Marley Kirkpatrick Account Director, Tourism and Place Branding



Embracing Authenticity: Where Tourism is Headed in 2024

Travel in 2024 continues to be motivated by experiencing the local flavour of a place, something you can’t capture anywhere else. The mom-and-pop restaurant with locally sourced produce. The mural downtown you simply must have your picture taken with. The bridge over a river where everyone goes to watch the sunset. It’s the little things, the unique things, that people are seeking when they travel. 

Based on various industry reports, plus insights from the 2023 Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) Congress, we’ve collated some tourism trends we’re anticipating for the year ahead. 

Embracing local, sustainable choices aligned with personal values

A 2022 report from the World Travel & Tourism Council, in partnership with Group and Deloitte, shared how more people are planning their itineraries to include activities that stimulate the local economy. Choosing to purchase locally sourced products and experiences is a priority.

Sustainability ladders up into a larger conversation—travelling in alignment with personal values. As we’re confronted with the realities of climate change and how our actions affect the planet, travellers are looking to experience a destination without leaving too large of an environmental footprint—and ideally have a positive contribution to the place by supporting eco-friendly attractions, staying in neighbourhoods, choosing locally owned businesses, visiting walkable destinations, and even to some, looking to engage with local volunteer groups and activities. These are all ways people are aligning travel with their personal values. 

So what does this mean for destinations? Knowing travellers are looking for more sustainable experiences, these should be a primary ongoing feature in your content marketing. Remember, it’s about authenticity. Today’s traveller is looking for relevant, engaging information about a place and the things to experience once they get there. Give them lots of unique ideas while highlighting your local businesses as much as possible.

Prioritizing travel as a necessary expense

It’s no secret that spending habits are shifting as people adjust to the rising cost of living. But that doesn’t mean people are eliminating travel. In fact, it doesn’t appear travel is taking a back seat when it comes to spending decisions. Greg Klassen from Skift Advisory noted at the TIAC Congress that consumers are willing to give up other purchase decisions and spending in order to accommodate travel. Travel is being seen as a need, not a want. A need for mental health and wellbeing, personal growth, education, and rejuvenation. It’s shifted from a luxury to a necessity. Destinations should consider what is motivating their visitors, provide as much value as possible, and find ways to support and encourage the personal benefits of travelling. 

Another consideration of “therapeutic travel” is the influx of solo travel, as people are looking for smaller, intimate experiences. According to Press Reader, solo travellers are more likely to visit local spots (think hobbies and classes, smaller attractions, unique activities) than a typical tourist experience.

As a destination, consider how you can optimize a potential solo visitor’s stay. Are there promotions to run, partnerships to be had, unique value only your place can offer? 

Connecting with local cultures

Every community has its own unique culture to be tapped into, creating unique travel experiences for visitors and locals alike. Effective destination marketing promotes local vendors, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and embraces the variety of global cultures of a place. 

According to Skift, hotels are creatively addressing a guest’s desire to immerse in local culture such as music, food, and art. Hotel experiences are now localized, incorporating the unique and the bespoke—and much more than just a place to sleep. They’re a way to experience local culture for the modern traveller.

Authenticity remains key. Promoting local without consulting local is missing the point. Talk to local businesses, community groups and associations, and residents to learn, listen, and understand what’s unique and how best to partner and promote to potential visitors. Use these insights to build a destination experience that accurately reflects your community, uncovering your niche as authentically as possible.

Leveraging social media in 2024

Social media continues to play an important role in how we find new travel destinations. Inspiration for travel can be found through a stream of short format video content, influencer content, or photography of a place. A 2023 MGH survey revealed that 60% of American TikTok users have become interested in visiting a new destination after seeing a video about it. The same survey showed 32% of users have booked a stay at a new resort or hotel they saw on TikTok, and 28% have visited an attraction they saw on TikTok.

And that’s just one social media platform. A 2022 report from the digital consumer research firm Bulbshare found 99% of Gen Z consumers (those born between 1997 and 2022) will skip an ad if it’s an option, and 81% of consumers trust “real opinions over those promoted by an advertisement,” says Bulbshare CEO Matt Hay. 

So what does this mean for destination marketers? Content. You need to be continuously creating content about your place—a constant stream of imagery and video. A well-articulated place brand platform will help to guide the content plan—identifying key pillars of content, a contributor strategy, an influencer strategy, and opportunities for paid and earned media support. It’s an “always on” approach to creating awareness and an impression of place.  

With a new year comes new trends and opportunities for place marketers. Reach out to us today for our expert insight to help you achieve your 2024 goals.