Booking.com commissioned extensive research with more than 24,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories1 to reveal seven emerging travel predictions, combining it with its insights as a leading digital travel platform.
People all over the world are feeling overwhelmingly more optimistic about traveling in 2023 than they did in 2022, and despite some current global instability, nearly three quarters (72%) believe that traveling will always be worthwhile. The tone has shifted from hopeful uncertainty to bold adaptability. If 2022 saw the triumphant return of travel, 2023 will see it creatively reimagined in the midst of chaos. Nothing will be off-limits, and everything will be on the menu as everyone tries to strike the right balance in a world full of contradictions.
People are finding themselves in a multi-directional tug-of-war, working to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life, at a time when war, increased societal polarization, rising inflation, and urgent concerns about climate change are all continuing to radically change the world. The 2023 travel predictions reflect this sentiment, revealing that travelers’ needs are shifting in a variety of directions in order to adapt to changing times.
Off-grid living will never be more popular than in 2023, with camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine, and compasses. Natural disasters, political unrest, and a global pandemic have caused some to lose faith in the world and the frivolous must-have comforts of modern life. Almost half (44%) of global travelers want a more back-to-basics feel to their travel experiences, and are looking for ‘off-grid’ style vacations to escape reality (55%), and switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities (44%).
Travelers in 2023 are also eager to learn survival skills (58%) such as how to source clean water (53%), light a fire from scratch (42%), forage for food in the wild (39%), and even prepare for an apocalypse (39%).
Expect to see more eco-friendly, earthly accommodations springing up to accommodate burned-out city dwellers looking for simplicity, as well as accommodations that offer guests guidance on how to be more self-sufficient, such as sourcing and preparing their own meals during their stay. There will also be an increase in wilderness survival schools where travelers will learn essential skills needed to survive a cataclysmic event.
‘Off-grid’ in 2023, however, will not necessarily imply roughing it. There is a widespread misconception that this entails foregoing luxuries (56%), but there is a strong desire to combine the two, with 48% only considering traveling ‘off-grid’ if it can be combined with a more indulgent stay.
And how unplugged is off-grid for the 2023 traveler? More than half (53%) will have a non-negotiable requirement: a phone and internet connection at their destination – so expect this cohort to be out in the wilderness with 5G.
Space travel used to be considered ambitious and ‘outerworldly.’ But now that that has occurred, what and where comes next? Travel will enter the ever-evolving 3D virtual space of the Metaverse in earnest in 2023, with nearly half (43%) of global travelers reporting that they will turn to virtual reality to inspire their vacation choices next year. With more than a third (35%) of travelers eager to embark on a multi-day VR or AR travel experience, the Metaverse will be more than a “try before you buy” experience; it will educate, entertain, and inspire people, opening the door to endless adventure.
In a year, when Metaverse worlds begin replicating and reimagining destinations, travelers will no longer be limited by physics and will be able to experiment with different travel experiences. Beyond 2023, haptic feedback, or the use of touch to communicate with users, will transform virtual travel into a truly immersive experience, delivering a credible sense of 3D touch, such as the feel of soft grains of sand and the warmth of the sun.
Travelers will become more daring in their real-life trip choices after visiting them in the Metaverse first via their online avatars – especially useful for those who are nervous about trying somewhere new, with 46% more likely to travel to destinations they would not have previously considered after virtually experiencing them.
While the Metaverse will provide a new way to experience travel in the coming year, it will not deter people from booking their next trip, as three in five (60%) believe that a virtual experience is insufficient to cross it off their bucket list.
Enjoy the Discomfort Zone
Whether it’s bottled up energy, pent-up frustration, or a fresh start, the world is ready to dive head first into other cultures and new experiences. In 2023, half of global travelers (50%) want to experience complete culture shock, whether it’s by visiting places with completely different cultural experiences and languages (51%) or by exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar (30%).
Forget the usual suspects; in 2023, travelers will seek out unique vacations that will shock, surprise, and delight them. With nearly three-quarters (73%) anticipating ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to their limits, there will be an influx of niche experiences encouraging people to push their travel escapades to the extreme. Nearly half (47%) want to find the world’s most exotic delicacy, such as the hottest chilli pepper, while 38% want to use their vacation to go on UFO or alien spotting tours.
Unsurprisingly, this ‘culture shocked’ traveler enjoys throwing caution to the wind, with three out of ten (28%) planning to buy a one-way ticket in 2023 and follow their instincts wherever they may lead.
Celebrating the Good Old Days
People intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times in 2023, with nostalgic getaways (88%) that provide the thrill of reliving the glory days at the top of the wishlist. There is a desire to disappear into the romanticism of a pre-digital era, even among millennials and Gen-Zs who have never lived it, with nearly a quarter (23%) of travelers chasing experiences that evoke (faux) emotive memories of days gone by, such as visiting landmarks or attractions featured in iconic retro films or opting for a bus as a primary mode of transport to live the group spirit of school trips.
Travelers are no longer foregoing play in favor of rest and relaxation, preferring the adrenaline rush of theme parks (61%), as well as activities such as escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and building fortresses with giant building blocks.
With millennials now having children, there will be an increase in popularity of destinations that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Budva in Montenegro, a glam alternative to St Tropez for celebs in the 1980s, or Bolzano in Italy, known for its retro Christmas markets – both of which are on the list of 2023 trending destinations. Millennial travelers will be the first to book emerging era-themed accommodations that transport them back to a time they cherish, and they will most likely do so with family by their side (54%), with ‘family reunion’ multi-generational trips topping the travel agenda in 2023.
Pilgrimages for Peace and Pleasure
In 2023, travel will take’mind, body, and soul’ wellness to the next level, with a fully immersive, no-holds-barred approach to achieving peace and pleasure, including less conventional ways to feel bliss. Meditation and mindfulness retreats are popular with global travelers (44%), while two in five (40%) want to find peace at a silent retreat and more than two fifths (42%) want to take a health break that focuses on mental health, transformative health, or helps with life milestones like menopause or pregnancy.
Alternative substances such as cannabis or plant-based psychedelics such as ayahuasca or mushrooms will become more mainstream offerings for those seeking enhanced spiritual experiences to stir the soul, with 36% eager to try this type of experimental wellness experience as part of their 2023 travels.
Increasing public conversations about sexual well-being, pleasure, and orientation are encouraging more people to seek erotic escape (36%). Polyamorous retreats, bondage camps, and resorts dedicated to helping people discreetly delve into specific fetishes and kinks are expected to become more mainstream in 2023, offering travelers a safe space to explore their sexual desires away from home.
From the Daily Grind to a Fantastic Company Escape
Employees are increasingly keen to preserve vacation time for complete escapism, a significant shift from the ‘work from anywhere’ policies that are now almost as common as annual leave. In 2023, a sizable proportion (66%) want their trips to be completely work-free, and while nearly half (49%) do not want to work while away, they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip.
As a result, business travel will be reinstated in 2023. However, unlike before COVID, employees are looking for more opportunities to build team camaraderie in real life – and away from the office – reflecting a growing desire to combine work travel with productive play. Indeed, 44% of the global workforce anticipates their employer planning a “real life” work trip to bring people together, and slightly more than half (51%) would like to see the money saved by the shift to remote/hybrid working models spent on corporate travel or retreats.
As a result, destination business retreats will become more popular in 2023, with the emphasis on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. Employers will make the retreat experience more fun by immersing employees in a world where teamwork is the only option. Think’survivor’ themed trips at luxury cabins or country farmhouses, complete with communal cooking and outdoor adventure activities, or crime-themed getaways where spy school, detective courses, or CSI simulations double as a sightseeing scavenger hunt.
Businesses will benefit as well; more than half (59%) of workers worldwide believe that traveling to new places will inspire them to be more productive at work.
Spending to Save
With global economic uncertainty as a backdrop, travelers in 2023 will prioritize travel but will be more mindful of how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. People will continue to prioritize carefree getaways, with half (50%) of travelers stating that investing in a vacation is a top priority for them. However, being cost-conscious is critical, with nearly seven in ten (68%) travelers continuing to prioritize travel while looking for more bang for their buck.
People will plan their travel budgets more tightly in 2023, taking advantage of deals, hacks, and strategically timed travel (63%) and prioritizing value for money with discounts and loyalty programs (60%). Over half of travelers (53%) will look to save money by traveling to off-season destinations or taking longer routes, while the majority (61%) will plan their trips further in advance in the hope of getting a better deal. More than half (55%) believe that taking one or two longer vacations rather than several short breaks is the best use of their budget.
In this context, many travelers are surprisingly willing to increase their spending – and even splurge – on the aspects of their trip that are most important to them. Nearly half (49%) plan to be more indulgent in their spending habits while on vacation to make up for the lack of travel over the last few years, while 43% plan to spend lavishly to ensure they maximize their trip and every experience is worthwhile.
“If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that travel should not be taken for granted. This year’s travel predictions research shows the undercurrent of intentional paradoxical behaviors that will put us all more comfortably in the driving seat amid relentless instability. It also demonstrates a desire for travel to be a way to seek unapologetic moments of happiness and escapism to counteract the heavy realities of our news feeds. As such, at Booking.com our aim will continue to be to make it easier for everyone to seek their unique travel bliss in a more personalized and connected way in the year ahead and beyond.”Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com