NAVIGATING CONTRADICTION AND CHAOS: How we will travel in 2023
People around the world are feeling overwhelmingly more optimistic about travelling in 2023 compared to 2022 and, despite some current instability felt globally, nearly three quarters (64%) of Canadians report that travelling will always be worth it, says Booking.com in its annual travel predictions report. However, travelling still won’t be easy, as consumers – and agents – will have to navigate “contradiction and chaos” in their travel choices.
If 2022 was about the triumphant return of travel, 2023 will be about creatively reimagining it amidst the chaos, and nothing will be off limits as everyone seeks to find the right balance in a world of contradictions, says the online travel agency, which commissioned extensive research with more than 24,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories (including more than 500 in Canada), combining it with its insights as a leading digital travel platform to reveal seven emerging travel predictions.
“If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that travel should not be taken for granted,” says Arjan Dijk, Sr. VP Booking.com. “This year’s travel predictions research shows the undercurrent of intentional paradoxical behaviours 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.”
Conducted at “a time of general upheaval, where war, increased societal polarization, rising inflation and urgent concerns about climate change are all continuing to radically change the world, 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,” says the report, which adds, “The 2023 travel predictions reflect this sentiment, revealing that the needs of travellers are moving in a lot of different directions to adapt to changing times.”
Here are Booking.com’s ‘Seven Predictions for the Creative Reimagination of Travel’ in 2023:
Preppers in Paradise
Almost a third (29%) of Canadian travellers want their travelling experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel and are looking for ‘off-grid’ style vacations to escape from reality (52%), and switch off and experience life with only the bare necessities (29%). Travellers are also keen to use travel in 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills (54%) including how to source clean water (38%), light a fire from scratch (37%), forage for food in the wild (24%) and even prep for an apocalypse (25%).
Expect to see more eco-friendly, earthly stays springing up to accommodate burnt-out city dwellers searching for simplicity, as well as accommodations offering guidance for guests on how to be more self-sufficient, e.g. sourcing and preparing their own meals during their stay. An increase in wilderness survival schools where travellers will learn essential skills needed to live through a cataclysmic event are also predicted to pop up around the world.
‘Off-grid’ in 2023 won’t necessarily mean roughing it though. There is a common perception that this means giving up luxuries (63%), however there is a strong desire to combine the two with 44% only considering travelling ‘off-grid’ if it can be at a more indulgent stay.
And how unplugged is off-grid really for the traveller of 2023? Over half (53%) will have a non-negotiable requirement: phone and internet connection at their destination is essential – so expect this cohort to be weathering the wilderness with 5G.
A third (31%) of Canadian travellers report that they will be turning to virtual reality next year to inspire their vacation choices with a quarter (23%) of travellers keen to embark on a multi-day VR or AR travel experience. The Metaverse will be more than ‘try before you buy’ – it is expected to educate, entertain, and inspire people, opening the door for infinite adventure.
Travellers will also become bolder in their real-life trip choices after being able to visit them in the Metaverse first via their online avatars – handy for those who might feel anxious about trying somewhere new, with 31% more likely to travel to destinations that they wouldn’t have previously considered after virtually experiencing them.
While the Metaverse will offer a new way to experience travel in the year ahead, it won’t stop people from booking a ticket to their next destination, as three quarters (74%) quite rightly believe that a virtual experience is not fulfilling enough to check it off the bucket list.
Delight in the Discomfort Zone
Whether it’s bottled up energy, pent-up frustration or a new lease on life, the world is ready to dive into other cultures and new experiences head first. A third (34%) of Canadian travellers want to experience complete culture shock in 2023 – be it travelling to somewhere with completely different cultural experiences and languages (40%) or exploring lesser-known cities with hidden gems that aren’t already on the radar (25%).
Forget the usual favourites, in 2023 travellers are expected to seek unique vacations that shock, surprise and delight. With 59% looking forward to experiencing ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to the limits, there will be an influx of niche experiences encouraging people to push their travel escapades to the extreme. Over a third (39%) are on the hunt for the world’s most exotic delicacy such as the hottest chilli pepper, while 26% want to use their vacation for extra-terrestrial exploration on UFO or alien spotting tours.
Unsurprisingly, this ‘culture shook’ traveller is also partial to throwing caution to the wind, with three in ten (19%) wanting to buy a one-way ticket in 2023 and follow their instinct wherever it takes them.
Glamourizing the Good ol’ Days
Amid global instability and the desire for escapism, people intend to carve out travel experiences that harken back to simpler times, with nostalgic getaways (84%) that provide the thrill of reliving the glory days top of the wish list in 2023. There’s a desire – even for millennials and Gen-Zs who never lived it – to disappear into the romanticism of a pre-digital era, with 19% of Canadian travellers chasing experiences that evoke (faux) emotive memories of days gone past, 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.
Travellers are no longer forfeiting play in favour of rest and relaxation, increasingly seeking the adrenaline rush of theme parks (57%), and drawing on the imagination with activities such as escape rooms, scavenger hunts and building fortresses with giant building blocks.
Millennial travellers will be first to book emerging era-themed accommodation that transport them back to a time they hold close to their hearts, and will likely be doing so with family by their side (54%) with ‘family reunion’ multi-generational trips top of the travel agenda in 2023.
Peace and Pleasure Pilgrimages
Travel is set to take ‘mind, body and soul’ wellness to the next level in 2023 – a fully immersive, no-holds-barred approach to attaining peace and pleasure including less conventional ways to feel bliss. Seeking to recentre the mind, meditation and mindfulness getaways are ever popular with Canadian travellers (33%), while a quarter (24%) aim to find peace at a silent retreat and 27% 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.
For those seeking enhanced spiritual experiences to stir the soul, alternative substances such as cannabis or plant-based psychedelics like ayahuasca or mushrooms will become a more mainstream offering, with 31% keen to try this kind of experimental wellness experience as part of their 2023 travels.
Increasing conversations in the public sphere around sexual wellbeing, pleasure and orientation are encouraging more people to take time away on an erotic escape (23%). Polyamorous retreats, bondage camps and resorts dedicated to helping people discreetly delve into specific fetishes and kinks are predicted to become more mainstream in 2023, providing a safe space for travellers to explore their sexual desires away from home.
From Daily Grind to Great Company Escape
A step change from the ‘work from anywhere’ policies that are now almost as commonplace as annual leave, employees are increasingly keen to preserve vacation time for complete escapism. A significant amount (71%) want their trips to be strictly work free in 2023, and while almost half (48%) are not interested in working while away, they would consider clocking in for a company retreat or trip.
Travelling for business will be back on the agenda in 2023. But unlike the business trips BC (before COVID), employees are seeking more opportunities to build team camaraderie in real life – and away from the office – reflecting a growing demand to incorporate work travel with productive play. In fact, 35% of the Canadian workforce is looking forward to their employer planning a ‘real life’ work trip to bring people together and almost half (46%) would like to see their employer use the money saved from the shift to remote/hybrid working models spent on corporate travel or retreats.
In response, 2023 will see a rise in destination business retreats where the focus will be on strengthening relationships and corporate recreation rather than work. Employers will gamify the retreat experience and immerse staff 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-centric escapes where spy school, detective courses or CSI simulations double as a sight-seeing scavenger hunt.
Businesses stand to see benefits, too – half (52%) of workers in Canada believe exploring new places will inspire them to be more productive at work.
Saving to Splurge
With the background of global economic uncertainty, travellers in 2023 will continue to prioritize travel but will be more mindful over how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes precedence. People will still place carefree getaways at the top of their agenda, with almost half (45%) of Canadian travellers saying that investing in a vacation remains very important to them. But being budget conscious is key, with nearly seven in 10 (65%) travellers continuing to prioritize travel while seeking more bang for their buck.
2023 will see financially savvy itinerary curation at its finest, with people planning travel budgets more tightly by taking advantage of deals, hacks and smartly timed travel (63%) and prioritizing value for money with discounts and loyalty programs (61%). Over half of Canadian travellers (52%) will look to save money by considering off-season destinations or longer routes on the journey, while the majority (57%) will be planning travel more in advance in the hope of securing a better deal. Half (51%) believe the best use of their budget is to opt for one or two longer vacations instead of several short breaks.
Within this context, many travellers are also surprisingly prepared to dial up their spend – and even splurge – on the components of their trip that mean the most to them. Close to half (42%) admit that they plan to be more indulgent in their spending habits while on vacation to make up for the lack of travel during the last couple of years, while 32% plan to spend lavishly to ensure they maximize their trip and every experience is worth it.
First published at Travel Industry Today