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Why Spain, France, Turkey to Lead 2024’s Travel Boom?


In 2024, there’s an expected shift in international travel, focusing on a wider range of destinations. This change is likely to open new doors for global travel spots.

The growth rate, however, is predicted to be slower than in 2023, as the volume of leisure travel stabilizes at pre-pandemic levels and the surge in demand post-pandemic subsides.

It’s anticipated that most destinations will surpass their 2019 inbound tourism earnings in 2024. Europe’s major tourist spots like Spain, France, and Turkey are poised for considerable growth in spending, projected to contribute to 30% of the global travel expenditure increase from 2019 to 2024, according to the latest WTM Global Travel Report.

Conversely, in the Asia-Pacific region, leisure spending is expected to remain below pre-pandemic figures. This is attributed to the delayed reopening and gradual recovery in sectors like capacity and market sentiment. Key markets in this region, including China, Thailand, and Japan, are likely to experience lower spending levels compared to 2019. Despite this, China is projected to surpass the United States in international leisure travel spending.

Emerging and Established Travel Hotspots

The growth in leisure travel is diverse across countries, influenced by factors like market sources, traveler preferences, and specific destination characteristics such as infrastructure and policies. Traditional favorites like Spain, France, and Turkey are thriving and are likely to maintain their growth trajectory. The top destination rankings in each region are expected to remain consistent with pre-pandemic patterns.

Meanwhile, smaller markets previously less prominent, such as Albania, Croatia, and the Maldives, are seeing notable growth post-reopening. Predictions indicate over 50% growth by 2024 compared to 2019. This surge is driven by better connectivity and a focus on tourism development.

Looking Towards 2030 and Beyond

In the long term, destinations stand to benefit from increasing incomes in emerging markets, leading to a rise in travel demand. For instance, the number of Chinese households able to afford international travel is expected to double in the next decade, with similar trends in markets like India and Indonesia.

This surge from Asian emerging markets will positively impact both regional and global destinations. Thailand and Japan, in particular, are set to benefit significantly from the increased spending power of the Chinese middle class. China’s role as both a travel destination and a source market is also expected to expand, with its inbound tourism spend projected to more than double by 2033 compared to 2024.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and South Africa are also expected to see a doubling in inbound tourism spend, thanks to ongoing investments and destination development. This growth will enable them to capture a larger share of the expanding global demand. However, more modest growth rates are foreseen in the Americas and Europe, reflecting their mature yet robust travel markets.

Risks and Opportunities Ahead

The travel industry faces potential risks and opportunities. Demographic shifts, such as an aging population, will likely impact travel patterns. By 2050, the proportion of people aged 65 and over is expected to nearly double, influencing both activity and destination choices.

The increasing call for sustainable travel will reshape the industry. Trends like slow travel may gain traction, with consumers opting for fewer, longer trips. Additionally, climate change could directly affect travel patterns, possibly altering traditional travel seasons.

Despite these challenges, advancements in technology and innovative management can ensure the continued prosperity of leisure tourism, benefiting economies, communities, and travelers.

In 2023, France and Spain lead in inbound leisure trips, each boasting over 70 million visits. Following them are Turkey and the United States, each with over 40 million visits. Notably, among the top ten leisure tourism destinations, only Turkey and Greece have surpassed their 2019 visitation levels. France’s numbers are comparable to 2019, while leisure visits in Asia-Pacific countries like Thailand and Japan are significantly lower, partly due to China’s delayed resumption of outbound travel.

Countries like Saudi Arabia and Albania are experiencing robust growth in leisure arrivals, with Saudi Arabia implementing its ‘Vision 2030’ strategy and Albania witnessing a 43% increase in leisure arrivals compared to 2019. Poland is also showing strong growth, with a more than 30% increase in inbound leisure visits.

Leisure Travel in 2024: A Resilient Outlook

Despite various challenges, the leisure travel sector in 2024 is poised for robust performance. The sector has shown resilience, consistently outstripping the broader economic trends. Travel has become a preferred expenditure for consumers, overtaking other discretionary spending categories. Given the substantial excess savings accumulated in some households, there’s a latent demand ready to be tapped. Consequently, the emphasis on travel is expected to be a dominant trend through 2024.

Trend Shifts in Travel Destinations: Embracing Diversity

In the aftermath of the pandemic, travelers initially gravitated towards familiar, ‘safe’ destinations. Yet, 2024 anticipates a shift, with travelers expected to diversify their destination choices, opening up new avenues for global travel locales. Despite this, the growth in leisure travel demand is forecasted to decelerate compared to the explosive growth seen in 2023. This slowdown is attributed to the alignment of leisure travel with pre-pandemic levels rather than economic downturns.

The Impact of Climate Change on Travel

Looking ahead to 2024, one of the most significant challenges is climate change. The travel industry has already experienced a range of climate-induced crises in 2023, and this trend is likely to persist. Extreme weather events, like wildfires and floods, have severely impacted regions, particularly in Europe. These events, driven by climate change and phenomena like El Niño, are expected to continue into 2024, posing challenges to certain destinations. However, these disruptions are likely to redistribute tourism demand rather than diminish it. Efforts to manage overtourism and adapt to Europe’s rising temperatures may help to evenly distribute tourists during peak seasons.

Regional Insights on Inbound Tourism for 2024

  • Americas: The United States is poised to maintain its lead in inbound leisure travel spending, projected to increase by 8% compared to 2019. Other top destinations in the Americas are also on track to outperform their 2019 leisure spending levels.

  • Europe: In 2024, Spain, Turkey, and France are expected to lead Europe’s inbound leisure travel spend, with Turkey climbing two spots from its 2019 ranking. Portugal is set to rise in the ranks, potentially becoming the seventh-largest market, up from ninth in 2019.

  • Asia-Pacific: China remains the region’s biggest spender in leisure travel, with 2024 figures expected to surpass those of 2019. This growth comes despite a slow recovery in travel restrictions. Other countries in the region, including India, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore, are also forecasted to exceed their 2019 inbound leisure tourism spending.

  • Middle East: Saudi Arabia is likely to continue as the largest inbound leisure market in terms of spending, growing significantly from 2019 to 2024. The UAE, following the success of events like the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, is also expected to experience robust growth.

  • Africa: Egypt is projected to remain the top destination for inbound travel receipts in 2024. Mauritius is set to rise in the ranks, reflecting the increasing popularity of luxury travel, moving from the seventh to the sixth-largest inbound market in Africa.

Concluding Thoughts: A Dynamic Future for Leisure Travel

As we look towards 2024 and beyond, the leisure travel industry is navigating a dynamic landscape. Amidst shifting consumer preferences, the resilience of travel demand stands out, underpinned by a desire for diverse experiences and sustained by excess savings. While challenges like climate change loom large, the industry’s response in adapting to these changes and redistributing tourism effectively will be crucial. The global perspective on inbound tourism reveals a varied and evolving picture, with traditional powerhouses maintaining their allure and emerging destinations gaining prominence. This evolving narrative of leisure travel promises a future rich with opportunities for exploration and discovery, offering a vibrant tapestry of experiences for travelers around the world.

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