What are next year’s top-trending destinations for bespoke travel experiences?
Kensington Tours’ destination experts have shared their picks for 2024, revealing a range of experiences for travellers seeking adventure, luxury and access to insider experiences.
“While 2023 was a huge year for travel, there is no sign that demand is declining in 2024,” said Helen Giontsis, president of Kensington Tours, in a statement. “If anything, we are seeing more requests from clients to help them explore new destinations or revisit favorite places but with fresh perspective.”
“The destinations our team has selected encapsulate the diverse array of trips our clients are seeking, from evergreen European cities to bucket list adventures in Africa, South America, Australia, and Antarctica."
All eyes are set on Paris as it gears up to host the 2024 Olympics, which has “sparked a surge in interest to travel to France,” Kensington says.
The city is working hard to put its best foot forward for what is expected to be the most significant spectator event in its history.
However, those considering a visit to the City of Light this summer should prepare early. Hotel prices have already skyrocketed, and finding accommodation during the games will be extremely challenging.
"If you're planning a trip to France in 2024, it's wise to finalize your plans now," said Jason Susinski, director of product at Kensington. "It will be very challenging to get around Paris in July and August as there will be larger than usual crowds, potential unexpected road closures, and possible attraction shutdowns. While the main events are in Paris, other cities like Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, and Nice will also host events. They might not face the same level of congestion and price surge as Paris, but disruptions are still possible. For a smoother experience, consider visiting in the first half of the year."
For those keen to explore the best of the country, an itinerary to Paris, Provence and the Riviera includes opportunities to see the highlights from private guided tours in Paris to food walks in Nice and countryside exploration in Avignon.
“Turkey is somewhat of a trifecta and a perfect choice for curious travellers as it hovers the border of both Europe and Asia with a culture that is heavily influenced by the Middle East,” said Briana Klaudrat, lead product consultant, Europe.
As Turkey has heavily invested in their tourism infrastructure and transportation network, travellers are realizing that they can very cost-effectively explore this country with fantastic accommodations from a luxurious resort on the Turquoise Coast, a trendy boutique property in Istanbul or a unique cave hotel in the heart of Cappadocia.
For a full exploration of the country, the Grand Turkey Journey offers a multifaceted travel experience that will appeal to a wide range of interests with historical sites, buzzling bazaars, breathtaking views from a hot air balloon over trendy Cappadocia, and diverse landscapes with stunning coastlines starting and ending in Istanbul for the best flight options.
Portugal offers history, excellent food and wine, a warm climate, friendly people, and rich culture, all at exceptional value compared to other European destinations.
Lisbon is ranked as Europe's top city break destination for affordability and is a popular choice for repeat visits, Kensington says.
For adventurous travellers, the Azores Islands are gaining recognition as an affordable alternative to Iceland, offering dramatic landscapes and thermal waters.
“For those looking for a trip that covers the must-sees of Portugal, the Lisbon & Porto Explorer offers experiences from learning to understand peak Portuguese culture and music at a sultry Fado night, or settling in for a tasting at a local, family-owned winery tucked into the stunning Douro Valley,” said Klaudrat. “For more adventure, the Azores Adventure encompasses four of the nine archipelago islands boasting insanely dramatic landscapes and activities for everyone from watching a blue whale crest on the surface of the Atlantic right in front of you with the dramatic coast of Faial Island in the backdrop.”
Greece is a must for both couples seeking romance and families looking for a friendly setting. It offers ancient history, beautiful beaches with clear waters, a rich culture, and delicious cuisine and wine.
“While Santorini and Mykonos are popular, there's a growing trend of travelers seeking a more authentic Greek experience on quieter, better-value islands,” said Klaudrat. “Our Hidden Gems of the Greek Cyclades itinerary highlights islands like Naxos and Milos. You can explore Naxos Town's whitewashed streets and nightlife one day, and the next, enjoy a farm visit with a local to learn about the island's agriculture through a culinary tour. Milos, on the other hand, offers a unique landscape with moon-like beaches. The smaller Cyclades islands are brimming with proud locals eager to showcase their culture, making them a perfect choice for an authentic Greek experience without compromising on quality boutique hotels.”
"The ultimate destination for adventure seekers, Costa Rica offers something for everyone: rafting, volcano hiking, hanging bridges, birdwatching, and abundant wildlife, alongside miles of beaches," said Erika Linares, destination lead, Latin America.
For first-time visitors, the Costa Rica Signature itinerary covers it all from rafting in Arenal, cloud forest experience and zip-lining and birdwatching in Monteverde. For those seeking an ultra-luxe experience, consider the Costa Rica Luxury Villa Retreat.
Set on the Papagayo Peninsula, Villa Belvedere, spanning 11,800 square feet, is perfect for multiple families. The experience includes guided jungle and volcano hikes in Rincon de la Vieja National Park and an exclusive catamaran sailing adventure along the Papagayo Coast.
One of the best ways to witness the beauty of Antarctica is combining the best of a luxury cruise and private guided landed tours from Patagonia, Iguazu Falls, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Buenos Aires and Santiago, Kensington says.
A 17-day trip to Antarctica and Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World – allows travellers to experience all four seasons.
“One day you’re in awe of a magnificent waterfall, the next you’re watching humpback whales breach polar waters," said Noraly Barillas, South America destination expert.
For those seeking luxury and adventure, a Journey to the White Continent includes crossing the Drake Passage in style with options to take the path less travelled in a hike through the White Continent, or to kayak with expert guides to soak in the beauty and wildlife.
The Last Frontier remains a popular destination for adventure seekers.
In addition to traditional itineraries to Alaska, Kensington Yachts – the sister company to Kensington Yachts dedicated exclusively to yacht charter trips – offers a luxe option featuring.
Guests will enjoy a week aboard their luxury yacht with fully staffed crew that will serve as the base from which they will be able to experience activities such as whale watching, kayaking, salmon or halibut fishing, glacier hiking, helicopter glacier flights, zip lining and floatplane sightseeing trips.
Another bucket list destination that is trending from pent-up demand, Australia’s vibrant cities, Great Barrier Reef and Outback are always popular and for many travellers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip so they want to soak it all up in one epic trip.
Kensington’s Signature Australia itinerary does just that hitting all of the major points of interest from Sydney’s Harbour and Bondi Beach to aboriginal culture in Ayers Rock to snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and penguin spotting on Phillip Island.
In 2023, Japan saw a surge in tourism as it was one of the last nations to fully reopen post-pandemic.
This trend is expected to continue into 2024.
"Japan is a great destination throughout the year, but the Cherry Blossom season is particularly popular due to its stunning beauty,” said David Crimi, product manager.
Kensington’s Cherry Blossom itinerary includes private-guided visits to Tokyo and Kyoto's temples, shrines, and landmarks; trips to Hakone, the entrance to Mt. Fuji and its national park; and a visit to a sake museum with a tasting session.
There's a growing trend of travellers revisiting Africa for another safari adventure, Kensington says.
Andrew Drummond, manager of product, explained: "Many first-timers, after just a few game drives, become enamored with the safari experience they've long dreamed of. On subsequent visits, we provide them with deeper, more immersive experiences."
These adventures extend beyond the usual 'Big 5' safaris, offering explorations on foot, canoe, boat, and even helicopter to give varied perspectives.
Recognizing this trend, Kensington has launched several luxury itineraries.
One includes a South Africa Luxe trip where visitors can ride a cable car up Table Mountain and then bike down, visit the penguins at Cape Point Peninsula, go whale watching, and track the Big Five in Sabi Sands. Another itinerary offers a tour of Namibia, where travelers can wander the desert dunes of Sossusvlei, see ancient rock art at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Twyfelfontein, track desert-adapted elephants, enjoy game drives in Etosha National Park, and stay in top-notch Namibian lodges. Additionally, there's an itinerary featuring the Seychelles, allowing guests to hike, scuba dive, and more.
Other trends that Kensington Tours’ experts are seeing:
Insider Access & Exclusivity
Kensington Tours has several exclusive new products, including Black Book by Kensington Tours, which presents exclusive experiences that were once only accessible to a select few insiders.
These experiences encompass attending a prestigious Hollywood event celebrating the year’s best in film called "The Party," viewing the world’s greatest car race in Las Vegas from above the team's pit, and journeying to Europe's premier cities on a private jet, complete with exclusive shopping and dining experiences.
Privacy, more space & ultra-luxe accommodation
As the trend of multi-generational travel expands, travellers are seeking spacious luxury villas that offer exclusivity and concierge services.
To meet this demand, Kensington Tours introduced Beyond Villas by Kensington Tours featuring private villas for those desiring ultimate privacy, complemented with custom-made travel plans.
Luxury on the high seas
Just as private air travel has surged among luxury travellers, so, too has the interest in yacht charters.
This month, Kensington Yachts launched as a sister company to Kensington Tours as a full service yacht brokerage that matches the perfect vessel with unique land experiences, luxury transfers, hotel and villa stays, and private jet and helicopter transfers.
For those who prefer more traditional river and cruise options, Voyages by Kensington Tours seamlessly pairs the client’s cruise of choice with pre- and post-cruise experiences that are privately guided and fully customized to destinations throughout Europe as well as other popular and trending destinations such as Alaska, Antarctica, Asia, Galapagos, Egypt and the Arctic.