb the natural landscapes and birdlife instead. In 2024, the US-based FTLO Travel, meanwhile, is offering new phone-free itineraries for solo travellers, bringing back spontaneity and human interaction to trips to destinations such as Mexico, Iceland and Costa Rica.
Off-grid, digital detox escapes are also encouraged by Unyoked, whose wilderness cabins began life in Australia and New Zealand and have since spread to the UK, while Unplugged’s rural cabins – all just an hour from major UK cities – are kitted out with wooden boxes to lock phones in. At Yazz Collective on the Turkish Riviera at Fethiye, guests can take inspiration from their surroundings and not their phone screen with art workshops on the beach led by resident artists. Send a postcard not a selfie…
As the names of many travel companies testify, summer holidays have traditionally been about following the sun – about flying and flopping and slapping on the SPF30. Following the extreme temperatures experienced in 2022 and 2023, however, many travellers are looking to spend July and August in more temperate climates – with 82 per cent of Virtuoso clients selecting destinations with more moderate weather conditions, according to the luxury travel network’s survey for 2024.
“Iceland has been booming since before the pandemic, and so the growth isn’t as dramatic, but in Scandinavia, the growth is huge… as is Scotland,” said Tom Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for Intrepid Travel. Finland, Denmark and Norway – where Trømso, with average temperatures of 15C, is the coolest summer destination in Europe – are all seeing increased interest, as are the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.
But as well as cooler temperatures, these destinations also have the appeal of being less crowded and – with the exception of Scandinavia – more affordable. According to Helen Giontsis, president of Kensington Tours, “the increased demand for traditionally popular destinations in Europe such as the South of France have made them more crowded and more expensive. As travellers look for alternatives, they are discovering other countries and regions that offer great art, culture, food and wine.”
A destination such as Como Alpina Dolomites in Italy’s South Tyrol, for instance, ticks all the boxes for the temperate traveller: awe-inspiring natural surrounds that are unlikely to result in heatstroke and a little-known local cuisine that combines Italy with the Alps. After all, there’s more to seeing the world than returning with a tan line.
Never mind where you’re travelling to in 2024, what about 2025? With travel confidence having returned after the pandemic, many people are booking holidays further ahead – a trend set to continue over the next few years. It’s less about impulse, more about careful planning, and partly inspired by the rise in last-minute airfares.
Recent research by the Hilton group revealed that the majority of UK travellers (55 per cent) are booking their holidays three to six months in advance, while six per cent book their holidays for the entire year in January.
“In terms of booking ahead, the last-minute planning and travelling we saw in abundance during the pandemic has been replaced by planning well-ahead, to ensure availability for a long-awaited trip and to take advantage of early-bird discounts,” says James Bell, managing director of Turquoise Holidays. “Our team of experts are seeing an increase in twin- or multi-country holidays which require a huge amount of behind-the-scenes arrangements that ‘do-it-yourself’ holidaymakers often find overwhelming. Oman and the Maldives, for example, or Kenya and Mauritius. One client even booked a four-month around-the-world odyssey at around the £100K mark.” It shows that when it comes to travel, people are investing time as well as money – and not taking their precious holidays for granted.
Rick Jordan is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, a title he has worked for during the past two decades, and writes for The Telegraph, the Independent and various other publications. Follow Rick on Instagram at @rickcjordan.
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