Although 2023 is shaping up as a more normal year for travel after three abnormal ones, we can’t pretend travel will cease being complicated.
Flight disruptions, labour shortages, high energy and food prices, disruptions due to climate and a global economic downturn are factors weighing heavily on the travel industry.
Yet if the past three years have proven anything, it’s that a love of travel remains undimmed for a vast majority of Australians.
In 2023 we just want to do it differently. More thoughtfully, certainly, but also with more flexibility and economic savvy as global upheavals continue to present shocks and surprises.
Budget concerns mean that off-season travel (good for the planet anyway), well-designed three-star hotels, simpler adventures such as camping and bushwalking, all-inclusive holiday packages and travelling lightly and for longer will be trends that gain strength.
Travellers will want to do all this without depriving themselves of truly memorable experiences as they reconcile the desire to travel with wanting to spend tourist dollars where it has a positive impact.
For some, there’s a yearning to challenge themselves to go beyond their comfort zone, visiting places they’ve never been before, finally trying new food, or heart stopping experiences such as bungy jumping or white-water rafting.
Certainly, there’s a “now or never” mood and right now is the time for you to appraise yourself with Traveller’s 23 top travel trends for 2023, compiled from multiple sources and data from here and overseas.
It’s the year we’ll go under the radar
Off-the-beaten track adventures are on the cards for 2023, in places like Bosnia. Photo: iStock
Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to change the world through the joy of travel, says James Thornton, chief executive of Intrepid, the world’s largest small group adventure travel company.
He predicts that tourism will become more participatory, with responsible travellers opting to spend their dollars wisely in economies where their holiday can have a positive benefit.
Everyone is aware of the scourge of overtourism but now “undertourism” is also a major concern for less visited destinations that could do with some tourist love.
…And the year we’ll go further and deeper
Small group tours will allow closer connections. Photo: Destination NSW
We’ll travel longer and further than ever before in 2023 and every corner of the world will be in demand.
There’ll be a greater emphasis on personalised and local connections with the people and the culture of the destination rather than just ticking off the main tourist sights, says Dennis Bunnik of Bunnik Tours, the Adelaide-based family-owned escorted journeys operator.
The trend is for small group tours that allow closer connections and have a far less invasive impact on the local community.
As airfares remain high and flight schedules volatile, all-inclusive packages that bundle tours and flights will become more popular as they offer greater value and provide backup support when it’s needed most.
Meanwhile, cruise ships are switching to remote
Expedition cruises to places like the Kimberley are on the rise. Photo: APT
Expedition cruising has become one of the strongest areas of cruising’s revival. Bucket-list voyages that may once have been a future dream are now considered higher priorities, according to Joel Katz, managing director of Cruise Lines International Australasia (CLIA).
Indeed, nine of the 16 new CLIA cruise line ships launched during 2022 are expedition vessels and they’ve made a massive leap in technology and luxury from earlier ships.
Sorry, Airbnb, but hotels are inn again
Airbnb has been the great disrupter in hospitality, offering an alternative to hotels that was flexible and often less expensive. But, a decade on, some travellers are losing patience with the homestay rental company over a number of issues, including high cleaning fees, difficult hosts, discrimination and safety.
Front of mind for socially conscious Gen Z is the effect short-term rental services are having on the long-term rental market in some communities, which is unlikely to improve in 2023.
People are remembering what’s great about hotels, including location, design, service and amenities. Sixty per cent of Australians, according to the booking engine Expedia, plan to stay in a city hotel next year.
We’ll be further tempted by some highly anticipated luxury openings, including the Ritz-Carlton Melbourne (marriott.com), the Capella Sydney (capellahotels.com) and Rosewood Brisbane (rosewoodhotels.com).
It won’t be plane sailing for airlines in 2023
Train journeys will become more common. Photo: Tom Roche/Shutterstock.com
Before the pandemic, the idea of “flygskam” (flight shame) took hold, especially in northern Europe, where train travel often makes more sense than carbon-heavy domestic flights. The trend will really take off in 2023, as countries start implementing flight bans on short distances.
For the next three years, starting in March, France has banned all short-haul domestic flights, eliminating flights between cities that are already connected via rail with train journeys under two and a half hours, initially affecting flights between Orly airport and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux.
Countries such as Spain, Germany, Austria and those in Scandinavia are considering similar legislation.
You’ll get to sleep your way around the Continent
Eurail also reports that travellers are rediscovering the nostalgic allure of the sleeper train post pandemic, appreciating the travel time they save by moving from one destination to the next while sleeping and seeing it as a more glamorous way of crossing the continent.
Several new night train services have been launched recently across the Eurail (eurail.com) network, providing a welcome alternative to air travel.
New sleeper trains include Euronight Ister (nightjet.com), which takes passengers from Budapest to Bucharest and Vienna with other Nightjet’s sleeper routes including Zurich-Basel-Berlin-Hamburg and Innsbruck to Dusseldorf.
…While other trains will literally go off the beaten tracks
The impact of climate change, over-tourism and rising costs, according to Eurail, will create an appetite for more imaginative train itineraries in 2023, travelling to lesser-known destinations such as Ronda (Spain), Meteora (Greece) and Kotor (Montenegro).
European Union countries are investing in rail from budget-savvy night trains to cross-country tracks that provide better and faster connections, which in turn have made train travel even easier and more accessible.
Bookmark some new routes, including a new high-speed train from Genoa to Naples with NTV Italo (italotreno.it/en) and a new Hungarian Railways (mavcsoport.hu/en) train from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Budapest, Hungry, running through Graz in Austria.
It’s farewell to the 747 but the A380’s still winging it
For a while there it seemed as if the future of flight was more fuel-efficient, smaller aircraft that could travel longer distances. The behemoths, the 747 and A380, were doomed, slated for retirement.
While Boeing’s last 747 (freight aircraft) left the assembly line in December, the Airbus A380 has had something of a reprieve. The last one was produced in 2021 for Emirates, but more than half the global fleet is back in service due to rebounding passenger numbers.
Etihad, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Qantas have all returned the A380s to routes, with Emirates operating almost 90 of the comfy superjumbos.
In 2023, we’ll go straight from the set to the jetset
San Domenico Palace, Taormina, Sicily (The White Lotus real-life hotel). Photo: Four Seasons/Peter Vitale
Our obsession with streaming TV series will continue to have an impact on our travel desires in 2023. Once it was the travelogues that gave us inspiration, now it’s addictive fictions such as White Lotus and House of Dragons, which serve up their locations with better cinematography and more compelling scripts than a promo reel.
There’s a David Attenborough effect, too, on the popularity of remote and natural locations.
But pity the residents of Sicily’s Taormina, the picturesque hilltop village which got such a great boost from the recent season of White Lotus, already a cruise ship favourite and packed with tourists in season.
Back home, staycations still have staying power
Fancy a Perth staycation? Pictured: DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Northbridge. Photo: Hilton/Frances Andrijich
While international travel is on the rise, insights from Virtuoso, one of the leading global travel advisors, show that domestic travel isn’t going away anytime soon, whether due to the ease or the intrigue of exploring one’s own country.
In 2022, Virtuoso saw double the domestic visitation compared with 2019. In 2023, Perth, Broome and Darwin are at the top of the list of domestic locations, strongly supported by the trending demand for a luxury cruise in the Kimberley region of WA.
Cruise itineraries in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, according to CLIA, will be increasingly popular, bringing cruise tourism to many regional and remote communities.
This is the year we all need to lighten up
If there’s one thing we learnt in 2022, it’s that travelling light can make a journey so much smoother.
Amadeus, the leading travel technology company says that a combination of customers becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint, plus the cost of checked-in luggage, is driving the trend for less weighty suitcases, which will make baggage handlers happy.
Add to this the delays and lost luggage experienced as airport systems crank up slowly and flying with only carry-on luggage makes sense for an increasing number of travellers.
Hotels and resorts, such as the giant Hilton (hilton.com) group, are helping by offering sports equipment, exercise gear and in some cases wardrobes of clothing for hire, as with Rent the Runway’s collaboration with W Hotels (w-hotels.marriott.com).
It’ll be one smaller step, one giant leap for the planet
Travellers will seek out socially responsible experiences. Photo: Intrepid
Travel positive impacts are important for Millennials and Gen Z, the demographics most concerned about their carbon footprint. Many are already making travel choices based on how brands exhibit social and environmental responsibility.
We’ll see more travel companies sign up for rigorous certifications from organisations such as B Corp, which holds businesses up to high standards of performance, accountability, and transparency. Mr and Mrs Smith, the British-based boutique hotel collection, recently gained the coveted B Corp certification, joining Intrepid, Byway, Journeys with Purpose, and more than 60 other travel companies.
We’ll be all in this together, relatively speaking
Photo: Joali Being for Life
Family reunions after the pandemic started the trend, but people have discovered that they love travelling together, whether it be groups of friends, groups of couples, yoga classes or multi-generational gatherings.
Private villa rentals are surging in popularity from Corfu to the Cotswolds, and hotels and resorts are increasing the number of self-contained villas and interconnecting rooms on properties to cater for the demand for more space, privacy and value for money.
At the upper end of the market, private yacht charters are booming as people splurge on privacy and exclusivity for their tribe.
…And we’ll want to dig out our old genes
The popularity of personal genomics services such as 23andMe and ancestry.com, which use DNA testing to trace a customer’s ancestry, has spurred a new interest in heritage holidays.
They’re arming travellers with vital information necessary to identify ancestral homelands, discover the origins of their surnames, and even uncover previously unknown relatives.
Genealogy touring companies offer research services and arrange visits, personally guided by an in-house genealogist in some cases. It’s like your own private Who Do You Think You Are?
We’ll get to go somewhere before going somewhere
Celebrity Cruises’ Wonderverse lets travellers see before they sail. Photo: Celebrity Cruises
The Metaverse, according to Amadeus, will take traveller engagement to the “next level” with Virtual Reality playing a part in guiding travel choices.
Celebrity Cruises has just launched a new virtual experience called the “Wonderverse” which allows potential travellers on Celebrity Beyond to “see before they sail,” exploring a hyper-realistic, digital recreation of aspects of the ship and its destinations.
Qatar Airways’ “Qverse” has a MetaHuman cabin crew, offering an immersive experience to help passengers navigate and check-in at Hamad International Airport.
Meanwhile, Seoul is instigating a platform titled “Metaverse Seoul” for 2023, a virtual municipal world. Unreal.
Get set to make haycations while the sun shines
Urban cowboys will be heading west, spiritually at least, as rustic holidays increasingly appeal to Wild Bills and Wilhelminas.
Cowboy destinations such as ranches and farm stays, the converted barns of Europe and outback farmhouses in Australia are surging in popularity, especially those places that allow guests to play farmhand.
For families, it’s not just good outdoor fun, it gives children a chance to appreciate where their food comes from. Expedia says Montana and Colorado are top destinations, but according to Conde Nast Traveler, the best Wild West is in Australia. Saddle up.
We’ll embrace the shock of the new
Paragliding over Stanwell Tops, Wollongong. Photo: Supplied
You only live once, right? To prove the point, more than half of Australian travellers say they want to experience a complete culture shock in 2023, according to booking.com, whether it’s travelling to immerse themselves in completely different cultural experiences and languages or exploring lesser-known cities, small towns and remote places.
Sixty-six per cent of people surveyed by booking.com say they are looking forward to “out of comfort zone” travel.
This may include holidays that push them to their physical limits, throwing caution to the wind by trying adrenaline-raising activities such as paragliding, volcano hiking, cave diving, surfing, mountain biking and river rafting.
…But the good old days are back for good
Travellers will try to recreate childhood memories. Photo: iStock
Maybe it’s a yearning for the good old days of the pre-digital era, but themed accommodation and experiences that create emotive memories of childhoods past are top of mind for a quarter of travellers, according to booking.com.
Amid global instability and the desire for escapism, people are looking for nostalgic getaways, such as Disneyland and old-fashioned theme parks, going to a drive-in cinema or staying in accommodation themed for retro TV series or movies.
With Millennials now the parents of young children, they’re looking to recreate fond childhood memories of coastal holiday spots, motels, family resorts, and campgrounds for their own children.
FIVE MORE TRAVEL TRENDS FOR 2023
Keep it simple, stupid
Almost half of Australian travellers, according to booking.com will be looking for “off-grid’ style holidays in 2023, such as camping and other eco-friendly stays that allow them to switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities. It’s all about the quest for simplicity and self-sufficiency.
Weed turn of events
With recreational cannabis legalised in 21 US states along with Canada, Mexico and Uruguay, those looking for a special travel high won’t need to limit their sights to the coffee shops of Amsterdam in 2023. Even Thailand, known for its stringent drug laws, has removed marijuana from its banned narcotics list.
Lose the booze
There are zero-carbon resorts, zero-kilometre menus and now, increasingly, in-demand zero-alcohol bars. Dedicated non-alcoholic bars like Seadrift So-Bar (seadriftdistillery.com/so-bar) in Sydney’s Brookvale and The Brunswick Aces (brunswickaces.com) in Melbourne are on the rise.
Well may you say
Meditation and mindfulness trips are popular to refocus the mind, with as many as 40 per cent of global travellers, according to American Express Travel, saying they’d like to seek peace in a silent retreat with 74 per cent of clients planning to travel more in 2023 for their wellbeing.
Terminal career prospects
The “work from anywhere” trend is the new normal and with business travel picking up, airports make sense as remote working spaces, and you don’t even need to be going anywhere. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (schiphol.nl) is promoting its Spaces Lounge with fully equipped work areas and meeting rooms.