Despite economic fears, many Quebecers hope to travel in 2024: survey

“People see travel as an essential component of the balance in their lives. It’s part of a quest for happiness.”

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Slowdown or no, Quebec travellers are itching to see the world.

Almost three-quarters of respondents in a survey conducted last fall by the Université du Québec à Montréal’s chair on tourism say they want to travel in 2024 despite the economic downturn — although more than half admit the current uncertainties could affect their vacation plans. Some 64 per cent believe travel plays an important role in their mental health.

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Released Wednesday, the online survey singles out six key trends for the coming year. They include teleworking’s impact on the appetite for team-building activities, the growing importance of extreme weather events on vacation demand, and the emergence of artificial intelligence as a travel-planning tool.

“Demand for travel remains, even if there is uncertainty in several areas of our lives,” Marc-Antoine Vachon, head of the Transat Chair on Tourism at UQAM, said Wednesday at a public presentation downtown. “People see travel as an essential component of the balance in their lives. It’s part of a quest for happiness.”

Thirty-four per cent of travellers polled see travel as a priority expense. These individuals tend to travel more often and go abroad more than others, Vachon said.

Inflation is nevertheless a key hurdle — with 54 per cent of survey respondents saying the current economic climate acts as a barrier to travel. Still, many Quebecers are committed to travelling. Eighty-four per cent of people who say they’re preoccupied by the economy still consider it likely that they will take a leisure trip in 2024, the survey found.

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To save money, 42 per cent of travellers say they’ll be more flexible on their vacation dates, while 41 per cent say they’ll spend more time shopping around. Many adhere to loyalty programs in a bid to spend less on travel.

“People are prepared to make sacrifices to travel,” Vachon said. “But when people make sacrifices, their expectations are higher.”

Off-peak travel remains popular. Fifty-nine per cent of people who took part in the poll say they travelled outside of the usual June-September period last year.

How people plan their vacation is changing — albeit slowly. Thirty-eight per cent of survey respondents said they used an artificial intelligence platform such as ChatGPT last year. A mere six per cent said they specifically used AI to help them plan a trip.

Wellness tourism is growing faster than the travel industry itself, with 12 per cent of survey respondents saying it represents their main reason for going on vacation. Wellness tourism includes activities such as meditation, physical exercise and the contemplation of nature.

“We’re no longer at the ‘been there, done that’ stage where people go places just to get a selfie,” Vachon said. “We want travel to do us good. Mental health has taken on a new importance since the pandemic.”

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Teleworking’s enduring popularity is stoking demand for employee gatherings that promote brainstorming or closer contacts between staffers. Team-building activities are particularly popular with industries such as banking or insurance.

Forty-one per cent of teleworkers who answered the survey said they have held off-site meetings in the past year. That’s more than twice as many as people who spend most of their working week in the office.

Extreme weather events such as forest fires are weighing on travel demand. Ten per cent of Quebec travellers who vacationed in the province last year had to change their plans for weather-related reasons, the poll found. Of those who made adjustments, 40 per cent postponed their trip, 26 per cent cancelled it, 18 per cent shortened their vacation and eight per cent ended up going somewhere outside Quebec.

Thirty-six per cent of survey respondents said weather considerations will influence their vacation planning in 2024. Thirty-five per cent say they’ll be more flexible with their dates because of the weather.

UQAM’s tourism chair polled 1,002 francophone Quebec residents ages 18 to 74 from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6. Respondents had to have spent at least one night away from home during the past two years. No margin of error was provided.

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