Leisure Travel Takes Center Stage as Consumers Prioritize Exploration

The WTM Global Travel Report, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, released on November 7, 2023, at WTM London 2023, the preeminent travel and tourism event, reveals that consumers worldwide are giving priority to leisure travel in their discretionary spending. This trend offers an optimistic post-pandemic outlook for the global tourism industry.

The 70-page report projects that the number of leisure trips taken in 2023 will be only 10% lower than during the pre-pandemic peak in 2019. Notably, the value of these trips, measured in dollars, is anticipated to surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

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The report attributes the increase in prices to pressure on fuel, staffing, and financial costs within the aviation sector. However, consumers in advanced economies are placing a significant emphasis on leisure travel spending in the short term. Meanwhile, overall growth trends for leisure travel in emerging markets are realigning with pre-pandemic projections.

While the study acknowledges that rising costs and potential shifts in consumer sentiment could pose challenges to the industry, it notes that there are currently no clear indications that costs are deterring travelers from planning trips.

The report predicts that demand for leisure travel in 2024 will remain robust, with domestic tourism performing strongly.

Looking further into the future, the report indicates a strong long-term growth trajectory for the tourism industry. By 2033, spending on leisure travel is expected to more than double the levels seen in 2019. One of the driving factors, according to the report, will be the significant increase in the number of households in China, India, and Indonesia capable of affording international travel.

Several destinations are poised for a triple-digit increase in the value of their inbound leisure business over the next decade. These include Cuba (103% growth), Sweden (179%), Tunisia (105%), Jordan (104%), and Thailand (178%).

However, the report also underscores a caveat to the long-term optimism, highlighting the impact of climate change. While it anticipates some displacement of demand and shifts in seasonality, the main impact of climate change on the tourism industry is still evolving.

Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at World Travel Market London, stressed the importance of the report, saying, “The WTM Global Travel Report takes an incredibly detailed look at how our industry has recovered after the pandemic. It is full of positive indicators that validate the work we have all put in to get travel back on its feet. But there is no room for complacency. We encourage travel businesses to examine the sections on drivers of demand, risks, opportunities, and emerging traveler trends. Aligning your strategies with the insights of our experts is a quick way for any business to evaluate the path they are on.”

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