Booking patterns may change in 2024 due to ongoing geopolitical and financial challenges, but travellers will continue to take holidays “no matter what”, according to a panel of experts.
Neil Sealy, Exoticca managing director for the UK & Ireland, predicted the rising cost of living will not have an impact on the number of people wanting to travel in 2024, and although the industry may face “bumps” throughout the year, demand will continue at its current rate.
He spoke on a panel at an Abta travel trends conference held in London yesterday (Tuesday).
“Covid taught us not to take anything for granted,” Sealy told delegates.
“We do expect bumps along the way next year, but we have learned that people are determined to travel. Holidays mean a lot to people and on a longer term basis those bookings will come as if they don’t book in one month, they’ll book in the following month.
“While the booking pattern may be affected, the number of people travelling will not. People will travel no matter what.”
His thoughts were echoed by Carolyn Addsion, head of product at luxury tour operator Black Tomato.
Addison said having a “wide stable” of travel destinations in the operator’s portfolio means travellers will have choice when it comes to which destination they want to go to, meaning they can avoid any countries suffering from geopolitical problems.
“We have lots of geographies we can send people to, which we’re very grateful for,” she said.
“We expect there will be shifts in demand based on events that we cannot foresee at the moment, but we’re pleased we have a wide stable of destinations to send people to.”
However, Hotelplan marketing director Anne Williams said the rising cost of living is a concern for the company, which is the parent of Explore Worldwide, Inntravel, Inghams, Espirit and Santa’s Lapland.
She warned increasing mortgage costs and less disposable income may lead to a decline in the number of people able to travel, so offering flexibility is key to making sales.
“Although our ski customers are sitting in the affluent market, a lot will have mortgages coming up for renewal and with increased interest rates we’re concerned there will be a pinch point where they can’t afford to travel,” said Williams.
“Many families might find they go from a relatively low fixed term rate to having significantly higher monthly outgoings.
“We’re trying to lock people in with good value, good deals and flexible payment plans so they feel they have more options and are happy to book.”