This year in Travel. The Travel Teardown 2023.
The industry is finally back on it’s feet, and being an agency that works with many travel & tourism names, we’re so pleased to see brands back in action. So, in preparation for the year ahead, we’ve scoured the web, spoken to industry professionals and looked at search trends to work out what consumers will be up to when it comes to 2023 travel, and how you can utilise that intel to make smarter marketing decisions.
The data in this white paper is from our own research, studies from huge names in travel, and a big dollop of Google search data. As we’ve mentioned, a large percentage of our client base falls under Travel & Leisure, so alongside the research we have done and gathered from elsewhere, we also have hands on experience with helping brands thrive in a pretty unpredictable landscape.
Before we get into 2023’s travel forecast, let’s refresh our memories from the past 12 months.
Following the pandemic, consumers were very wary about booking holidays – short and long haul. With cancellations after cancellations the previous year, many were hesitant to go ahead with their trips for this same reason. The uncertainty of the industry also meant that holidaymakers were taking planning to the next level, and suddenly the customer journey started to look a bit like this:
Alongside this uncertainty, searches for “free cancellation“ hit a 5 year high (minus a brief period at the start of Covid) indicating that the media coverage of airport chaos, rumours of a 3rd, 4th and 5th wave, entry requirements, whispers of a recession and an energy crisis had understandably given consumers their fair share of commitment issues.
2023: The year of the travel revolution.
Of course, the events of the past few years didn’t just stop people from travelling. They also put the wheels in motion for the cost of living crisis we’re now experiencing.
It’s early days, but so far the outlook of many people remains positive, in fact data from the European Travel Commission has revealed that 70% of people still intend on travelling at some point over the next 6 months – and 52% plan to travel at least twice! That’s a 4% increase year on year already, despite 40% of Europeans being worried about the increasing costs of living.
t’s great to see the studies showing that consumers remain hopeful for a change of scenery in 2023, but how will their habits change over the next year?
Are staycations here to…stay?
We analysed the data to find out what the demand for travel looked like in 2022, what it looks like now and the types of holidays that are being searched for.
Back in 2022, the staycation was all the rage, with holiday resorts in popular getaway spots like Cornwall reporting record breaking demand. Equally, searches for camping and “walking nearby” saw huge increases from people seeking to experience new environments, at much lower costs. In fact, according to data from Statista, the UK had the highest percentage of people opting for staycations over going abroad, after the US and Australia
However, as we approach the end of 2022, we’re now seeing consumers coming back with an urge to travel further afield, in fact, searches for “last minute holidays” have already risen by almost 11x when we compare it to last year, and searches for flights and hotels are seeing increases of 50% in the UK alone – people are wanting to go big, they’re waving their fears of cancellations and airport delays goodbye.
The re-rise of the package holiday.
Not only are consumers looking to tick off destinations, they want everything to be taken care of for them. Google Insights has revealed South African searches for “package including flights” have increased by 1,100% and similar increases have been reflected across Europe.
Internally we’ve debated the reasoning behind these increases, with some of us believing the reason for the increase in interest around package holidays is because they provide a more budget friendly option, with less chance of unexpected costs. Cancellation policies also tend to be better when booking a package deal, which links back to the data we covered earlier around searches for free cancellation.
On the other hand, others believe the lack of stability over the past few years has pushed those that would normally be wary of booking a big trip to adopt a “f*ck it” attitude and take the plunge regardless.
It’s a generation thing.
Research conducted by Great Rail Journeys has shown that long-haul destinations like Asia, Canada and the US have featured most in bucket list trips for 2023.
Interestingly the study also revealed that 47% of the respondents looking to explore the world were of retirement age, compared to the 12% of the “traditional gap year generation.”
This matches the ETC data, which found Gen Z’s intention to travel in 2023 (18-24-year-olds) was much lower. Only 58% of the younger generation responded positively in terms of wanting to get away, which was a lot lower than older age groups who all exceeded a 70% desire and likeness to travel.
The more hesitant outlook for younger travellers is likely due to the cost of living crisis and personal finances. Of course, older generations are affected by this too, but statistically gen X and Boomers have a higher percentage of disposable income, and therefore less likely to be as impacted by the ever increasing costs.
Types of travellers in 2023.
Not everyone has the same idea of a “perfect holiday”. While 2023 *will* be the year of travel, there are plenty of us who will opt for very different styles of travel. From the classic package holidayers we mentioned before to “virtual voyagers” who want to “try before they buy” in the Metaverse, (yep, you heard it right the first time) here are the types of travellers we’re expecting to see over the next year:
We all know that the wellness world has grown massively in popularity in recent years. With numerous celebs cashing in on the space (hello Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson and Kourtney Kardashian) and promoting its values, it’s made regular holidaymakers want to seek out its “benefits.”
Wellness retreats have seen an increase in demand, and according to research, 42% are keen to go on a health hiatus that focuses on mental health, transformative health or that helps with life milestones such as menopause or pregnancy.
Not to mention the increase in interest around “enhanced spiritual experiences” which include the use of “plant-based psychedelics” like ayahuasca or mushrooms. The use of these substances continues to increase in popularity following legalisation changes in many countries, and shifting views amongst younger generations.
With Metaverse and virtual realities becoming more prominent in the social landscape, the same study found that 35% of travellers want to enjoy a “multi-day VR travel experience”. With the Metaverse not only acting as a taster into the real thing, it also aims to “educate, entertain and inspire people”.
Plus, the Metaverse is also becoming more advanced by the day, which means next year, it’s expected real-life destinations will be reimagined and replicated in a virtual world. Wow.
Research from Global Data proves this theory, showing 15,000+ patents have been granted for VR products to brands within the travel & Leisure industry over the last three years alone.
Culture Shock Seekers
As we touched on above, we reckon this one is due to being restricted over the last couple of years. Research shows that 50% of global travellers want a “culture shock” in 2023, whether it’s experiencing different cultures and languages or going somewhere further afield that they’ve never been before.
This travel preference also took the fancy of those who want to buy a one-way ticket and explore the world. Apparently, 28% of respondents are looking to jet-set indefinitely next year, with escapism and experiences taking precedence over the traditional 9-5 life.
The Good ‘Ole Days
88% of people want to book a 2023 trip that provides them with memories of the “good old days.” Research says that even millennials and Gen-Zs want to experience “pre-digital era” getaways, even though they’ve never actually experienced them. According to the research, destinations like Budva in Montenegro, which was a popular St Tropez alternative in the 80s and 90s has made a comeback, alongside Bolzano in Italy. Plus, these trips are more likely to be taken in groups – particularly with family as they try and recreate old memories whilst also creating new ones.
The Work Away
The early days of emerging from the pandemic saw many people taking advantage of the “work from anywhere” craze. While this hasn’t slowed down – in fact, more and more people value their working freedom – they’re more adamant about separating work-life and holiday life.
But while 66% of people still want to make sure their vacations are 100% work-free in 2023, 49% have said “they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip.” In addition to this, 51% of employees have also said that they want to see their employer use the money that’s been saved through remote and hybrid working to be spent on “corporate travel or retreats”.
Nothing says happy holidays quite like sipping a Pina Colada with Susan from finance.
Save To Splurge
While travel is still a major priority this year, holidaymakers are set to become more cautious of how and what they spend their money on whilst they’re away. This means people are more conscious of saving extra cash so they’ve got a little more to spend, as well as being savvy when it comes to itineraries so they can make the most of every penny.
Google search predictions state 63% of people will take advantage of travel deals and smartly-timed bookings, and 60% will prioritise their value for money, opting for loyalty programmes and discounts. So, expect out-of-season holidays, longer routes to get to destinations and plenty of booking in advance. Not to mention people trying to make the most of their budget by booking one or two longer holidays as opposed to several shorter city breaks.
It’s clear form the research that as a whole, 2023 looks positive for travel lovers and the travel industry. Those feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis will need more touch points and persuasion, and are much more price sensitive, where as older generations are reclaiming lost time travelling further afield and ticking off the bucket list – but would prefer it to be planned for them.
The Metaverse has successfully found its way into the industry, but whilst some people are wary of this seemingly alien concept, the stats speak for themselves with the searches for VR travel experiences almost doubling from last year.
Travellers will remain conscious of making sure their bookings include free cancellation, but will book with less hesitation than we have seen so far post pandemic. Now is the time to offer flexibility, showcase deals and prove value for money.