Longer Trips in Cheaper Destinations — And Why Albania Is Getting So Popular

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Travelers are still booking flights despite inflation. Where some of those flights are headed may be different, though.

Italy and Greece may come to mind when planning a summer holiday in Europe. But travelers are gravitating toward other destinations that offer similar amenities at lower prices. A 2024 travel trends report from Mastercard showed increased air traffic and longer stays in some cheaper destinations.

“People are trying to be very thoughtful about how they can continue to enjoy travel and enjoy these experiences within their budget,” said Mastercard Chief Economist Michelle Meyer.

Albania is one standout budget-friendly destination. The country has had a 141% increase in daily flight traffic since 2019. For this summer, the Albanian capital of Tirana — which is close to some beach hotels — is witnessing an increase in its share of flight bookings from pre-pandemic levels. The report calls it one of this year’s trending summer destinations.

“There has been more of potentially a focus on tourism in terms of increasing the number of flights that are moving in, trying to facilitate more tourism, which is, of course, an effort to support greater economic growth,” said Meyer on Albania’s popularity.

Another change: Travelers are staying about one day longer on trips than they did in 2019. This trend is most prominent in destinations that have not experienced a steep increase in hotel prices.

For example, in markets with the smallest price change, travelers added 2.1 days. In markets with the biggest increase, travelers added less than one day.

The Middle East and Africa, followed by Europe, are the regions with the greatest trip extensions from 2019.

Meyer thinks the post-pandemic spike in “bleisure” travel — fusing business and leisure — may be contributing to this boost in longer stays. The hybrid work model that evolved from the pandemic leads to more flexibility.

“To travel for work, you can add on a leisure trip. If you travel for leisure, you can add in one day working from anywhere or be able to integrate your work into your leisure activity,” Meyer said.

What else to know

  • A record-breaking total of around 15.9 million Americans traveled abroad in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Japan had the highest increase in share of tourist spending from last year. The U.S. and Canadian currencies’ strength against the Japanese yen led Japan to becoming a trending destination.
  • The surge in events-based travel, like with Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, remains. Munich — a host of the upcoming UEFA European Championship — tops the list of Mastercard’s most in-demand summer destinations, with Tokyo and Tirana close behind.
  • The share of passenger arrivals by sea has gone up in the Bahamas since late 1999. Originally at roughly 60%, that percentage was over 80% for Bahamas arrivals in February. Cruise transactions overall are up from 2019.
  • Egypt’s currency devaluation and tourism investment could eventually position it to be a major player for those looking to travel to the Middle East and North Africa in coming years, Meyer said. Egypt’s 2027 eclipse will be another event to look out for.

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