From polyamorous retreats to prepping for the apocolypse, Booking.com shares its predictions for travel in the year ahead. Rose Dykins reports
Insight from Booking.com reveals travellers are feeling much more optimistic about travelling in 2023 compared with 2022 – with almost three quarters (72 per cent) of customers saying that, despite uncertainty and possible chaos, travel will always be worth it.
The booking platform commissioned research that surveyed more than 24,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories, combining this with its own insights, to reveal seven emerging travel predictions for 2023.
The 2023 travel trends reflect the global sociopolitical and economic landscape customers are currently experiencing: living through a time of war, societal polarisation, rising inflation and urgent concerns about climate change.
Booking says these factors are causing people to negotiate an inner “tug-of-war” to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life. The company’s travel predictions for 2023 reflect this sentiment and reflect the needs of travellers who are moving in different directions as they adapt to big changes. These trends are:
Preppers in Paradise
Booking predicts that going off-grid will be more sought-after than every in 2023, with travellers seeking back-to-basics experiences. After a chaotic few years, customers want holidays that help escape from reality (55 per cent) and switch off, with only the bare necessities included (44 per cent).
In fact, 58 per cent said they would like to use travel in 2023 as a chance to learn survival skills – with 39 per cent saying they’d even like to learn to prepare for an apocalypse.
According to Booking, we can expect to see new accommodation for burnt-out city dwellers searching for simplicity – with camouflaged cabins, campfire cuisine and experiences that teach travellers to become more self-sufficient.
Almost half of respondents (43 per cent) said they will be turning to virtual reality in 2023 to seek inspiration for their next holiday, while 35 per cent were interested in embarking on multi-day VR travel experiences.
Booking also predicts travel will enter the metaverse “in earnest” in 2023, with travellers able to “try before they buy” through accessing destinations replicated (and reimagined) in the metaverse.
Beyond 2023, thanks to advances in haptic feedback – the use of touch to communicate with users – virtual travel will become much more immersive, delivering a credible sense of 3D touch, such as the feel of soft sand and the warmth of the sun.
Delight in the Discomfort Zone
Half of the global travellers surveyed said they want to experience complete culture shock in 2023. This could be travelling somewhere that offers completely different cultural experiences and languages (51 per cent) or exploring lesser-known cities (30 per cent).
Almost three quarters of respondents (73 per cent) said the were looking forward to experiencing “out of comfort zone” travel that pushes them to the limit. Interestingly, 38 per cent of travellers said they would want to use their holiday for UFO or alien spotting tours.
Booking says the trend for “culture shook” travel will see people throw caution to the wind in 2023 – 28 per cent of respondents said they wanted to buy a one-way ticket and follow their instinct to wherever it took them.
Glamorising the Good ol’ Days
Booking’s research highlighted a desire amongst travellers to disappear into the pre-digital era, including amongst millennial and Gen Z respondents, many of whom have never experienced it. 88 per cent said that in 2023, they intend to carve out travel experiences that remind them of simpler times.
With many millennials now the parents of young kids, Booking predicts an increase in holidays to destinations that were popular in the 80s and 90s such as Budva (Montenegro) or Bolzano (Italy), where they can book into accommodation that transports them back to their own holidays.
More than half of respondents (54 per cent) also said that multi-generational “family reunion” trips were top of their travel agenda for 2023.
Peace and Pleasure Pilgrimages
According to Booking, wellness travel will reach new levels of popularity in 2023, with travellers taking a no-holds-barred approach to attaining peace and pleasure in less conventional ways.
Two in five research respondents said they aim to attend a silent retreat in 2023, while 42 per cent were keen to go on a health hiatus and focus on particular issues such as mental health or life milestones such as menopause or pregnancy.
What’s more, 36 per cent said they wanted to try a spiritual travel experience involving alternative substances such as cannabis or plant-based psychedelics, which are set to become more mainstream.
Meanwhile, 36 per cent of travellers were interested in taking a holiday centred around sexual wellbeing. Booking predicts experiences such as polyamorous retreats, bondage camps and resort dedicated to exploring specific fetishes and kinks in a safe space away from home could become more popular in 2023.
From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape
Refreshingly, 66 per cent of respondents said they want their trips in 2023 to be completely work-free. However, while 49 per cent said they were uninterested in working while away, they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip.
According to Booking, with hybrid working now so prevalent, people are seeking chances to bond with their colleagues away from the office via “real life” work trips (44 per cent), where they can combine business travel with productive play.
In 2023, this could see a rise in destination business retreats that focus on strengthening relationships rather than work – such as “survivor”-themed trips at luxury cabins, or crime-centric escapes with detective courses that double up as sight-seeing scavenger hunts in destinations.
Saving to Splurge
In 2023, travellers will continue to prioritise travel – with half saying that investing in travel is a top priority for them. However, they will be more mindful over maximising their budget, with 68 per cent seeking more “bang for their buck”.
With travellers planning their spending more tightly, 2023 will be a year of taking advantage of deals, hacks and smartly timed travel for 63 per cent of survey respondents. More than half will look to save money by choosing off-season destinations or taking a longer route on the journey, 63 per cent will prioritise travel with discounts and loyalty programmes and 61 per cent will plan travel further in advance to secure a better deal.
At the same time, travellers are prepared to spend their money well on travel, opting for the things that bring most value to them. Almost half (49 per cent) said they plan to be more indulgent in their spending habits while on vacation to make up for the lack of holidays possible during Covid.
Arjan Dijk, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer at Booking.com, says: “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.”
He adds: “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.”