Travelers are set to make 2023 a big year for getting out and exploring the world. Excited about the year ahead, Booking.com has conducted extensive research to reveal the travel trends of 2023, including where travelers want to go, their inspirations for traveling, and how budget plays a big role in their plans.
2023 will be the year of reimagining travel
As the world adapts to “the new normal” following a period of limited international travel and national lockdowns, travelers are eager to get out and see the world in earnest.
As travel restrictions and Covid testing become a thing of the past, research reveals that 73% of people are more optimistic about travel than they were in 2022. While we head into 2023 in the midst of global economic and political uncertainty, almost three-quarters (72%) said traveling is still worth it.
The most popular types of vacations and experiences in 2023
For many, a change of scenery and a chance to soak in some sun is enough of a reason to go on vacation. However, 2023 is likely to see a shift in why we’re looking to get away, as well as the types of vacations we take.
Peace and pleasure pilgrimages
A vacation is a great way to unwind and relax, but in 2023 many travelers want to take it one step further and use their adventures to treat their minds, bodies and souls. 42% of travelers want to go on a break that focuses on their mental and physical health, including retreats to smooth the processes of pregnancy and menopause. Almost half (44%) want to go on meditation or mindfulness retreats.
Meanwhile, some travelers want to treat their bodies in other ways. Over a third (36%) want to go on an erotic escape and explore new kinks and ways of experiencing pleasure.
36% also revealed they want to try out psychedelic experiences with the help of cannabis or psychedelics like mushrooms or ayahuasca. This means 2023 could see more travelers heading to more countries where certain types of psychedelics are permitted, such as The Netherlands or Brazil.
Virtual reality inspiring travel choices
While the world isn’t ready to embrace sci-fi movie-esque travel just yet, it offers travelers a glimpse of what they can expect to see. 43% will use virtual reality to inspire their choices, with 46% more likely to travel somewhere they otherwise wouldn’t have if they could experience it virtually first.
However, some are keen to spend multiple days in the Metaverse, with over a third (35%) revealing they’d take a multi-day AR or VR travel experience. As haptic feedback technology advances, virtual travelers will soon be able to feel the sand between their toes and the sun on their skin without even having to step outside.
While this sounds exciting, it’s not enough to dissuade the majority (60%) of travelers, who agree that virtual travel isn’t as fulfilling as being there in person. This means our 2023 travel predictions don’t include travelers swapping sunglasses for VR goggles for the most part.
Taking travel off-grid
Following various international lockdowns in which many people weren’t allowed to leave their homes, let alone travel, we became reliant on technology for entertainment. Now that most restrictions have been lifted, travelers are keen to disconnect, with 55% wanting to spend their vacations off-grid.
But it doesn’t just stop at wanting to disconnect from technology, with more and more people craving a back-to-basics experience, many travelers are expressing a desire to use their vacations in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills (58%). This includes learning how to source clean water (53%), light a fire from scratch (42%), forage for food in the wild (39%) and even how to prep for an apocalypse (39%).
Connecting with nature
Sitting in front of a cozy, crackling fireplace somewhere deep in the woods and miles from the nearest microchip is many travelers’ idea of bliss.
However, almost half (48%) would only consider going off-grid if it meant they could take a few luxuries and indulgences with them, and 53% revealed they’d need their phone and stable internet connection.
Looking for culture shocks
Many of us live our lives in a certain routine, and that includes our vacations. However, travelers are looking for a break from their routines, and 50% want to experience a culture shock in 2023.
Embracing the unfamiliar
When you find somewhere you enjoy traveling to, it can be tempting to revisit that same place on your next vacation, but in 2023 travelers intend to mix things up. Almost three-quarters (73%) want to experience travel out of their comfort zone, with 30% keen to explore lesser-known cities to find some hidden gems.
Plenty of travelers (38%) want an out-of-this-world culture shock, and to go on the hunt for UFOs. This means there will likely be an increase in visitors to extra-terrestrial hotspots such as Roswell, New Mexico.
Meanwhile, others may go further east: 47% of travelers are interested in exploring exotic delicacies such as the hottest chili pepper (the current world record is held by the California Reaper, bred in Rock Hill, South Carolina).
With the global economy not showing any immediate signs of improvement as we head into 2023, travelers are becoming more budget-conscious, with 68% paying close attention to how much they’re spending on their adventures. However, despite the ongoing economic and energy crises, half (50%) say investing in a vacation is still a top priority.
Prioritizing travel spend
Following travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021, many travelers were able to save the money they would have otherwise spent on vacation. As a result, half (49%) will make up for it by spending more during their 2023 adventures, while 43% plan on indulging by splashing the cash to maximize their experience. A third (33%) revealed they like to indulge in shopping on vacation for things that aren’t available back home.
How are travelers saving money when booking vacations?
While many intend on living their best life while on vacation, travelers are finding ways to spend less in order to get there.
Almost two-thirds (63%) will keep a close eye on deals and hacks, with more than half (53%) happy to travel off-season or via longer routes. That means 2023’s off-season may be a little busier than last year’s, while the summer may be somewhat quieter than usual. This may help spread the crowds at busy attractions such as Walt Disney World.
61% of people also intend on planning their vacations further in advance, so expect to see fewer last-minute travelers in 2023.
Embracing ‘real life’ work travel
The pandemic allowed businesses to see the positive impact remote working could have, which led to many employers embracing a “work from anywhere” mentality. While employees have enjoyed hitting the beach during their lunch hour or working on their laptops by the pool, working while traveling trends are set to change in 2023.
Two-thirds (66%) of people want their trips to be strictly work-free in 2023. This is despite the 51% of people who want their employer to use the money saved from remote working to fund corporate travel or retreats.
Perhaps this is something businesses should consider, as 59% believe exploring somewhere new will inspire them to be more productive at work and 44% believe that ‘real life’ work trips help bring people together.
Over the last couple of years, popular culture has seen a nostalgia resurgence of sorts, with 80s and 90s coming back into fashion. It seems as though the same will happen with travel in 2023, with almost nine in ten (88%) wanting to go on a nostalgic getaway.
23% of travelers want to escape to simpler times, when all we had to worry about was rewinding that rented VHS and how long the lines were for Space Mountain.
61% of travelers want to get their hearts racing with a trip to a theme park in 2023, with more than half (54%) planning on taking a family reunion-focused vacation. That means theme parks such as Universal Orlando Resort may be visited by multi-generational families in 2023.
Top Trending Destinations for 2023
To help travelers discover the ultimate destinations to have on their radar in 2023, Booking.com has delved into global booking trends to share these top trending destinations for travelers to explore.
São Paulo, Brazil
450km west of Rio de Janeiro is the fabulous city of São Paulo, which is home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the country. It’s also filled with culture and is home to the São Paulo Museum of Art, the Museum of Ipiranga, the Football Museum and the Museum of the Portuguese Language.
Of course, there are plenty of beach hotels in São Paulo for those looking to soak up the sun in between soaking up the culture.
Budva may be a small Montenegrin town on the Adriatic coast, but with picture-perfect views and beautiful sandy beaches, it offers a chance to relax by day and enjoy the eclectic party scene by night.
Located on India’s southeastern coast, Pondicherry is a wonderful, laid-back town with a rich French history. With plenty of culture and opportunities to relax, there’s lots to see and do for adventurous tourists.
Pondicherry has a wide range of independent stores for the quarter (25%) of travelers who want to incorporate local accessories into their style.
Located in central Mexico, Querétaro may not have any beaches but it makes up for it with a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, mountains and deserts. There are plenty of tours on offer around the city to keep you busy for days.
At the foot of the Italian Alps and just 85km from the Austrian border, Bolzano is an Italian medieval city that offers skiing, history and buzzing nightlife. Home to the Museum of Archaeology and mountainside Roncolo Castle, you won’t run out of things to see and do in this diverse and lively city.
For the third (33%) of travelers who will be traveling with friends in 2023, Bolzano has plenty to keep you entertained both day and night.
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Located on the northwestern coast of the island of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, often referred to locally as KK, offers miles of exploration. From Kinabalu National Park to Mount Kinabalu, travelers can take walking tours to see orangutans in the wild.
For those less adventurous days, there are plenty of white sandy beaches offering views across the South China Sea. Kota Kinabalu is perfect for the 21% of travelers who said they want to spend their 2023 vacation relaxing on a beach.
Nestled at the feet of rocky mountains, Kalabaka is a Greek destination steeped in religious history and culture. The monasteries of Saint Barbara Roussanou and Meteora are sights that have to be seen to be believed, built in the 11th century at the peak of towering rock formations.
There are also plenty of museums to visit to feed inquisitive minds, including the Natural History Museum, the Geological Formation Museum and the Hellenic Culture Museum.
Santa Fe, United States
From skiing during the winter months to exploring some of the 1.6 million acres that make up the Santa Fe National Forest in spring and summer, there’s so much to experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Renowned as an art city, there’s also a variety of galleries and museums to visit, from textiles and folk art at the Museum of International Folk Art to the inspiring work by Georgia O'Keeffe at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Many travelers head to the Czech Republic for exhilarating nightlife in cities such as Prague. However, 235 miles away, the city of Olomouc is packed with incredible architecture and quaint streets lined with restaurants and cafes. There’s also history and culture to experience, including the Museum of Modern Art and the 12th-century St. Wenceslas Cathedral.
Hobart is a town in southern Tasmania on the banks of the River Derwent. To the west is Mount Wellington, a 4,170-foot mountain that provides jaw-dropping views across Wellington Park and the surrounding areas.
The town also has a lively nightlife, with a selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, making Hobart the perfect location for the 72% of travelers open to nightlife-centric vacations.
Travel Predictions 2023 research was commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total, 24,179 respondents across 32 countries and territories were polled (including 1,014 from Argentina, 1006 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 504 from Belgium, 1,009 from Brazil, 503 from Canada, 1,009 from China, 1010 from Colombia, 505 from Croatia, 505 from Denmark, 1,010 from France, 1,001 from Germany, 500 from Hong Kong, 1,005 from India, 504 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1,008 from Italy, 1,003 from Japan, 504 from Mexico, 502 from The Netherlands, 1,007 from New Zealand, 1,009 from Portugal, 507 from Singapore, 1,008 from South Korea, 1,001 from Spain, 505 from Sweden, 508 from Switzerland, 500 from Taiwan, 504 from Thailand, 1,006 from the UK, 1,009 from the US and 504 from Vietnam).
Respondents completed an online survey in August 2022.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.