Here’s What To Expect From 2023 Travel: Trends And Predictions
If you thought travel came back with a vengeance this year, you’re not wrong. Air traffic hit about 70% of pre-pandemic levels globally—an impressive feat considering there were still staffing and operational constraints, not to mention closed borders in some destinations.
While we’re thrilled to see normalcy returning and tourism rebounding, in some ways traveling was crazy in 2022. Rental car shortages, packed European capitals and sky-high airfares were just the start. Will travel in 2023 be as overwhelming? We’ve scoured the data to give you an inside look at what travel trends to expect over the coming year.
Travel Is Still a Priority
Inflation is hitting everyone’s bottom line but so far, that’s not enough to deter anyone from skipping their travel plans. The U.S. Travel Foundation is forecasting an increase in travel spending in 2023 compared to 2022 (or 2019, for that matter).
As a traveler, that means you should still expect completely full flights and plenty of other visitors at popular travel spots. Deals might be harder to find while demand stays high, but there are still ways to save on travel in 2023.
Luxury Travel Is Here To Stay
For some, skipping trips in the height of the pandemic meant that travel budgets were higher once the world reopened. Five star hotels, flight upgrades and bespoke experiences are all on the table.
A survey by Booking.com found that nearly half (49%) of its respondents selected that they are likely to spend more on their next trip to make up for lost time. Perhaps more telling, 43% of respondents are willing to go all out when it comes to costs. Younger travelers in particular intend to splurge. An Expedia study found that 80% of survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 are willing to pay to upgrade their experience.
Here at Forbes Advisor, we’re not surprised. Mid-range hotels are reducing standard offerings by removing breakfast benefits and housekeeping services, which makes the true luxury hotels stand out even more than they used to. Similarly, airlines, rental cars and attractions may be understaffed which might mean you need to pay up for a comfortable, convenient experience.
Currency Arbitrage Puts New Destinations on the Map
The U.S. dollar is stronger than it has been in a long time, making international travel look especially attractive. As of early December 2022, the dollar and euro are almost 1-to-1 and currency exchange rates to many other popular destinations are also favorable. Travelers have been heading to lower-cost countries for years as a way to get more for their money but suddenly, it’s not just Vietnam and Colombia that look affordable. It’s nearly everywhere.
We guarantee you won’t be the only one who can suddenly afford a trip to Japan, so you should expect some crowds in countries that are newly attainable. However, sharing the experience can be well worth it if it means you can travel somewhere you otherwise couldn’t. You can also push that trip farther into the future in hopes an initial surge dies down but still lock in a strong dollar. Prepaying international travel expenses such as hotel stays give you today’s exchange rate, assuming you can float the cost.
U.S. Continues To Get Domestic Traffic
Though international travel may look affordable, the reality is many travelers will stay stateside. An Expedia survey found that 59% of respondents expect to plan travel within the U.S., either instead of or in addition to foreign trips.
While the country is vast, traveler mindsets are not. The most-searched destinations all had warm climates in common. If you’re looking to zig while others zag in 2023, put more temperate locales on your radar. If nothing but the beach will do, plan on booking ahead to lock in reservations while they’re still available.
Travelers Are Planning Ahead Again
Speaking of booking in advance, travelers are finally comfortable with locking in trips ahead of time. With previously ever-changing travel rules and restrictions, it often made sense to wait until the eleventh hour to book a trip rather than face disappointment or last-minute scrambles to adjust to new policies. Now, stability is relatively common again.
A Virtuoso study found that travelers are, on average, booking trips farther ahead for 2023 than they did back in 2019. On the same line, an American Express Travel survey found that 50% of respondents were already thinking about where to go in summer 2023.
What this means for you: if you’re heading somewhere popular, book ahead. However, we’re optimistic that more spontaneous travelers won’t be out of luck as long as they remain flexible and open to opportunistic deals and packages.
“Hush” Trips Let Remote Workers Dip Their Toes Into Digital Nomadism
Digital nomadism was gaining traction even before remote work became commonplace. But for some individuals, full-on digital nomadism is too extreme. That’s precisely why “hush” trips have the potential to be the newest travel trend in 2023. Remote workers pack up and head somewhere new for a limited amount of time—think a week or two, rather than all year—without ever telling their employer. Then, login, get to work, and save some time to explore.
Vacation rentals make it easy for someone to set up a workspace away from home, but we’re seeing hotels jump onto this bandwagon, too. Traditional properties are marketing to remote workers by offering discounts on extended stays. Other perks include having pools, bars and fitness centers on-site so you can make the most of your workcation.
Regardless of Where or How You Go, Experiences Reign Supreme
The days of nothing but rest and relaxation are changing. Almost all travelers want to spend at least part of their trip experiencing new or unique activities, according to a survey by GetYourGuide. In fact, 90% of respondents want to experience a destination “like a local” and two-thirds of millennial respondents specifically worry about whether it’s an authentic experience.
Even though it sounds like everyone is chasing the same goal, there are a hundred different approaches to learn about culture or try something new. The internet can make it easier to find specialty tours and local events, but this might be the year to go old-school, too: put down the top 10 lists and your phone and be willing to venture spontaneously to see what you discover on your own.
Responsible Travel Is No Longer Niche
Hand in hand with a desire to see a destination as locals do, travelers are putting more emphasis on traveling responsibly. When you’re eliminating the gap between tourist and resident and forging human connections, your impact as a traveler is more apparent. A Virtuoso survey found that clients want to benefit local people and the economy and are willing to pay more accordingly.
Environmentally sustainable travel—which has progressively captured more attention for a few years in a row now—is equally important to some travelers. In the same Virtuoso survey, 70% of respondents selected that traveling sustainably enhances their experience. Meanwhile, the YouGov Travel and Tourism Practice believes we’re at an important tipping point. Already, they found that 44% of consumers try to make purchases (including travel) from socially and environmentally conscious companies.
These aren’t hard-to-achieve goals, either. More brands are getting onboard with offering eco-friendly, ethical travel experiences and sharing precisely how they’re making a difference so travelers can book with companies they align with.
For the most part, travel is rebounding back to pre-pandemic levels, even despite inflation and, at times, significant operational challenges in 2022. We expect travelers to head to all corners of the globe, even if that means splurging at times and planning ahead seems to be a common theme. Plus, we’ll see even more emphasis on experiences once you’re at your destination and a renewed focus on traveling responsibly and sustainably throughout 2023.