January 5, 2024 The Sun Bay Paper Page 16 If you’re thinking of taking time off next year to explore a place close to home, you’ll be one of many people considering the same thing. On the other hand, if Europe is your dream destination, it’s not too early to begin planning and making reservations. These are the trends identifi ed by travel experts looking ahead to what might happen in 2024. In general, they predict a continued upsurge in vacation trips, expansion of some popular types of travel, and increased focus on tourism that can extend experiences and enjoyment beyond the usual. The resurgence of domestic pleasure trips that began as the pandemic waned is expected to continue next year. Folks who learned that attractions not far from where they live have much to off er will spur a continued rise in domestic travel. This coincides with a rise in “microcations,” short trips that don’t require a lot of planning or time off . These mini-journeys can provide introductions to local destinations that were unknown or overlooked in the past. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic leisure travel has been “normalizing” during 2023 and is likely to return to pre-pandemic levels next year. Of course, international travel will retain its allure, and the number of people ready to embark on trips to other countries continues to rebound. As a result, those in the know suggest that it’s not too early to begin taking steps to lock in reservations. Cristiano Cabutti, manager of a Marriott resort in Venice, Italy, has reported that one result of “pent-up travel demand and the concept of making up for lost time” is that the property already is receiving reservation requests for next spring. Dino Triantafi llou of the Italian Journeys tour company suggests that clients book trips at least six months in advance and preferably even earlier “to get what they want at the right price.” According to the annual traffi c report of the Airports Council International, based on information gathered from more than 2,600 airports around the world, 2024 is positioned to be a milestone year for global passenger traffi c. All regions are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels next year, and the Caribbean Islands are predicted to be among the fi rst to achieve that goal. At the same time the volume of travel recovers to previous levels, there likely will be some changes in what many people are seeking from their sojourns. According to Hannah Free, travel and tourism analyst at the information research company GlobalData, “Consumers are now more likely to pursue authentic experiences, demand personalized travel off erings, blend business and leisure travel, and be more conscious of their overall environmental impact.” One trend is an increase in experiential and transformative trips. More people are expected to seek an immersion in the customs and culture of places they visit. Others will look for close interactions with unspoiled nature or opportunities for self-refl ection. An increasing number of people also are paying attention to the eff ect their travel will have on the environment. Sustainable tourism is transitioning from a niche market to a mainstream goal. This translates to assurances that a trip will not contribute to the degradation of a destination -- including protection of both its natural and cultural heritage -- and will support the local economy. Those who seek to combine a trip with eff orts to improve the lives of others are expected to support an increase in volunteer tourism. Opportunities cover a wide range of activities, from helping to build and repair houses to assisting overworked healthcare providers and from teaching English as a second language to school children to picking up trash at tourist sites. The worldwide pandemic has infl uenced the way people will travel as it wanes, if not disappears. One result has been heightened awareness about health and wellness. That translates to vacations that off er holistic benefi ts and enhance physical and mental well-being. This might include yoga and meditation, spas that off er therapeutic treatments and outdoor adventures that promote physical fi tness. Also, as family and friends look forward to reconnecting after being parted by health restrictions, multigenerational and group travel are expected to increase in popularity. These trips provide opportunities for sharing experiences and personal bonding, along with some practical advantages. Going with members of your family or another group can be cost-eff ective because expenses such as accommodations and land transportation are shared. Discounts may be available for tours, excursions and entrance to attractions. An added bonus is the security of being with others in case of an unexpected situation or emergency. Also predicted to grow during 2024 are “workations.” These are trips that combine the appeals of a traditional vacation with the benefi t of being able to work remotely from anywhere in the world. As people are less tied to toiling in a traditional offi ce environment, more are expected to take advantage of the ability to work elsewhere, enabling them to stick to their job at the same time that they enjoy learning about diff erent places and the people who inhabit them. A growing number of accommodations is catering to these “digital nomads” by off ering comfortable workspace, high-speed Wi-Fi connection and other amenities that blur the distinction between employment and enjoyment. Victor Block The Travel Outlook for 2024