Going Places: Experts Predict Top Destinations, Trends for Travelers in 2024

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Going Places: Experts Predict Top Destinations, Trends for Travelers in 2024
Porto, Portugal. Portugal is among the destinations that are trending for solo travelers joining group tours according to EF Go Ahead Tours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, www.goingplacesfarandnear.com

From French Polynesia to Tokyo, San Juan to Cancún, Skyscanner, a metasearch travel booking tool, combined its search and booking data with its annual consumer behavior survey to produce its annual Travel Trends report for US travelers for 2024. Here’s the lowdown on the top-trending destinations seeing the biggest increase in searches, and which offer the best value-for-money for travelers on a budget, compiled by Lisa Tyndall:

Top 10 Trending Destinations

Babymoon at The Reefs Resort in Bermuda. Bermuda is a top 10 trending destination for 2024, according to Skyscanner’s Travel Trends report © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So where are people heading in 2024? These are the top 10 destinations for US travelers which have seen the biggest increase in searches year-on-year:

Destination % increase in searches*
Cayman Islands +483%
French Polynesia +227%
Osaka, Japan +210%
Tokyo, Japan +201%
US Virgin Islands +198%
Bucharest, Romania +190%
Bermuda +184%
Taipei, Taiwan +177%
St Maarten +155%
Oranjestad, Aruba +155%

*Cities that have seen an increase in searches from the US between 7/8/22-7/8/23 vs the same period in 2021/22.

US travelers are craving island adventure, particularly the tropical climate and white sands of the Caribbean, with six of the top 10 trending destinations being island hot spots. They’re searching for the Cayman Islands, US Virgin Islands and St Maarten as destinations to relax and recharge.

Japan continues to make a comeback after re-opening last year, with Osaka and Tokyo featuring third and fourth. The only European destination on the list this year is Bucharest thanks, in part, to the “Wednesday” impact of the Netflix hit show, which was filmed in Romania, showcasing the country’s gothic beauty.

Top 10 Best-Value Destinations

Vancouver – in fact all of Canada – is one of the top value-destinations for US travelers in 2024, Skyscanner’s trends report show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Where can you get the most bang for your buck this year? These are the top 10 cheapest international destinations (on average) for US travelers in 2024:

Destination Average cost
San Juan, Puerto Rico $295 return
Toronto, Canada $348 return
Nassau, Bahamas $347 return
Vancouver, Canada $300 return
Cancun, Mexico $422 return
Calgary, Canada $429 return
San José del Cabo, Mexico $429 return
Bogota, Columbia $440 return
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico $460 return
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic $460 return

**Cheapest international destinations, based on avg. return flight price between 1/1/23-7/8/23, departing from the US in 2023.

Value for money remains a key factor for US travelers, with the cost of rental cars (17%) and food (17%) being the biggest factors determining the destination.

However, 39% of US travelers have budgeted to spend more on travel in 2024 compared to 2023, while 45% will spend the same. Only 5% have said they’ll spend less.

For US travelers looking for a relaxing beach vacation, the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas offer some of the most affordable flights from the US, with flights to San Juan and Nassau particularly good value.

Whether drawn to the buzzing city life in Toronto, or to the mountains and outdoor pursuits offered in Vancouver and Calgary, travelers will find that Canada has some of the most affordable destinations.

EF Go Ahead Tours Sees Increase in Guided Group Travel for 2024

Porto, Portugal. Portugal is among the destinations that are trending for solo travelers joining group tours according to EF Go Ahead Tours © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While most travel experts predict the top travel destinations “where to” for 2024, Lael Kassis, vice president of market innovation & development for EF Go Ahead Tours (GAT), a premier provider of culturally immersive experiences, is predicting a revolutionary change in the “how” travelers will experience the world in 2024: Kassis sees travelers continuing to gravitate toward traveling guided with a group tour operator, especially as they seek out destinations and travel experiences that are more complicated to arrange.

Based on a 20 percent increase in EF Go Ahead’s Black Friday sale, Kassis offers insights into trends in travelers’ motivations to book, the destinations especially popular for group tours, and the growing travel styles within group tours inspiring new itinerary introductions:

Expert Planning-Intensive Destinations Like Asia and Africa Surge in Popularity for Guided Travel: Based on EF Go Ahead Tours’ November 2023 bookings, trips to both Asia and Africa – two highly desired but not easily accessed destinations – were up 70% in sales compared to November 2022. Looking at the first half of 2024, Thailand and Japan departures are both up 57% compared to the same time in 2023, further underscoring travelers want to access these destinations in a guided group experience.

“Shoulder Season” is Increasingly the “WOW” Season to Travel: While “hot” seasons like summer will always be popular in Europe, other seasons are growing at rapid rates– even to one of the industry’s most popular destinations like Italy. “Shoulder Season” and off-season, Oct-April, offers less crowds and temperate weather with more access to local charm.

Social Tourism Inspires Solo Tour Expansion:  The end of 2023 saw a soaring rate of 83% more solo travelers embarking on solo-only group tours than last fall. Based on demand, EF Go Ahead added new tours bringing its collection of solo-only tours up to 18 offerings in 2023 with Portugal, Thailand, Ireland, Greece and Italy being the top sellers. After a tumultuous few years of travel disruptions, it is no wonder that the concept of going solo but never alone is very popular. Solo travelers – having experienced the safety and convenience, unparalleled access, and community created while traveling with a group – aren’t turning back.

Influenced by Pop Culture, Custom Group Travel will Gain Popularity:  At EF Go Ahead Tours, private group tours start at just 10 people and can be fully customized or built off an existing tour. In just the last 6 months, customized tours are up 26% compared to the same time last year with Italy and Greece being popular destinations. Move over heritage family private travel: Pop-culture led travel from musicians and TV shows are driving 2024 private group travel itineraries.

Gastronomic Experiences Will Top Desired Experiences for Foodies & Non Foodies Alike: Gastronomy, or the “relationship between food and culture,” is synonymous with travel. Culinary tourism has boomed in recent years, topping $805.9 billion globally in 2022 and it’s expected to keep growing.

Audley Travel Sees Rising Interest in Asia, Off-Season, Experiential Travel for 2024

Rotorua, New Zealand. Audley Travel cites Australia and New Zealand as among the destinations that are trending for 2024 © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travelers are more adventurous, curious and open to new experiences in 2024, a survey by tour operator Audley Travel shows.

Destination switching: With availability tight for many popular destinations, Audley’s specialists report clients are opting for alternatives to enjoy popular or iconic sights and experiences away from the crowds. South Korea is a popular switch for clients wanting to see Japan’s cherry blossom, and Nicaragua is an excellent alternative for a client keen to visit the rainforest instead of Costa Rica. The same trend is seen within destinations, with clients choosing to visit lesser-known parts of countries like South Africa – for example, flying into Durban and exploring KwaZulu-Natal’s game reserves and the Drakensberg Mountains, learning about the history of the battlefields, and then relaxing at a remote beach lodge on the coast.

Off season travel: Clients travelling in 2024 are increasingly booking popular and well-established destinations and experiences in the off-season. From booking a winter trip on the popular Glacier Express and Golden Pass trains in Switzerland, to taking a safari vacation in ‘Green Season’, Audley’s clients are taking advantage of lower prices and better availability away from the peak times.

A move back to curious travel: As borders reopened, ticking things off bucket lists was a key motivator for travel (cited by 72 percent of Audley’s country specialists for 2023 travel, but only 36 percent for 2024 travel). Clients who have taken their much longed for bucket list trips are now moving back to more curious travel exploring off-the-beaten-track for future adventures. Audley’s country specialists report an increasing interest in cultural experiences, for example around the Maasai in East Africa as well as an interest in more remote and authentic safari destinations e.g. Ruaha National Park. They also have seen more requests for ‘authentic’ hotels that reflect the culture of the country, across the destinations.

Luxury bookings continue to grow: Despite the rising cost of living, Audley reports continued growth in demand for luxury properties and experiences. Luxury lodges in Australia and New Zealand are selling faster than they did pre-2020 and there is a lot of demand for small ship expedition style cruising. Audley’s country specialists for Latin America report that people are looking for more comfort and upgrading their flights.

Further demand for more experiential and customized travel: Clients are asking for more ‘unique’ experiences when they travel. Audley’s North America specialists are responding with suggestions of experiences such as guided kayak and camping trips to see whales and wolves. This trend is also being recognized by Audley’s partners in destinations. Whilst arranging tailormade trips has always been at the heart of Audley’s operations, the country specialists report that an increasing number of partners are customizing the excursions and experiences that they offer for individual clients, moving away from set tours and adapting their plans to the needs and wants of the customer – a move that is a perfect fit for Audley’s custom travel offering.

Sustainability: Travelling responsibly remains important. Research conducted recently found that 68 percent1 say that having sustainable travel options (e.g. lower carbon flights) is important to them.

Motivations for travel: A long-awaited bucket list trip remains the top motivator for 2024 travel (albeit at lower levels than in for 2023 travel) – cited by Audley’s specialists as the reason for 36 percent of trips2. To celebrate a personal milestone (birthday, anniversary, retirement, graduation etc.) is the reason for 24 percent of trips, and to spend time with the family is 14 percent.

Where Audley’s clients are booking: Top destinations for 2024 travel are Italy, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand (matching the top five destinations for 2023 bookings). The average duration for 2024 bookings is 15.8 days, up 2.6 percent from 15.4 days in 2023.

AirHelp Unveils World’s Best/Worst Airlines and Airports Of 2023

Delta Airlines, ranked a top 3 US airline, taking off from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, ranked among top 5 US airports.© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With air travel records being broken this holiday season, AirHelp, an air passenger rights advocacy organization, reported the results of its annual AirHelp Score of best and worst airlines and airports for 2023. Among the key findings:

AirHelp found Muscat International Airport, Recife/Guararapes–Gilberto Freyre International Airport, and Cape Town International Airport to be the best global airports of 2023.

Out of 194 airports analyzed from across the globe for the report, in the U.S., Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport were found to be the best airports in the U.S. for 2023. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s highest ranking category was their restaurants and shops score and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport’s highest ranking category was on-time flights.

Among foreign carriers, Qatar Airways, Eurowings, LOT Polish Airlines, Etihad Airways and All Nippon Airways were rated highest among carriers worldwide in 2023. For U.S. airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines were rated the highest in 2023.

Qatar Airways has successfully held its top position since 2018 due to consistency in claim handling, on-time performance, and customer satisfaction. Specifically, Qatar Airways scored 8.0 for claim handling, 8.4 for its on-time performance and 8.8 in customer satisfaction.

Best United States airports:

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – (13/194)

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – (34/194)

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – (38/194)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – (51/194)

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – (55/194)

Worst US airports:

Newark Liberty International Airport – (166/194)

Fort Lauderdale International Airport – (165/194)

Denver International Airport – (138/194)

Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport – (136/194)

San Francisco International Airport – (128/194)

Top 3 US-based carriers:

American Airlines

United Airlines

Delta

Worst 3 US-based carriers:

Spirit

Alaska Airlines

JetBlue

Best airports in the world:

Muscat International Airport – (Muscat, Oman)

Recife/Guararapes–Gilberto Freyre International Airport – (Recife, Brazil)

Cape Town International Airport – (Cape Town, South Africa)

Brasília–Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport – (Brasília, Brazil)

Doha Hamad International Airport – (Doha, Qatar)

Worst airports in the world:

Banjarmasin Syamsudin Noor International Airport – (Banjarmasin, Indonesia)

Malta International Airport – (Malta, Malta)

London Gatwick Airport – (London, United Kingdom)

Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport – (Lisbon, Portugal)

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport – (Belgrade, Serbia)

Top 5 international carriers:

Qatar Airways

Eurowings

LOT Polish Airlines

Etihad Airways

All Nippon Airways

Worst 5 international carriers:

Air Austral

Azores Airlines

TAROM

Spirit

Air Canada

The AirHelp Score, first launched in 2015, is a comprehensive data-based evaluation of airlines and airports, ranking the world’s airports based on which deliver on passenger experience. Knowing that travel doesn’t always go as planned, air passengers need to plan ahead and use available information to know what to expect for future flights.

To calculate the scores, AirHelp used its own database of flight statistics, thousands of customer poll responses and its own experience in helping 2 million passengers around the world receive compensation following flight disruption.

To view the AirHelp Score ratings in full, visit AirHelp.com/AirHelpScore.

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

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