Marriott study highlights 2024 emerging travel trends

Marriott International in the Caribbean and Latin America has released its 2024 Travel Trends Forecast, providing a look at how event planning, business travel and priorities are expected to evolve in the coming year. According to a national survey commissioned by Marriott International and conducted by 72Point, key findings reveal shifts in venue site selection, group travel experiences, top domestic and international destinations, and changing demands for hotels. The insights come from a survey of more than 1,000 travel planners and event organizers across the United States. 

Marriott CALA 2024 Trends Infographic

"Travelers are seeking more meaningful group travel experiences that focus on personalized, flexibility, and cultural immersion," Louise Bang, chief sales and marketing officer at Marriott International CALA, said in a statement. "Whether planning leisure or business travel, the new generation of travelers wants to get out and actively explore destinations. Group travel is expected to remain strong in the coming year, and this timely forecast provides valuable insights to help us adapt and cater to new preferences. " 

Venue Priorities

The survey findings reveal that the top factors influencing venue selection for 2024 will be alignment of concessions to evolving program goals (49 percent), adaptability to changing needs (47 percent), and rapid response times to inquiries and requests (46 percent). In addition, only 34 percent of respondents indicated that their selection of a hotel/destination was influenced by prior experiences, suggesting that most event planners are willing to embrace new venues that meet current priorities and requirements. Also, 33 percent will choose based on destination or hotel popularity, showing reputation matters less than the ability to meet event desires and needs.

Group Event Experiences

The types of group event experiences planners aim to incorporate are also evolving in 2024. Attendees expect engaging activities and cultural immersion that support local communities. The survey revealed that the top three would be food and beverage (44 percent), transportation (37 percent), and cultural/local immersion (32 percent). Respondents also emphasized that corporate social responsibility experiences (26 percent) that give back to local communities were of high choice.

Shift from Turnkey to Flexibility

Certain pandemic protocols will fade for group events by 2024. Half see pre-planned plated meals (50 percent) as outdated and prefer flexible dining. Another 49 percent of the respondents shared a continued need for solely outdoor and on-site gatherings, showing openness to off-site and indoor spaces. Whereas large blocked-off in-room workspaces (45 percent) and social distancing standards (38 percent) are event formats declining in interest. Planners now seek customized experiences rather than turnkey events. Personalization and flexible spaces signal a new chapter ahead for group travel.

Wellness Surges

Wellness will remain a significant focus in 2024, with travelers craving more experiences beyond the typical spa. The survey found that 65 percent of respondents expressed interest in active wellness like jiu-jitsu or kickboxing classes, while 58 percent want more mindful activities such as yoga and meditation. As wellness becomes more of a sensory journey, travelers will seek immersive experiences property-wide, such as creative fitness classes, informative workshops, nutritious dining, and more.

Cultural Immersion

Travelers are increasingly seeking authentic experiences from a local perspective and looking to discover hidden gems off the beaten path. The survey uncovered that 60 percent of respondents want to explore local beverages and fully immerse themselves in the regional flavors, with 57 percent looking to find local cuisine and food specialties during their travels. Language immersion is also gaining traction, with 58 percent expressing a strong interest in picking up local languages.

Sustainable Travel

Sustainability is still paramount, with an impressive 77 percent of respondents wanting to visit environmentally friendly destinations that align with their values and volunteer opportunities.  According to data, there is particular interest in supporting communities still rebuilding from natural disasters. Others are looking to reduce travel with high carbon emissions (60 percent) and want choices that positively impact destinations visited.

Top Caribbean and Latin America Destinations

The survey reported clear favorites when it comes to top regional destinations for both leisure and business travel, as Mexico (37 percent), Jamaica (37 percent), and Aruba (35 percent) took the top three spots. The Dominican Republic and the Bahamas also fared well at 34 percent and 31 percent, respectively.