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Soaring passenger traffic, longer stays: Mastercard Economics Institute on travel in 2024

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May 14, 2024 | Purchase, NY

The travel sector in 2024 is breaking boundaries. Through March 2024, consumer spending on travel is robust with significant increases in passenger traffic, according to the latest global report from the Mastercard Economics Institute. Released today, “Travel Trends 2024” provides comprehensive insights into the evolving landscape of the travel industry across 74 markets.

Despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying levels of affordability, the desire to travel remains stronger than ever. In 2024 the travel sector is flourishing, with nine out of the last 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurring this year. Further, travelers are also extending their trips by an extra day compared to pre-pandemic.

Drawing on a unique analysis of aggregated and anonymized transaction data, including Mastercard SpendingPulse™, and third-party data sources, the report takes a deep dive into key travel trends globally for the year and beyond, including:

Record traveling. An all-time high of 15.9 million Americans traveled internationally in Q1 2024, while Japan welcomed over 3 million passenger arrivals in March 2024 alone. The surge in travel reflects greater activity, fueled by a strong labor market and a stronger desire to travel. 

Leisure for longer. Tourists worldwide have spent an extra day on vacation on average – those from Europe and the Middle East and Africa roughly two – with the trend driven by affordable destinations and warmer climates. For each extra 6 degrees Celsius of temperature, the estimated increase in length of stay is approximately 1 day.

Experience economy on the go. Consumers have prioritized meaningful experiences over material goods, even when traveling. Spending on experiences now totals 12% of tourism sales, according to SpendingPulse Destinations which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment – the highest point in at least five years as of March 2024. Ahead of the pack, Australians tend to spend one of every five dollars on experiences and nightlife compared to the global average, which is closer to one in every 10.

Cruising full steam ahead. Cruises are making a remarkable comeback with the count of global cruise passenger transactions roughly 16% above 2019 levels in Q1. Booming cruise demand is also seen at key ports. Over the last 12 months, The Bahamas has welcomed an additional 2.9 million passengers arriving by sea versus 2019 levels. For many travelers, the widening price difference between cruises and hotels has made cruises a more budget-friendly option for a getaway.

Top 10 trending destinations — and dupes. While Japan has emerged as the global frontrunner for top destination in the last 12 months, Munich ranks as the top trending destination for this summer (June-August 2024).  Notably, Albania ranks third in the list of top trending destinations this summer according to the Mastercard Economics Institute, driven largely by savvy travelers seeking authentic Euro-vibes à la neighboring Italy and Croatia, but for less.

“The resilience and adaptability of the travel sector paired with persistent consumer demand has translated to a strong tourism rebound”, said Michelle Meyer, chief economist and head of the Mastercard Economics Institute.  “Just like at home, travelers are prioritizing experiences over goods while abroad. Yet, today’s travelers are discerning, choosing destinations that offer both value and authenticity. They are savvy enough to stretch their funds and extend their stays, immersing themselves fully in the experiences and wonders of each locale.”

Comprehensive support to travelers and tourism sector

Mastercard is dedicated to helping the global tourism sector welcome travelers through a range of services, from market analysis and high-frequency data insights that help make sense of changing consumer trends to customer engagement strategies that personalize the travel experience and drive brand loyalty. And with comprehensive travel benefits and convenience, cardholders can enjoy their travel experiences and everyday purchases with peace of mind.

You can view the full “Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries” report here. Other reports and insights from the Mastercard Economics Institute can be found here.

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