Trip.com Group reflects on the dynamic landscape of travel over the past year, and offers insights into the top travel trends, AI revolution, and sustainable journeys in 2024.
China’s border reopening sparks global travel surge
With the opening of China’s borders, travel was greatly boosted by a wave of Chinese travellers with a pent-up demand for overseas travel. Trip.com data unveils a significant rise in outbound travel bookings, showcasing a six-fold increase compared to 2022. This trend is especially prominent during holiday periods, such as the eight-day Golden Week in October 2023 which witnessed an eightfold surge in outbound travel.
The data also revealed that Chinese travellers have a strong interest in visiting South-east Asia, with Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia topping the list of preferred outbound destinations in 2023.
China’s inbound travel is also showing steady signs of recovery – there was a four-digit growth in visitor numbers in 2023 as compared with the same period in 2022, surpassing 60% of pre-pandemic levels.
China’s top source markets for inbound tourism include South Korea, Japan, Singapore, the US, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Thailand, the UK and Germany. These visitors’ preferred destinations in China are Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Zhuhai, Hangzhou, Foshan, Xiamen, Zhongshan, and Chengdu.
AI takes centrestage in predictive planning for 2024
The travel landscape is undergoing a paradigm shift, driven by the widespread integration of AI. An example is Trip.com’s TripGenie, launched last year, which is an advanced AI travel assistant integrated into the Trip.com mobile app, helping travellers plan their journeys – from crafting bespoke itineraries, enabling instant bookings and delivering lightning-fast responses to user queries. The personalised travel assistant can respond to queries as well as recommend tourist spots, shopping destinations and even provides booking links, images and city maps.
Expanding beyond TripGenie, Trip.com also introduced AI-powered curated lists to enhance the booking experience for users, such as Trip.Best that recommends the best travel options, Trip.Deals that shows top flights, accommodations, and other travel deals, and Trip.Trends which features the most popular travel topics and events based on user searches. These dynamic compilations are tuned to user preferences derived from real-time data, providing a sneak peek into the future of travel planning in 2024.
Based on searches on Trip.Deals, global users have shown particular interest in the following top five destinations: London, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Paris, and Hong Kong.
Music festivals and theme parks lead the way
The world of travel in 2024 is embracing the fun trend of event tourism, with festivals and iconic theme parks emerging as the cornerstones of trips.
Theme parks specifically, are poised for a stellar rise, having witnessed an impressive 65% increase in bookings in 2023 compared to 2019 levels. The top 10 theme parks in 2023 globally include Hong Kong Disneyland; Universal Studios Japan, Ocean Park Hong Kong; Universal Studios Singapore; Tokyo Disneyland; Tokyo DisneySea; Everland, South Korea; Universal Studios Hollywood; Legoland, Malaysia; and Adventure Cove Waterpark.
Theme parks also made five of the top ten most popular attractions globally in 2023, with Singapore Zoo, Gardens by the Bay, The Peak, S.E.A Aquarium, and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan also making the top 10 list.
Concerts featuring international acts are anticipated to sustain their prominence as the most sought-after global events, promising a thrilling 2024 filled with unforgettable cultural experiences.
In 2023, the category of event+ticket became one of the most sought-after products on Trip.com’s platform, with concerts and music festivals such as Jay Chou’s Carnival World Tour in Bangkok and Wang Leehom’s ONE concert in the same city were shown as the top two most popular concerts respectively.
These concerts also resulted in a surge in hotel and air ticket bookings, for example, searches for air tickets to Bangkok exhibited a substantial increase of 213%, while the number of hotel stay bookings in Bangkok on December 9 spiked by 129% when comparing the same two weeks. Additionally, flight bookings from China recorded a significant rise of 118%.
The rise of sustainable travel and event tourism in 2024
For 2024, two pivotal trends look to be shaping the travel landscape – sustainable travel, and the ascent of event tourism. More than a numerical projection, these trends signify a shift in traveller consciousness and preferences.
According to Trip.com Group’s latest ESG report, more than 16 million customers have opted for low-carbon travel options, signalling a rising interest in eco-friendly exploration.
The group’s low-carbon hotel standard initiative was also launched in 2023 with promising results. With over 1,500 partners shortlisted as low-carbon hotels, this suggests that sustainable accommodation is set to become a major trend.
Event tourism, encompassing concerts, festivals, and sporting events, is poised to gain momentum in 2024. With the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the ticket+hotel category is expected to be a sought-after product, underscoring the growing importance of events in shaping travel choices.