Marriott International in the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA) recently revealed its 2024 Travel Trends Forecast, providing a comprehensive look at how event planning, business travel and priorities are expected to evolve in the coming year. The key findings of a national survey commissioned by Marriott International and conducted by 72Points revealed 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 over 1,000 travel planners and event organizers across the United States.
Survey findings found 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. In addition, 33 percent will choose based on destination or hotel popularity, showing reputation matters less than the ability to meet event desires and needs.
New Focuses for Meeting Planners
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. To note, travelers are increasingly seeking authentic experiences from a local perspective and looking to discover hidden gems off the beaten path. The survey found 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.
Along the same lines, respondents also emphasized that corporate social responsibility experiences (26 percent) that give back to local communities were of high choice.
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.
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.
Out With Pandemic Protocols
Certain pandemic protocols will fade for group events by 2024, as well. 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. Large, blocked-off in-room workspaces (45 percent) and social distancing standards (38 percent) are event formats declining in interest, too. Planners, instead, now seek customized experiences rather than turnkey events; personalization and flexible spaces signal a new chapter ahead for group travel.
Good to know: 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. With its natural scenery, abundant resorts, and plentiful airlift from the United States, the Caribbean overall remains the go-to region for tropical getaways and corporate retreats.