There’s no doubt it’s been a long, hot summer in the Northern Hemisphere. July was the hottest month on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but those warm temperatures didn’t stop travelers.
Despite prolonged heat waves in southern Europe and throughout much of the southwest U.S. the travel boom continued. Brits spent 30% more on travel and airlines hit record profits. Daily Express reported that flights to Spain, Greece and Italy have gone up in price by 70% compared to last year. In the U.S., more than 10.7 million people passed through airport checkpoints during the extended Fourth of July holiday, breaking records at airports across the country.
Consequently, more unusual summer vacation destinations have been highlighted such as Scandinavia, Alaska and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. These have been angled as alternative destinations to escape the crowds and extreme temperatures this summer.
Devastating wildfires in Rhodes, Greece and Maui, Hawaii have also been widely reported on in the travel and news pages. As natural disasters remain ever present and increasingly threaten beloved tourist destinations, the dynamics between tourism recovery and backlash against visitors have prompted headlines in media outlets such as Reuters, The New York Times, BBC and The Guardian.
The following is a summary of global travel trends and industry shifts that our PR teams in the U.K., Europe and the U.S. have compiled from recent media feedback, widespread coverage, industry conferences and webinars:
TRENDS IMPACTING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
- AI enters the travel space: This summer, the travel landscape exploded with new AI-powered tools from Booking.com, Priceline, Tripadvisor and Mondee, just to name a few, designed to make the trip-planning and booking process easier and more personalized for consumers. And travel companies aren’t stopping there, with plans for AI to help power travel guides, respond to reviews and comments, and predict flight delays all in the works. (Sources: Skift, CNBC)
- Europe expects bumper year for MICE travel: MMGY Travel Intelligence reports that 2023 is proving itself as a “bumper year” for international meetings and conventions travel in Europe in its recently released Portrait of European Meeting and Convention Travel Report. In-person meetings are back, hotels and conference rooms are seeing a revival and sustainability considerations are on the rise for meeting attendees. More key findings from the study are available here.
- Cruise industry offers new amenities to attract Gen Z: Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found that four million people will need to take their first cruise by 2025 in order for the industry to keep up with projected capacity forecasts. To spur interest among younger generations, amenities and experiences such as pickleball, yoga studios, vegetarian restaurants, DJs and drag shows have been introduced. A preview of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, set to be the largest cruise ship in the world, debuted in the popular video game Fortnite. (Sources: INSIDER, The Independent)
- Sports travel scores big: The 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand set records for attendance, despite the U.S. team, which has a large traveling fan base, losing early on. The Wimbledon experience was recreated in Brooklyn, and buzz is already growing for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and the 2026 Men’s World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Sports tourism is hot, and it’s not just for spectators. Today’s fastest-growing sport, pickleball, has scored recent headlines in the Wall Street Journal, Travel Weekly and Forbes.
- “Dream” destinations: Sleep tourism is booming as people seek restful vacations focused on recharging the mind. Globetrender reported that mattress brand Emma has opened sleep-centered hotels in Taiwan and Australia, and several hotel brands have launched special suites, retreats and experiences tied to the ultimate luxury – a good night’s rest.
U.S. passport backlog impacts international vacations: Wait times for U.S. passport application processing has ballooned to 10–13 weeks, with even expedited requests taking between 7–9 weeks. With such long waits, many Americans are missing trips or opting to travel domestically or stay at home. (Sources: GMA, The New York Times)
MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES AND INSIGHTS
- The Hollywood writers and actors strike has brought the production of movies and scripted television to a halt. With networks and streamers looking to fill those content holes, opportunities arise for increased production, distribution and promotion of reality and documentary content, including travel programs.
- In July, Twitter rebranded as X, one of the most notable changes in a series of adjustments to the platform under the leadership of Elon Musk. In August, it was reported that the platform throttled access time to the pages of outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post, further stressing relationships between X and news organizations. Many journalists who once used Twitter for story leads are now exploring other platforms such as LinkedIn and the newly launched Threads for gathering insight and quotes for stories.
- The Associated Press (AP) issued guidelines for the use of artificial intelligence on August 16, officially stating the tool cannot be used to create publishable content and images for the news service. The news organization will also add a chapter to its Stylebook specific to AI. Reuters, INSIDER, CBC and The Guardian have also recently set their own rules for the use of AI in their newsrooms. (Source: Associated Press, NiemanLab)
U.S. MEDIA SHIFTS
- Sebastian Modak is the new travel editor for Off Duty at The Wall Street Journal. He previously served as a freelance journalist and editor at large for Lonely Planet.
- Andrew Kirell will now lead travel coverage for The Daily Beast following the departure of Will O’Conner who will launch travel coverage for The Messenger.
- Danielle Hallock is now a senior editor for Atlas Obscura. She previously served as a senior travel editor at Thrillist.
- Beware of travel journalist imposters! While this sounds too wild to believe, our team has been informed of individuals impersonating travel writers, including notable freelancer Jenn Rice, in order to enjoy free press trips from destinations. The imposters are even going as far as to set up fake Muck Rack profiles.
U.K. MEDIA SHIFTS
- Online travel platform ROADBOOK has launched with a team led by Digital Director Mhairi Mann who was previously Head of Digital at Luxury London Media.
- Olivia Marks has returned from maternity leave to her role as Deputy Features Director at British Vogue.
- Lizzie Frainer has been appointed Associate Editor at The Times. She was previously Deputy Head of Digital Lifestyle at The Telegraph.
- Rebecca Miller has been appointed Digital Associate Editor of The Sun Fabulous. She was previously Deputy Lifestyle Editor at The Express.