Bleisure travel is “here to stay,” according to Robert Reitknecht, founder and CEO of Hospitality Renu, who weighs in on this year’s travel trends. Reitknecht also says travelers want more immersive, connected experiences, put a premium on sustainability and are seeking adventure-led wellness programs, while AI is poised to transform the hospitality industry.
What major shifts or changes do you anticipate in travel patterns or preferences for 2024?
While the travel business is back in full force, research shows that the hospitality industry currently employs about 238,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic — and experts agree that this gap will likely persist. If hotel brands want to maintain and exceed the level of service that guests expect, it’s crucial that leaders/management retain their top talent. This means creating opportunities for growth, exceptional benefits and perks, continued training and so much more. Without a strong team to elevate the guest experience, there will be no guests. Now more than ever, travelers want authentic experiences, and we’re going to see this translated into how and where their time is spent once they’ve reached their destination. People want more immersive and connected experiences. For instance, there’s a 70% increase in culinary travel, where the focus is shifting away from traditional dining settings and towards exciting new experiences that connect people with diverse cultures and traditions.
Are there any emerging destinations you believe will gain popularity among travelers in 2024, and what factors contribute to their appeal?
I think there will be an increased focus on sustainability. So many people want to travel but want to do so consciously. Thankfully, there are now so many destinations and accommodations with strong environmental initiatives that make it all possible. Costa Rica is one of the world’s most successful sustainable travel destinations, but places like Slovenia, which borders the Italian Alps, and the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are emerging as top sustainable places to visit around the world. I think post-pandemic, people are seeking quieter, more remote destinations, away from crowded tourist hubs. They want off-the-beaten-path locations that provide tranquility, natural beauty and an opportunity for rest and relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle. I believe this is why we’re seeing a continued rise in wellness tourism, with destinations like yoga retreats and holistic experiences, where travelers focus on health and well-being.
The blending of business and leisure travel, often called “bleisure” has become increasingly popular among gen Z and millennials. How do you anticipate this trend evolving in 2024, and what steps is the travel industry taking to accommodate the needs and preferences of these travelers?
Bleisure is here to stay, and travelers will continue to tack on vacation days to their work trips to visit local family and friends or enjoy the sights. It is, however, important to note that the increase in remote work has made way for the rise of digital nomads, who are people who work entirely remotely while traveling the world. Technology makes it possible to stay connected for work while simultaneously exploring new destinations. In turn, this puts a demand on properties to offer affordable comfort, while offering expected amenities such as reliable Wi-Fi, co-working spaces and a conducive environment for both work and relaxation. Luxury resorts are gearing up to invest in enhancing the overall guest experience, particularly for business and leisure travelers. It’s essential to recognize that not all business travelers focus solely on work. Many seek a touch of luxury and relaxation during their downtime. As any traveler knows, it’s not always a walk in the park. Luxury offerings such as private fitness lessons and dining at premium restaurants are set to become more popular, catering to the needs of weary travelers, especially after demanding networking events.
Is there anything else you want to share about travel trends in 2024?
Artificial intelligence has and will continue to revolutionize the hospitality industry. Whether a traveler uses AI to get personalized recommendations, or a property uses it to improve operational efficiency, it’s truly an exciting time to see how both travelers and brands use this technology to enhance their experience. I do, however, believe that it makes the art of service that much more important and critical to elevating the travel experience for a guest. No algorithm can replace the human touch and the connection that is made between people.
Another trend to watch for is the emergence of adventure-led wellness programs. These programs are expected to take center stage in 2024 as people increasingly seek ways to maintain their psychological and emotional well-being, particularly in light of the recent pandemic challenges. Resorts are adapting to cater to a wide range of guests, offering team-building exercises, wellness programs and family-oriented activities. Travelers are actively seeking high-quality, unique experiences that leave a lasting impression, and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2024.
Read more from SmartBrief:
- Part 1: How to serve today’s digital nomad and bleisure travelers
- Part 2: How to serve conference and expo business travelers
- Part 3: How to serve client, supplier and stakeholder stakeholder travelers
- Part 4: How to serve return-to-base business travelers