January 17, 2024

Five Big Challenges Facing the Travel and Tourism Industry in 2024

Will Chinese tourists look inwards or finally outwards in 2024? Could an unprecedented number of elections globally influence who travels and when? Can Paris make a permanent gain out of the Olympics and will conflict continue to derail some tourism economies?

Amid it all, could Gen Z change the shape of tourism by asserting an environmentally consciousness about travel decisions? As investors and developers piece together the global influences that will shape the hospitality real estate market in 2024, we pick out five defining macro-themes for the year ahead.

Visas: China looks outward and inward

It is nearly a year since China fully reopened its borders to foreign visitors, and almost a year since Beijing withdrew advice warning against overseas travel. Yet travel to and from China has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, though domestic travel has surged.

“If you use 2019 as a benchmark, travel and tourism contributed 11.6% to the Chinese economy,” says Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).In that year, the travel and tourism industry employed 82 million people in China and was valued at $1.8 trillion, while recent analysis released by WTTC and Oxford Economics shows a dip to a 7.9% contribution in 2023, employing about 74 million people and worth $1.48 trillion.

Yet, with the hold-up of issuing new visas an ongoing issue, inward traffic is becoming a major factor."This data clearly shows the appetite to travel remains incredibly strong. Chinese travellers want to explore the world once again and international travellers are eager to return,” says Simpson.

According to data published in January by travel booking site Trip.com, the top five international destinations for Chinese tourists in 2023 were: Thailand; Japan; South Korea; Singapore and Malaysia.China recently entered into a reciprocal agreement with Thailand for permanent waiver of visa requirements for citizens of the two countries from March 2024 and previously implemented visa-free travel for five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain) and Malaysia, allowing ordinary passport holders to stay in China for up to 15 days without a visa. China has also streamlined entry regulations for US citizens.

Impact: The great Chinese exodus is yet to materialise and it may be a year when inward and inter-continental travel continues to dominate, boosting the Chinese travel economy.

Elections: The year of the vote

More than two billion people across 50 countries are expected to go the polls this year, accounting for countries that are home to nearly half the world’s population – a scale that has never happened in a single year before.

Among the polls are seven out of the world’s 10 most populous nations: Bangladesh kicked off the election calendar on January 7; plus India, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Mexico.

While the impact should be contained around the election period, data on previous US elections suggest that the industry can expect a lag around crucial polling.US-based travel agency consortium Virtuoso, which has around 2,300 company partners, sold $30 billion worth of transactions in 2019. Evaluating the impact of the last three American presidential elections on travel bookings, Virtuoso’s VP global public relations Misty Belles found that the company’s usual double-digit growth was curtailed to roughly 3% in election years, with over $4 billion in projected missed revenue for the previous election in 2020.

No matter why travel dips during election cycles, the impact doesn’t end on results day, she says. Lags in spending continue through the ‘lame duck’ period of the outgoing President and the early days of a new administration, regardless of who resides in the White House. After the first 100 days of a new presidential term, travellers typically set their sights on summer vacations.

Impact: With an unprecedented number of people heading to the polls and the likelihood of some tight elections, the effect on travel is unpredictable but could cause an autumn lag in the UK and US.

Sports events: Everything to play for

This summer’s football Euros and impending African Cup of Nations will add to the global sports calendar in 2024 but of course the big one is the Paris Olympics. Hosting major events is expensive but potentially hugely profitable, with an extra three million people expected in Paris, increasing tourism spending by up to €4 billion according to market research provider Euromonitor International.

Alexander Göransson, senior consultant at Euromonitor International, points out that the Games are expected to attract 15 million spectators, including locals and domestic day trippers.

Göransson says that experience from previous Games shows that Olympic visitors spend more than regular visitors and that accommodation providers will be the main winners, although high prices may put people off. “There is a lot being written about hoteliers significantly hiking their prices during the Paris Olympics, typically by an order of three relative to August 2023 and summer 2024 before and after the games. This is also in line with some checks on booking platforms for like-for-like hotels. The average rate is currently reported to be €699 during the games versus €169 in August 2023,” Göransson says.

However, he notes that only 1.5 million tickets have been sold to non-French residents, circa 10% of the total.

“In the context of hotels this will be interesting as given the vast majority of visitors will be from France, there will be more daytrips, but more importantly a lot of French visitors will have friends and relatives in Paris who they can stay with, which given the Olympic mark-ups is likely,” he adds. “I would not rule out that there may be some last-minute price cutting. When the games were in London price increases were more modest, where prices less than doubled.”

Impact: Euromonitor International expects a steady increase in inbound visitors to France and its capital city from 2025.

Conflict: Contained but major regional impacts

The war in Ukraine and the ongoing operations in Gaza by Israel have had little impact on global travel, but have hit the regions and those around them heavily. That is likely to be the ongoing story of 2024.

Following last summer’s strong tourism demand, international tourist arrivals to Europe are only 3.2% below 2019 levels, and nights are down by 1.3% for the January-September period, according to the most recent European Travel Commission (ETC) figures.

However, while Southern European and Mediterranean destinations, notably Serbia (+15%), Montenegro (+14%), Portugal (+11%), Turkey (+8%), Malta, and Greece (both +7%) have benefitted, among Eastern European countries neighbouring Russia and Ukraine, and those that are normally reliant on Russian travellers, have registered the sharpest declines: Estonia (-27%), Latvia (-30%), and Lithuania (-33%).While the number of tourists visiting Israel rose in 2023 compared with 2022, visitor numbers plunged in October after the Hamas attacks and remained low for the rest of the year, the Israeli Tourism Ministry said.

Overall in 2023, 3 million tourists entered Israel, up from 2.7 million in 2022, but December was the worst month with just 52,800 tourists, compared with typically over 300,000 per month.S&P Global Ratings believes Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan are most exposed, due to their geographic proximity and the potential for some aspects of the conflict to expand across their borders. Last year, tourism contributed 26% of Lebanon's current account receipts. For Jordan and Egypt, the figure was 21% and 12%, and for Israel, 3%.

Impact: While conflicts seem not to have dissuaded travellers generally, those countries heavily impacted already are unlikely to see any change.

Sustainability: Travellers demand eco-options

Nothing new in the rise of sustainability but analyst Mintel believes that in 2024 travel brands can tap into the sustainable accommodation sector by promoting a range of differing cost options.

A number of operators are promoting more sustainable choices for consumers, by unveiling ‘sustainable holiday’ tabs in which travellers can browse through a range of different hotel options, all accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

Mintel says that it is imperative for travel brands to step up and take accountability for their environmental impact, particularly as issues surrounding sustainability permeate into every aspect of daily lives.

“Based on the success of the food industry’s nutrition traffic light system, consumers want brands to use a similar system that makes it easy to understand the environmental impact of the products they’re thinking of buying and helps them make more sustainable choices,” says Richard Cope, senior trends consultant, Mintel Consulting.

Travel platform Booking.com also notes that “sweltering conditions” are accelerating a rise in travellers chasing cooler climes to travel to. In a UK survey, 42% reported that climate change will impact the way they plan their holiday in 2024, while 43% said that as temperatures soar close to home, they will use their holiday to cool down elsewhere.

In 2024, in exchange for contributing to conservation efforts, sustainable itineraries will give travellers exclusive access to the places that they are helping preserve, Booking.com speculates, while sustainable travel apps will offer rewards such as experiences with locals in off-the-beaten-path areas or visiting remote locations that tourists otherwise have limited access to.

Impact: From ESG and real estate to the consumer mind-set, sustainability

Copyright 2024 Questex LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.hospitalityinvestor.com. By Mark Faithfull.

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