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The Four Trends Defining Summer Travel in 2024

June 14, 2024 | 3 min read

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

Summer travel is in full swing, with airports bustling, hotel groups reporting high demand, and popular travel destinations witnessing a surge in foot traffic. While economic pressures have dampened growth in ‌ domestic travel in the U.S., global travel demand remains strong, supporting PMG’s findings earlier this year that over half (61 percent) of travelers planned to spend more on travel this year compared to 2023. After the revenge travel boom and years of pandemic-era restrictions, several key trends have emerged to define summer travel in 2024, signifying a paradigm shift in how individuals and families are now choosing to spend their vacation time. 

A new report from Mastercard reveals that Americans are embarking on international travel at an unprecedented rate this year, undeterred by inflationary concerns and instead placing greater emphasis on "meaningful experiences over material possessions." This shift in priorities is reflected in their willingness to allocate substantial funds toward unique and meaningful experiences.

Mastercard 2024 International Travel Intent Trends

Our custom research reports similar findings. PMG’s The New Traveler Report found that a surge in international travel will define 2024, with 52 percent of survey respondents expressing interest in both domestic and foreign destinations in 2024. Based on PMG data, Western Europe will be the most sought-after global leisure destination in 2024. At an individual country level, the United States, Spain, France, Italy, and Japan take the lead as the most coveted countries to visit.

Mastercard notes that a staggering "nine out of the last ten record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurred in 2024," underscoring the soaring demand for experiential travel among American consumers. American Express found that 89 percent of travelers surveyed want to visit destinations they’ve never visited before this year. Travel frequency is also up significantly from last summer, according to TripAdvisor, with 96 percent of travelers planning as much travel, if not more, than in 2023. Cultural sightseeing ranks as the top summer travel plan, followed by beach trips and road trips, with most people planning one to two trips this summer, TripAdvisor reports.

Adventure travel is experiencing a surge in popularity as travelers are now seeking not just destinations but immersive experiences that deeply connect with local culture, cuisine, and the landscape. This exciting shift towards experiential travel is marked by a rise in activities such as scuba diving, hiking, and unique water sports, blending physical challenges with the allure of nature. Companies like Backroads, a pioneer in active travel, have seen a significant increase in bookings for biking, walking and hiking, and multi-adventure tours, particularly in Europe. 

On Pinterest, “Euro summer” has witnessed a staggering +295% surge in search volume within the last 90 days, reflecting the growing interest in these unique travel experiences. Backroads also reported a notable rise in the popularity of e-bike tours and women-only trips, which indicates a broader range of travelers are seeking tailored experiences that align with their lifestyle or provide a sense of community and exclusivity.

Solo travel is on the rise, particularly among millennials and Gen Z travelers. Travel + Leisure reports that 76 percent of millennials and Gen Z (compared to 69 percent of all survey respondents) say they plan to take a solo trip this year. Skyscanner reported similar trends, with 54 percent of U.S. travelers looking to venture solo in 2024. This shift reflects a deeper desire for self-discovery and personalized travel experiences as these travelers prioritize destinations that offer safety, welcoming communities, and opportunities for personal enrichment and self-care. These younger travelers are drawn to unique accommodations and activities that align with their individual tastes and interests, whether that’s boutique hotels, quirky Airbnb bookings, or immersive local experiences. 

However, older generations aren't sitting out on solo travel. Travel companies are seeing an increase in older, married women going on solo trips as well. Road Scholar, a Boston-based tour operator, reports that roughly 60 percent of the company’s solo travel customers were married women traveling without their partners. Backroads reports similar trends, listing women-only trips as one of the top travel trends of the season. Some travel companies are doubling down on solo travel experiences, with Norwegian Cruise Lines announcing last October that it would introduce nearly 1,000 staterooms across its fleet of 19 ships for single passengers, joining the likes of Oceania Cruises and Celebrity Cruises in offering activities and specialized accommodations for solo travelers.

2024 is shaping up to be a banner year for sports tourism, whether it’s for the 2024 Copa América tournament across the U.S. in Houston, Texas, Miami Gardens, Florida, or Santa Clara, California, or Paris, France, for the 2024 Summer Olympics Games. Cities hosting these events are seeing a boom in tourism, with fans flocking not only to watch the competitions but also to soak in the vibrant, festive atmosphere. This surge is particularly pronounced among younger travelers, who are keen to blend their enthusiasm for sports with adventures in new places. In its annual travel trends report, American Express reported that 67 percent of millennial and Gen Z respondents are interested in traveling for sports in 2024. Paris, Miami, and New York City are among the top destinations for sports travel (Paris for the Summer Olympics, Miami for Formula 1, and New York City for the tennis U.S. Open). 

While Paris is the most searched city worldwide on Airbnb this summer, cities like Lyon, Lille, and Versailles are trending thanks to Olympic competitions being hosted throughout all of France. Three of the host cities in Germany for the European Football Championship (Dortmund, Munich, and Stuttgart) have also emerged as trending destinations this summer on Airbnb.

Across these trends, it’s clear that travelers are increasingly prioritizing personal value, seeking enriching experiences that resonate with their preferences and lifestyles. As travel demand surges and consumers face a plethora of choices, travel companies must differentiate themselves by clearly articulating their unique value propositions. This involves adapting offerings to align with evolving customer preferences, prioritizing personalization to build brand trust and loyalty, and adeptly navigating the diverse channels through which travelers seek information, inspiration, and recommendations.

Marketers can capitalize on current travel trends by,

  • Showcasing unique and immersive experiences that connect travelers with local culture, cuisine, and nature.

  • Developing creative content that features solo travelers and their unique journeys and experiences.

  • Leveraging precise audience targeting to reach individuals planning to travel to marquee events throughout the summer, like the Paris Olympics or Copa América tournament.

For a deeper understanding of these shifts and how to capitalize on them, explore PMG’s The New Traveler Report, which offers comprehensive insights into the current state and future of travel.