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Key Trends and Insights from World Travel Market’s Yearbook 2023

I recently read World Travel Market’s Yearbook for 2023 and I found it so informative and insightful!

It is, however, about 195 pages long, so I have taken the liberty of condensing it down to just a few pages of my top takeaways.

If you’re interested, read on:


Industry Growth and Economic Impact:

- Tourism is forecasted to grow at double the average rate of the global economy over the next 10 years.

- The tourism industry contributes to 11.3% of the world's total GDP and is a linchpin of the global economy (WTTC 2022 Economic Impact Report).

- 1 in 3 new jobs are created by the tourism sector.

We’re witnessing “a triumphant return of the travel industry in the post-pandemic world” with passenger numbers surging, flight bookings skyrocketing, and recruitment drives running at full speed. However, while the talent inflow is robust, attrition rates are soaring, creating a tug-of-war to attract and retain top-tier talent. The paradox is real: a booming industry on one hand and a revolving door on the other. As the Founder and CEO of Eminere stated, “The industry is battling to not just attract top-tier talent but to retain them for the long haul.”


Customers are no longer just looking for a room with a view; they’re seeking experiences that align with their core values. “Sustainability, ethical practices, and cultural sensitivity are no longer ‘nice-to-haves’; they’re non-negotiables.”


Business Travel and Cruise Industry Insights:

- Global business travel spend is expected to reach $1,472 billion in the next three years.

- The cruise industry has boomed since the pandemic, up by 106% since 2019, with 85% of travellers who have cruised planning to cruise again.


Environmental Initiatives:

In 2023, the Australian government pledged AU$4.4 billion to safeguard the future of the Great Barrier Reef, which was at risk of being listed as “in danger” by UNESCO due to pollution and climate change.


Intrepid Travel’s CEO, James Thornton, emphasised the urgency of addressing climate change: “The extreme weather events we witnessed in Europe this summer were a stark reminder that climate change is happening right now. We need to rapidly double down on our environmental and social goals and call on others to do the same.”


Intrepid Travel is also leading the way in workplace diversity and inclusion, recognising that being "carbon neutral" is not enough and advocating for rapid decarbonization. They are accelerating their programs by removing non-essential flights, using public transport where possible, and adding plant-based meals to their offerings.


Trends in Low-Impact and Inclusive Travel:

- Only 6% of pilots in the aviation industry are female.

- In hospitality, 70% of employees are female, yet only 20% of them are executive officers, and 8% are directors.

- Virgin Atlantic won the IATA Diversity & Inclusion Team Award in 2023 and recently updated its uniform policy to allow staff to choose outfits that best represent them and display tattoos.


In other airline news, easyJet is encouraging more people over 45 to join as cabin crew, resulting in a 160% increase in crew members over 60 since 2022. United Airlines aims to have 50% of its pilots be women and people of colour by 2030 to boost racial and gender equity.


Marketing and Consumer Trends:

- 76% of consumers have made a travel choice based on promotions or ads that they felt represented them through messaging or visuals.

- found that 80% of LGBTQIA+ travellers consider their safety and well-being when selecting travel destinations.


Marketing experts are urging the travel industry to make its advertising more diverse and inclusive to attract a broader range of staff. Delta Airlines launched a free Adobe stock image library in 2023 to illustrate the “beautiful diversity of travellers in the world,” and Celebrity Cruises launched an all-inclusive photo project featuring diverse travellers.


Responsible and Regenerative Tourism:

Fiona Jeffrey, Founder & Chair of Just a Drop, states, “We need to recalibrate and understand what makes valuable, positive, empowering, regenerative, conserving tourism, as opposed to models that are disrespectful, over-consume resources, and exploit people and places.”


Harold Goodwin emphasises that responsible tourism is “about using tourism to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit, in that order.”


The traditional “fly and flop” is no longer enough for travellers. There is an increasing demand for experiential tourism, with evidence that travellers are concerned about their negative impacts. Regulators are cracking down on “greenwashing,” which undermines the tourism sector in the eyes of travellers and destination communities.


Sustainable Travel Statistics:

- Earth Overshoot Day in 2023 fell on August 2, indicating that in just seven months, we had consumed all the resources the planet could generate in a year.

- reports that 80% of guests consider sustainable travel essential.

- Marriott’s 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Goals aim to make a positive and sustainable impact through energy-efficient architecture, zero-waste initiatives, and locally sourced cuisine.


Global eco-tourism statistics:

- 80% of travellers will pay at least 10% more for sustainable travel features.

- 41% of travellers are prepared to pay 30% more for adventure and eco-tourism.


Industry Innovations and Trends:

- Global wellness tourism reached $1.1 trillion in 2023.

- Global sports tourism is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2030.

- Global culinary tourism aims for $1,797 billion by 2027.


Dubai and Cuba were the most popular destinations in 2023, with 94% of clients embedding wellness and self-care into their trips as a standard component. Many travellers are prioritizing street food over Michelin-star dining and showing a growing interest in hyper-local dining.


Technological Advances:

- 97.8% of travel executives say AI will have an impact over the next 1-5 years.

- There are currently 100 million active ChatGPT users (as of February 2023).

- Expedia collaborates with OpenAI to offer in-app trip planning powered by ChatGPT, providing personalised recommendations and facilitating bookings.


Indigenous and Cultural Tourism:

Indigenous tourism is one of the fastest-growing trends in travel. Zina Bencheikh from Intrepid Travel notes, “Post-pandemic, people are looking for genuinely sustainable and community-led experiences that benefit both the land and its people.”


Food-driven travel is growing in popularity among younger travellers, with 47% of Gen-Z and Millennials planning trips around specific restaurants or food festivals.


Tourism as a Force for Good:

Fatim-Zahra Ammor, Morocco’s Minister of Tourism, states, “Tourism is a global force for good. Every time we travel, we have the incredible opportunity to uplift local communities, provide livelihoods, and celebrate the diverse tapestry of humanity.”


Dona Regis-Prosper, Secretary General & CEO of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, discusses breaking down barriers: “Travel is one of the most impactful activities for breaking down the barriers that separate and divide cultures, nationalities, races, and even neighbouring communities.”


Crypto Tourism and the Metaverse:

- Around 13% of the adult population owns at least one type of cryptocurrency, with 3.6 million people expected to spend it by the end of 2023.

- Qatar Airways’ QVerse allows customers to explore first-class check-in counters, lounges, and business economy class cabins in the metaverse.

- South Korea launched Metaverse Seoul in January 2023, a virtual replica of its capital city.

- Celebrity Cruises has built a virtual world called the “Wonderverse,” where potential sailors can explore a digital recreation of the newest ship, Celebrity Beyond.

- The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, is now in the metaverse, allowing visitors to explore Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan in a 3D virtual world.


It's clear that the travel industry is evolving rapidly, driven by sustainability, inclusivity, and technological innovation. As we look to the future, travel will continue to be a powerful force for good, connecting people and cultures while addressing the pressing challenges of our time.

What we need to focus on immediately - is upskilling our workforce to support the tourism and travel industry's growth in all sectors, and we can do this through training, workshops and ongoing professional development. This will not only better equip travel staff with the essential tools for assisting travellers and providing superior customer service, but to also retain the staff in tourism businesses for he long-haul.

As a qualified trainer & assessor, with over 20 years experience in the travel and tourism industry - I'm skilled and ready to assist your travel team through personalised training and workshops.

Contact us today to discuss your training needs.


Daina Walker

Founder & Director - Diversified Business Skills.

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