WTM Global Report: tourists abandon sun loungers in favour of new experiences

WTM Global Report: tourists abandon sun loungers in favour of new experiences

Research from World Travel Market London 2023, the world’s most influential travel & tourism event, has revealed that more holidaymakers are abandoning their sun loungers in favour of nature, foodie and wellness experiences.

The exclusive WTM Global Travel Report – compiled in association with renowned researchers at Oxford Economics – notes “increasing demand for unique, authentic and personalised experiences” while people are away on vacation.
The report, unveiled at WTM London on 6 November, cites social listening data curated by tourism intelligence specialist Mabrian in 2023.

This “revealed that experiential activities such as wellness, nature and food tourism increased by over 10% compared with 2019”.

“Meanwhile, traditional activities such as sunbathing were less important in travellers’ motivations compared with 2019,” says the report.

It also notes how people “crave more opportunities to reconnect” in an increasingly digital world, with more meaningful in-person experiences “fast becoming the raison d’etre for travel”.

Furthermore, climate change looks set to play a bigger role in consumers’ choice of holiday destinations and timings.

“This is already influencing travel patterns after successive hot European summers,” according to the report.

“In 2023, data from the European Travel Commission found that the popularity of Mediterranean destinations dropped by 10% compared with 2022, which was influenced at least in part by perceptions of weather.”

The climate crisis has other influences over consumer trends and government policies, says the report.

“This could mean fewer but potentially longer long-haul trips, and more local, short-haul trips,” it adds, noting a growing demand for volunteering and interacting with local communities.

“Slow travel, which involves undertaking longer but potentially fewer trips, may also become an increasingly popular trend.”

Meanwhile, many destinations have been grappling with the problems of overtourism, such as Thailand which had closed Maya Beach as thousands were lured there after it featured in The Beach.

And next year, Venice will trial a new tax on day visitors, who have a significant impact on the city’s infrastructure.

Elsewhere, outbound markets in emerging economies are continuing to grow, including China, India and Indonesia.

As these countries become more affluent, more people can afford leisure travel, prompting new trends with different demographics and cultural preferences.

“The ‘travelling class’ in China is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years,” says the report.

“However, this represents only a very small portion of Chinese citizens (2.3%) which highlights huge potential for future growth. Similar growth opportunities exist also within India and Indonesia, to name just a few.”

It also highlights how older people in China will become more affluent over time, which could mean more demand for holidays such as cruises.

Furthermore, the report notes a resurgence in the demand for travel agents as consumers seek help to make the most of their time on holiday.

Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at WTM London, said:

“Trends in leisure travel are quickly changing, which mean this WTM Global Travel Report is a vital snapshot for the industry to see how markets fared in 2023 and what is in store for 2024 as post-pandemic consumer demands evolve.

“Holidaymakers seem more determined to make the most of their precious time away – instead of just sun-bathing, more of them want to create treasured memories by booking experiences and excursions to get under the skin of their destination, to explore cultures, cuisine and nature.

“After lockdown, we also saw that growing desire to enjoy the outdoors and connect with other people – but in an increasingly sustainable way.

“Our report is vital for those seeking a macro view of the travel industry and a deeper understanding of the forces shaping it – and the discussions it will prompt can help to re-frame travel and tourism in a positive way for us all.”


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