Cultural Immersion a Top Priority for Group Travel in 2024

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group travel trendsWhile food and beverage and transportation are always key priorities, cultural immersion is also at the top of the list of most desired group travel event experiences.

Cultural and localized experiences will be at the top of the priority list for group travel in 2024, according to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S.–based group travel and event planners commissioned by Marriott International in the Caribbean and Latin America. The Marriott 2024 Group Travel Trends Forecast, conducted on Marriott’s behalf by 72Point, found that, at 32 percent, cultural/local immersive experiences came in just behind food and beverage (44%) and transportation (37%) when it comes to the type of group event experiences planners anticipate incorporating into their programs next year. Groups also will be placing more value on culinary experiences (30%), wellness (26%) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities (26%).

The survey didn’t explore how all these different factors might tie together, but the trends outlined in the survey would suggest that this desire to connect more with the locale and the local community throughout all aspects of the event are likely to continue for group travel events in the coming year. For example, many planners already have been looking to incorporate cultural immersion and local touches to F&B and culinary experiences, which would tie into the “go more local” trend.

CSR activities also usually also entails activities that enable participants to learn more about and give back to the local communities in which their event is held. Two-thirds of respondents said their top CSR experiences would include environmentally friendly initiatives such as planting trees or cleaning up trash, while 58 percent want to incorporate hospital visits and charitable donations.

Even wellness is moving outside of the spa — and possibly becoming more community-oriented — with participants wanting more immersive experiences throughout a hotel’s property that could entail bringing in members of the local community to lead creative fitness classes and workshops on nutritious dining using local ingredients.

More than half of respondents indicated they were looking to include wellness beyond the spa, while 50 percent said the same for CSR and 46 percent wanted to include more sustainable experiences.

“Travelers are seeking more meaningful group travel experiences that focus on personalized, flexibility, and cultural immersion,” said Louise Bang, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Marriott International CALA. “Whether planning leisure or business travel, the new generation of travelers wants to get out and actively explore destinations.”

Other findings include:

  • Top factors influencing venue selection include alignment of concessions to evolving program goals (49%), adaptability to changing needs (47%) and rapid response to inquiries and requests (46%).
  • Reputation and experience with a venue are lessening in importance, with just 34 percent saying their selection of a venue/destination was influenced by prior experiences and 33 percent saying a destination or hotel’s popularity is a key factor.
  • Flexible dining options are overtaking pre-planned plated meals for F&B functions.
  • Destinations that need support or financial help, such as those that are recovering from a natural disaster, are on the radar for 77 percent of respondents.

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